“Dinner Special: 185 Recipes for a Great Meal Any Night of the Week” by the editors of Food and Wine (Oxmoor House; $20.29 on Amazon) is a 265-page collection of “family-friendly” classic entrees and side dishes from the kitchens of leading chefs and Food and Wine test kitchens.

I’m sort of puzzled by the family-friendly claim.

It wasn’t until page 80 that I found anything I thought my family might eat (Gingery Chicken Satay, Coconut Jasmine Rice and Sesame Cucumbers) or that I might consider worth the effort (that would be the margarita recipe on page 20).

Although instructions promise that the three-course meal will be ready in 30 minutes, the amount of ingredients would take me an hour to find in the grocery store, and it wouldn’t be cheap.

The book is formatted by way of 52 seasonal menus. Summer-centric Bacon and Kimchi Burgers sound interesting with its side dishes of Baked Sweet Potato Chips and Cucumber-Sugar Snap Salad. However, it requires a cup of chopped drained cabbage kimchi, which averages about $12 a jar unless you make your own.

Call me unadventurous (really?), but I'd just as soon top those beef chuck burgers with American cheese and bacon and skip the cabbage mix.

Just when I was about to give up on the book, I turned to page 105 and found a menu I can savor: Barbecued Baby Back Ribs with Peppered Corn Bread and Grilled Tomato Salad.

Oh, rats. The ribs take four hours.

I guess long-range planning is the key to making any of these “weeknight” dinners.

The Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken for fall sounds good, but why two salads? Classic Caesar Salad is a given, but Wheat Berry Salad with kale and butternut squash seems like an unnecessary side. Why not creamed potatoes instead?

Oh well, the pictures are pretty and the Sausage and Cheese Lasagna with Big Italian Salad and Garlic Bread listed among the winter menus looks to be right up my ally.

Individually, I really like the recipes, so I think making three at a time is the real problem.

So, I’m going to share them one at a time. My favorites. In no particular order. Whatever the season. According to length.

Oven Fries with Herbs and Pecorino

• 2 large baking potatoes, cut into 4x1/2-inch sticks

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 large garlic clove, minced

• 1 teaspoon minced sage

• 1 teaspoon minced rosemary

• 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss the potato sticks with the olive oil until evenly coated. Spread the potato sticks on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and bake in the upper third of the oven, turning once or twice with a spatula, until they are golden and crispy, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the minced garlic and herbs over the fries and toss well. Roast for about five minutes longer, until the herbs are fragrant and the garlic is lightly browned.

Transfer the fries to a large bowl and toss with the grated Pecorino Romano. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Makes four servings.


Shaking Beef

• 1 pound filet mignon, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

• 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil

• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

• 3 tablespoons light soy sauce

• 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

• 2 tablespoons white vinegar

• 1 teaspoon rice wine (optional)

• 6 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

• Watercress and lime wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, toss the meat with 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for one hour.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with the soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar and rice wine, if using.

Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the remaining 1/3 cup oil and heat until smoking. Add the meat and cook undisturbed over high heat until browned, one minute. Turn the meat and cook for one minute longer. Tilt the skillet and spoon off all but 1 tablespoon oil. Scatter the scallions, onion and garlic over the meat and cook for 30 seconds. Stir the soy mixture and add it to the skillet, shaking to coat the meat. Bring to a boil. Add the butter and shake the pan until melted.

Line a platter with watercress and pour the shaking beef and vegetables over the top. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes four servings.


Squash Gratin

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing

• 4 medium summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash), sliced lengthwise 1/8-inch thick

• 3 garlic cloves, sliced

• Salt and pepper

• 1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

• 3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (1 cup)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine squash, garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss.

Arrange the squash in the prepared dish and bake for 20 minutes, until tender.

Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese and bake for 10 minutes longer, until golden and crisp on top.

Makes four to six servings.


Chipotle Chicken Tacos

• 8 chicken thighs (3 pounds)

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing

• Salt and pepper

• 1/2 medium white onion, minced, plus more for serving

• 2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced

• 2 tablespoons minced chipotle chilies, plus 3 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can or jar

• 4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped

• Warm corn tortillas, cilantro leaves, sour cream and lime wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, brush the chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the largest piece registers 165 degrees.

Let cool, then shred the meat; discard the skin and bones.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the 1/2 onion, jalapenos and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about five minutes.

Add the chipotles and adobo sauce and cook two minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened and any liquid has evaporated, about seven minutes.

Stir in the shredded chicken and cook until hot, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the chicken into warm corn tortillas and serve with cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges and minced onion.

Makes four servings.


Avocado and Onion Salad

• 1 Florida avocado or 3 Hass avocados, thinly sliced

• 1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

• Salt and freshly ground pepper

Arrange the avocado slices on a platter and top with the onion. Drizzle with olive oil, vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes four to six servings.


Garlic Bread

• 8 3/4-inch slices ciabatta

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 2 large garlic cloves, minced

• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

• 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet and bake for six minutes, until toasted.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately low heat until the garlic is golden, about two minutes. Stir in parsley.

Spoon the garlic butter over the toasts and serve right away.

Makes six to eight servings.


And remember, this book is from Food and Wine. With each menu, you will find wine, beer and cocktail recommendations.

Looking for a recipe? Have one you’d like to share? Write to Potluck, Times Record, P.O. Box 1359, Fort Smith, AR 72902. Email: jharshaw@swtimes.com.