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  • Get Inspired: 5 Weeknight Dishes

Get Inspired: 5 Weeknight Dishes

By Margaux Laskey | September 11, 2020 | The New York Times

Meals have gotten a little rote in this house. (How many times have I made slow-cooker Mississippi roast during the pandemic? I’m ashamed to say.) I don’t really have time for project cooking these days, but I am looking to inject something new into our rotation. The dishes below have bright, interesting flavors, but don’t require a lot of work, and the leftovers are almost the best part.

Here are five dishes for the week:

1. Yakitori-Style Salmon With Scallions and Zucchini

Yakitori is a traditional Japanese dish made with boneless chicken that’s seasoned with a salty-sweet soy basting sauce, then threaded onto skewers and grilled. This riff, from Kay Chun, applies that technique to salmon and vegetables with crazy-good results. I’m excited to try it with extra-firm tofu, and I’ll serve it with piles of fluffy rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for greasing

1 tablespoon minced garlic (from about 3 cloves)

1 tablespoon minced ginger (from a 1-inch piece)

2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup turbinado sugar

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound small zucchini (about 3), trimmed and sliced 1/8-inch-thick

8 scallions, trimmed, halved lengthwise, if large, and cut into 2-inch pieces

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless salmon fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

Lemon wedges, for serving

1. In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add 2/3 cup water, plus the soy sauce, sugar and vinegar, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and whisk into sauce. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of sauce for basting, and transfer remaining sauce to a small bowl, for serving.

3. Heat a lightly greased cast-iron griddle or grill pan over medium. Season zucchini and scallions with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Thread onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water or metal ones. Season salmon with salt and pepper and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Thread onto skewers.

4. Grill, basting with sauce and turning every few minutes, until salmon and vegetables are caramelized and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes for salmon and 12 to 15 minutes for vegetables. Serve with lemon wedges and reserved sauce for dipping.

2. Garlicky Chicken With Lemony Anchovy Sauce

I’ve gotten into the habit of buying a package of boneless chicken thighs every time I place a grocery order. Grilled, roasted, sautéed or stewed, they’re so versatile and almost impossible to overcook. This foolproof recipe from Melissa Clark is a household favorite. I don’t even bother turning on the oven. I just finish the entire thing on the stovetop, then I serve the chicken over rice or alongside starchy potatoes to mop up the briny juices.

Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4 to 5 thighs)

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons drained capers, patted dry

1 large pinch chile flakes

1 lemon, halved

Fresh chopped parsley, for serving

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and let rest while you prepare the anchovy-garlic oil. Mince one of the garlic cloves and set it aside for later. In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the 5 smashed whole garlic cloves, the anchovies, capers and chile. Let cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies, until the garlic browns around the edges and the anchovies dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken thighs and cook until nicely browned on one side, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the thighs, place the pan in the oven and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

3. When chicken is done, transfer thighs to a plate (be careful, as the pan handle will be hot). Place skillet back on the heat and add minced garlic and the juice of one lemon half. Cook for about 30 seconds, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to the pan and cook it in the sauce for another 15 to 30 seconds.

4. Transfer everything to a serving platter. Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Tip: If your family insists on white meat, substitute breasts and subtract about three minutes from the cooking time.

3. Korean Bulgogi Bolognese

My crew loves this salty-sweet Korean-Italian mashup. Another brilliant Kay Chun recipe, it comes together pretty quickly for a meat sauce (about 45 minutes). Serve it over buttered egg noodles, and, if you like heat, stir in a little gochujang. A cold cucumber salad alongside evens everything out.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped carrot

1 cup finely chopped celery

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons peeled, minced ginger

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound ground beef

4 ounces white button mushrooms, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

3/4 cup finely chopped scallions

3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Kosher salt and black pepper

12 ounces dried egg pasta (tagliatelle or pappardelle)

Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes. Add carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger and tomato paste and cook until caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary to avoid burning. Return heat to medium.

2. Add beef, mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the scallions and cook, stirring to break up the beef, until beef is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add soy sauce, sugar and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 30 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup scallions and season with pepper.

3. As sauce cooks, make the pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain.

4. Divide pasta in bowls and top with Bolognese. Serve with Parmesan.

4. Baked Tofu With Peanut Sauce and Coconut-Lime Rice

Even those who think they don’t like tofu love this saucy, peanuty dish from Yewande Komolafe that’s inspired by mafe, a groundnut stew that’s popular across West Africa. The tofu soaks up the sauce’s flavors, and the edges crisp and caramelize in the oven. The tender coconut-lime rice is a perfect counterpoint.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the pan and drizzling

2/3 cup lime juice (from about 5 limes), and zest of 1 lime

Kosher salt

8 baby bell peppers or 1 medium bell pepper (any color will do), stemmed and thinly sliced lengthwise

Black pepper

1 cup long-grain rice like jasmine or basmati

1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk

1 cup smooth, natural peanut butter

1 tablespoon red miso

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)

2 teaspoons chopped habanero pepper, stem and seeds removed, or 1 tablespoon sambal

2 tablespoons buckwheat honey or molasses

2 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced crosswise, 1/4-inch thick

3 cups peppery greens, like arugula, mizuna or baby mustard greens

2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly brush a large rimmed sheet pan with oil.

2. In a small bowl, stir 4 tablespoons lime juice with 1/2 teaspoon salt until salt dissolves. Add the sliced peppers, a few cracks of black pepper and set aside.

3. In a small pot, combine the rice with 1 cup water and the coconut milk. Season with salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low until the rice is just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, until ready to serve.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 tablespoons lime juice with the peanut butter, miso, ginger, fish sauce (if using), habanero, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon honey and 3/4 cup water. Stir until smooth and season to taste with salt.

5. Arrange the tofu pieces in a single layer on the oiled baking sheet and season with salt. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the peanut sauce over each, covering the top and allowing the sauce to run down and coat the sides. Drizzle the tops with some oil, and roast until glaze is set, deep brown and caramelized along the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Add the remaining lime juice and 1 tablespoon honey to the leftover peanut sauce in the bowl to make the dressing; set aside.

6. Divide the greens among bowls. Add the lime zest and half the sliced scallions to the rice, then fluff with a fork. Top the greens with the rice, then the tofu. Spoon the peanut dressing over everything, and garnish with the drained pickled peppers and remaining sliced scallions.

Tips:

Peanut sauce can be made 2 to 3 days in advance and stored refrigerated until ready to use.

5. Greek Goddess Dip

Hi, it’s me again: the Dip for Dinner Lady. This verdant one is made by combining lots of fresh herbs, Greek yogurt and feta in a blender or food processor. I once served it as an appetizer at a party, and one guest asked if she could have a bowl and spoon so she could eat it like soup. (True story!) For dinner, I serve this on a platter with lots of cut vegetables, torn pieces of rotisserie chicken and fresh pita.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 5 minutes

1/2 cup packed fresh dill

1/2 cup packed fresh mint

1/2 cup packed fresh parsley

1/3 cup packed fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pinch kosher salt, more to taste

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise, optional

Raw chopped vegetables or pita chips, for serving

1. Place dill, mint, parsley, basil, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until finely chopped.

2. With motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Add feta and process until smooth; pulse in yogurt. Taste dip and add more salt, if desired. If you like a creamier, richer dip, add mayonnaise and pulse to combine.

3. Serve dip immediately with vegetables or pita chips or cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Margaux Laskey
The New York Times