Emails poured in after last week’s newsletter, in which I asked you to tell me what you’ve been cooking and how you’ve been feeling about it.
Notes arrived from all over — Saudi Arabia, Australia, Sweden. That was amazing. Some of the loudest calls were ones you might expect: You like sheet-pan recipes. There were requests for vegetarian recipes that use less cheese and more beans, though some people want less beans and — I’m reading between the lines here — more cheese. A few readers specifically wrote in to say no more chickpeas. (I do like chickpeas.)
I also received extraordinary notes about cooking for your beloveds, and for yourselves, including an exquisite letter from a reader who ended a long-term relationship, moved into her own apartment and found love again — all during the pandemic! She cooked the whole time. It was a source of serenity, she said.
Here are five dishes for the week:
1. One-Pot Chicken Thighs With Black Beans, Rice and Chiles
This dish addresses two popular requests: It’s cooked in one pot, and kids love it, though you may want to reduce the chiles for them. If that’s not enough, the recipe is by London food writer Diana Henry, a hero to several NYT Cooking staffers, and to a reader who emailed to say she’s been cooking a lot from Diana’s superb books.
Adapted by: Margaux Laskey
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 hour
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Flaky sea salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or peanut oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
- 2 green or red bell peppers, halved, seeded and sliced
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 red Fresno chiles or jalapeños, halved, seeded and chopped
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
- 1/3 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed in a sieve until the water runs clear
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges, pickled chiles, sliced fresh chiles, sour cream and sliced avocado, for serving
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (the pan size is very important) over medium-high. Brown the chicken on both sides to give it good color, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion and bell peppers to the pan and sauté until just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Meanwhile, add the Fresno chiles or jalapeños, cinnamon, garlic and cumin to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the black beans and cherry tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the rice on top in an even layer. (It’s important that the black beans are beneath the rice and chicken. The rice will burn otherwise.) Add the stock and return the chicken to the pan, skin-side up.
3. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. The chicken should be lovely and golden, the stock should be absorbed and the rice should be tender. Sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, pickled chiles, sliced fresh chiles, sour cream and avocado (squeeze some lime juice over the avocados in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper).
2. Cheesy Baked Orzo With Marinara
This is a kid-friendly, cheesy vegetarian recipe by Lidey Heuck that contains no beans — though it absolutely could if you wanted to throw in a can of cannellinis. The cheese, however, is nonnegotiable.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 40 minutes
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup orzo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach (about 7 cups)
- 1 (24- to 25-ounce) jar marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus torn or sliced basil for serving
- 1 cup shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package instructions until just al dente. Drain the orzo and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a very large (12-inch) ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook until fragrant (don’t let the garlic burn), about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing often, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the marinara, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
3. Stir the cooked orzo into the sauce. Stir in the mozzarella, sprinkle the Parmesan on top, and bake, uncovered, until the Parmesan is melted and the pasta is heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with additional basil, and serve warm.
3. Butternut Squash and Green Curry Soup
I would double this soup by Samin Nosrat, stashing some of it in the freezer for later (another popular request). Commenters thrilled to the peanut-coconut-chile topping, a take on the Thai and Laotian snack miang kham. To make the recipe vegan, use vegan fish sauce.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: About 1 hour
For the soup:
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil or neutral-tasting oil
- 3 medium shallots, diced
- 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 3-inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- 2 medium butternut squashes (about 4 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into about 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 (13 1/2-ounce) cans coconut milk
- 6 to 8 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 to 4 cups water or chicken stock, preferably homemade
For the garnish:
- 3/4 cup raw peanuts
- 3/4 cup unsweetened raw coconut flakes
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 8 small dried red chiles, such as Japones or chiles de árbol, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting or melted coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 10 lime leaves, thinly sliced (optional)
- Handful of Thai or Italian basil leaves
- 2 to 3 limes, quartered
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Melt oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add shallots, ginger, lemongrass and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are tender and just starting to brown, about 18 minutes.
2. Add squash, coconut milk, curry paste, 3 tablespoons fish sauce and 3 cups water or stock. Increase heat to high. When liquid comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook the soup covered until squash is tender, about 25 minutes.
3. Make garnish while soup cooks: In a medium mixing bowl, toss together peanuts, coconut flakes, fish sauce, chiles, 1 tablespoon oil, the minced lemongrass, the sugar and the lime leaves, if using.
4. Spread mixture out onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes after the first 10 minutes. Remove from oven when coconut is deep golden brown, and pour mixture immediately into a bowl to prevent overcooking. Stir to combine, and set aside.
5. Remove soup from heat. Remove lemongrass stalks from pot. Use a hand blender to purée soup. Alternatively, transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor and purée. Taste and adjust for salt and curry paste. Add water or stock to thin soup to the desired consistency.
6. Thinly slice the basil leaves and arrange on a small plate or platter, along with lime wedges and peanut mixture. Serve soup hot with garnishes.
4. Indian-ish Nachos With Cheddar, Black Beans and Chutney
More than a few readers said they were having nachos for dinner. I support that. This recipe by Priya and Ritu Krishna starts with cheese, black beans, tomatoes and chips, and adds cilantro chutney and tamarind sauce, common elements of Indian chaat. Brilliant, and delicious too.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
For the cilantro chutney:
- 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 small Indian green chile or serrano chile, stem removed and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime), plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
For the nachos:
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- Kosher salt
- 1 (8-ounce) bag white corn tortilla chips, preferably unsalted
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium Roma tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
- 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
- 1/4 cup store-bought tamarind sauce (or 1/4 cup date syrup or maple syrup whisked with 1 tablespoon lime juice)
For the chhonk:
- 1/4 cup ghee or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
- Pinch of red chile powder, such as ground cayenne
- Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Make the chutney: In a blender, combine the cilantro, green chile, lime juice, sugar and salt and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add up to 3 tablespoons water, a tablespoon at a time, to get it going. Taste and adjust the salt and lime juice, if needed. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, lightly mash the beans with a fork (this is so they won’t roll off the chips), and season them with salt. On a foil-lined 13-by-18-inch sheet pan, arrange half the chips, followed by half the beans, onions, tomatoes and cheese (in that order). Repeat to make a second layer. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes on the highest rack of the oven, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
3. While the nachos are in the oven, make the chhonk: In a small pan or a butter warmer over medium-high, heat the ghee. Once the ghee melts (or the oil begins to shimmer), add the cumin seeds and cook until they start to sputter and brown, about 15 seconds. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the red chile powder. Set aside.
4. Evenly drizzle the cilantro chutney and the tamarind sauce on top of the nachos, followed by the chhonk. Add a few dollops of the Greek yogurt, if using.
5. Sheet-Pan Salmon and Broccoli With Sesame and Ginger
Yes, it’s a sheet-pan recipe. They are easy to love. That’s especially true if you are busy and tired and everyone in your home is on the verge of having a little meltdown because they need dinner. This dish, also by Lidey Heuck, is fast, healthy and really good.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes
- 4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- 1 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets, thick stems discarded
- 2 scallions, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch segments, plus thinly sliced scallions for garnish
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the salmon
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
- 1/2 lime, for serving
- Sesame seeds, for serving
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons sesame oil with the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, ginger and garlic until smooth. Set the glaze aside.
2. Place the broccoli florets and 1 1/2-inch scallion segments on a sheet pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, toss well and roast for 5 minutes.
3. While the broccoli and scallions roast, place the salmon fillets on a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Brush all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Toss the broccoli and scallions and move to the edges of the pan, clearing spaces in the center for the salmon fillets. Place the salmon fillets, evenly spaced, on the center of the pan. Brush the fillets generously with the glaze.
5. Return the pan to the oven and roast until the salmon is cooked through but still slightly rare in the center, about 12 minutes.
6. Squeeze the lime over the broccoli and sprinkle with salt. Scatter the sliced scallions and sesame seeds over the salmon, and serve hot.