Quick and easy recipes perfect for weeknight dinners

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Jhere’s great weeknight cooking, and then there’s great weekday night cooking: streamlined and smart, leveraging a few magic ingredients and great technique to produce maximum flavor in minimum time.

We have Kay Chun’s hand rolls, for which she takes inspiration from the sweet sauce typically used to glaze eel in Japanese cuisine, and creates her own version to glaze salmon. There’s also Yewande Komolafe’s Quick Pumpkin Peanut Soup, inspired by the long-simmered stews found in West African kitchens. I could go on.

Braised chicken with tomatoes, cumin and feta

Add chicken and cumin for a touch of shakshuka

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By: Yasmine Fahr

Pleasantly reminiscent of shakshuka, this one-pot dinner features a similar spicy tomato sauce, but uses crispy-skinned, cumin-coated chicken thighs instead of eggs. The harissa sauce is best served over herbed rice or paired with crusty bread to scoop up the melty feta. Roasted vegetables like kale or broccolini would round out the meal nicely. Harissa tends to differ in heat level between brands, so adjust the heat accordingly.

Serves: 4

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

1 kg chicken thighs with bone and skin (about 6 thighs)

Salt and black pepper

2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced ​​(about 550g)

3 large garlic cloves, minced or grated

1 to 2 tablespoons of harissa paste

1 can (790 g) crushed tomatoes

75g crumbled feta

Leaves and thin stems of coriander or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Crusty bread or rice with herbs, for serving

Method:

1. Wipe the chicken dry, trim excess fat, then season well with salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons cumin.

2. Heat the oil in a large 30cm heavy casserole or skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down. (It’s okay if they’re a little tight, they’ll shrink as they cook.) Cook without stirring until the skin is crispy and pulls away easily from the pan, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using tongs, flip and cook until the bottom is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes more, then transfer to a plate.

3. Add the onions to the melted chicken fat in the pan, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of cumin and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the harissa and cook for about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and season with salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then adjust the temperature to maintain an active simmer. Cook until it turns a darker red color, about 5 minutes longer.

4. Add any juices that have collected on the plate, toss to combine, then place in the chicken thighs, skin side up, so the skin is on top of the sauce. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, then partially cover and cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. (If you want crispier skin, broil the chicken for a minute or two.)

5. Garnish with feta and cilantro and serve with herbed bread or rice.

Soy Glazed Salmon Rolls

A simple sauce is enhanced in this recipe

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By: Kay Chun

Unagi sauce is a mild, thickened soy sauce traditionally used on grilled eel. Here, the simple sauce of soy sauce, sugar and mirin is enhanced with the addition of aromatic garlic and ginger, turning it into a flavorful glaze for the buttery salmon. Once the salmon is roasted and coated in the sauce, it becomes the perfect topping for customizable hand rolls. A perfect roll is assembled with flaked salmon and creamy avocado and crunchy cucumbers for bites that are rich, fresh and crunchy all at once. Including cooked short-grain rice in the filling is traditional, but these rolls would be a great place to use up other leftover grains like farro or quinoa.

Serves: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower or canola

½ teaspoon minced garlic

80ml low sodium soy sauce

80ml mirin

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ tsp salt, plus more for seasoning

½ teaspoon peeled grated ginger

1 (600g) skinless salmon fillet (preferably center cut)

Grilled seaweed sheets, quartered

Cooked short-grain rice and wasabi paste (optional), to serve

3 Persian cucumbers, halved crosswise and cut lengthwise into thin spears

1 to 2 avocados, pitted and thinly sliced

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 220C. In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Stir in garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, black pepper and ¼ teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has reduced by about a third and thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in ginger and remove from heat. You should have about ½ cup of sauce; reserve half of the sauce in a small bowl to serve and set aside.

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the salmon on the prepared platter, rub with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season with salt. Coat the salmon on both sides with the other half of the sauce.

3. Roast the salmon for 5 minutes, then baste it with the sauce that has dripped onto the baking sheet. Continue roasting until salmon is just done over medium heat, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the salmon to a large plate.

4. Crumble salmon into bite-sized pieces and drizzle with reserved sauce. To make hand rolls, top seaweed with rice (if using), cucumbers, avocado and salmon. Wrap and enjoy. Serve with optional wasabi on the side and dab some on the salmon for a spicy kick.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Penne

An easy recipe that requires only five ingredients

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Recipe of: Paola de Mauro

Adapted by: Amanda Hesser

This extremely simple recipe comes from an article about Paola di Mauro, an Italian winemaker from Marina, a small town southeast of Rome. She was one of a band of cooks who helped distinguish “cucina casalinga”, roughly translated as “housewives’ cooking”. From his humble kitchen, Di Mauro has mentored some of the top Italian chefs and restaurateurs in the United States, including Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, Piero Selvaggio and Tony May. Her recipe is simple and only calls for five ingredients — cherry tomatoes, olive oil, pecorino romano, and penne pasta — but get your hands on the best ingredients you can afford. Di Mauro intended to serve four as a starter, but if you’re making it for dinner, double the recipe.

Serves: 2 to 4

Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

450 g small cherry tomatoes, halved

80ml extra virgin olive oil, plus 2-3 tbsp for mixing

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

20 g freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

30g of breadcrumbs

450g penne

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Line the bottom of a baking dish with cherry tomatoes in a single layer, halved side up. Pour the oil over it, salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Bake until the tomatoes are wilted, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with enough sea salt so that the water tastes slightly salty. When the tomatoes are almost cooked, add the penne pasta to the water and cook until al dente (they should be soft but still firm in the center). Scoop out about a cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the casserole. Fold the tomatoes and pasta together, adding another 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Serve passing more grated cheese at the table.

Pumpkin Spicy Peanut Soup

This soup is an adaptation of a long-simmered West African stew

(Getty/iStock)

By: Yewande Komolafe

This recipe is a promise of warmth on those cool fall nights. Habanero peppers and peanuts feature heavily in Nigerian cuisine, and this soup is an adaptation of a long-simmered stew common to much of West Africa. Don’t be afraid of a seeded pepper: the fragrant oils from these peppers are worth every bite. Peanut butter and coconut milk soften the heat of the chili into a mild, lingering heat, but you can also remove the chili before the soup is pureed. An optional spoonful of honey to the soup will round out the flavors, and a dollop of fresh cream or yogurt will further temper the heat. Serve with a baguette or sourdough bread for dipping.

Serves: 4

Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced (about 30g)

4 crushed garlic cloves

1 piece (3 cm) ginger, peeled and chopped

½ habanero or bird’s eye chili

1 can (400g) pumpkin purée

700ml water or chicken or vegetable stock

1 (370g) can coconut milk

1 tablespoon of agave or honey (optional)

60g unsweetened natural peanut butter

Salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

60 g fresh cream or yoghurt (optional)

Method:

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to brown around the edges, about 4 minutes. Stir in chili and pumpkin puree, and stir in water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until slightly reduced and thickened. Remove the chilli after the soup simmers if you don’t like the spice too much.

2. Add the coconut milk, agave or honey (if using) and peanut butter to the pot. Using an immersion blender or working in batches in a stand mixer, puree the soup until smooth. Salt and keep warm over low heat. Do not simmer or boil the soup at this stage. (This reduces the risk of the oils in the peanut butter separating and breaking up the smooth texture of the soup.)

3. Divide soup into bowls, sprinkle with chives and a dollop of crème fraîche or yogurt, or a drizzle of olive oil to make it vegan. Serve with a hot crusty baguette or pieces of hot sourdough for dipping.

© The New York Times

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