A few of our favourite dinner recipes to try this week

Emily Weinstein is in full cooking mode – here’s what’s on the menu

Wednesday 15 December 2021 16:33
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<p>All the comforting flavours of a classic parmigiana, but with minimal work </p>

All the comforting flavours of a classic parmigiana, but with minimal work

December seems like a strange time of year to get excited about new weeknight recipes. There’s just so much to do as Christmas approaches. Lean on standbys! Order a takeaway! You’re busy.

And yet – this is surely a procrastination technique – I’m in full cooking mode, trying recipes I’ve never made a few nights a week, feeling jazzed about new ones. A few of my recent favourites are below.

One pan mushroom parmigiana

This smart weeknight dinner offers all the comforting flavours of a classic parmigiana, but with minimal work. Earthy portobello mushrooms are used here, offering a perfect cradle for the red sauce and creamy mozzarella. Use good-quality, shop-bought marinara sauce, a much-underrated kitchen cupboard item that can turn around a meal quickly. This flexible recipe can be scaled up or down without too much fuss. It accounts for two portobello mushrooms per person, but if you’re serving them with pasta or a salad, you could reduce to one each. The basil-scented breadcrumbs finish the mushrooms with a lovely, herbaceous crunch. Extra breadcrumbs keep well in an airtight container and are wonderful for topping pasta, salads, soups and roasted vegetables.

By: Hetty McKinnon

Serves: 4

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

280g cherry or plum tomatoes, halved

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

8 portobello mushrooms, stems removed

680g shop-bought or homemade marinara sauce

340g shredded low-moisture mozzarella

120g panko breadcrumbs

15g basil leaves, finely chopped, plus more leaves for topping

Method:

1. Heat oven to 220C. Arrange the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, along with half the garlic, and drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper and toss to coat the tomatoes.

2. To the tray, add the mushroom caps in between the tomatoes, gill side up, and drizzle each generously with olive oil (don’t skimp here, as the olive oil will add lots of rich flavour). Scatter the mushrooms with the remaining garlic and season each mushroom with salt and black pepper. Fill each mushroom with marinara sauce and top with cheese. Place in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden.

3. Meanwhile, heat a medium frying pan over medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the breadcrumbs, basil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Remove from heat immediately and transfer to a bowl or jar.

4. To serve, transfer mushrooms to serving plates, along with a few of the roasted cherry tomatoes. Top each mushroom with the basil breadcrumbs and scatter with a few basil leaves.

Chicken thighs with broccoli and orzo

A one-pan meal is always a good option for a weeknight

A one-pan meal is always a good option for a weeknight. This one is nice and bright because of the white wine and lemon, and rich from the olive oil and butter. You can save on prep time by using pre-cut fresh or even frozen broccoli florets to get dinner on the table even faster. For those who like crispy bits, keep the pan on the stove for a little bit longer so that the orzo browns where it meets the pan, as it would in a paella or fideua.

By: Aaron Hutcherson

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 900g), patted dry

1½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed

340g broccoli florets, cut into smaller pieces if larger

225g dried orzo

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 garlic cloves, minced

120ml dry white wine

480ml low-sodium chicken broth

Method:

1. Season chicken thighs on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. In a large, heavy frying pan (preferably cast-iron or stainless steel), heat olive oil over medium-high. Cook the chicken, skin-side down, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

2. Decrease heat to medium, add butter and lemon slices, and cook until the lemons release their juices and start to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the chicken.

3. Add broccoli, orzo, thyme, garlic and remaining ½ teaspoon salt to the skillet and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is lightly toasted and the broccoli is bright green, about 5 minutes.

4. Deglaze with the wine and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Add the broth and lemon slices to the pan, then add the chicken thighs, skin-side up, along with any liquid from the plate. Cover the pan and continue cooking until the orzo is tender, most of the liquid is absorbed, and the chicken is cooked through, 13 to 15 minutes.

6. If you want to add a little texture and crunch to the dish, uncover and continue to cook until browned and crisp on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Sesame salmon bowls

Packaged coleslaw is a time saver here, eliminating extra knife work

This one-pot meal, which is inspired by chirashi, or Japanese rice and raw fish bowls, features a savoury vinegared rice that’s typically served with sushi. Traditionally, the rice is cooked first, then mixed with vinegar, but here, the rice is cooked in vinegar-seasoned water to eliminate a step. The result is sticky rice that’s tangy and sweet and a perfect bed for fatty salmon. The salmon is added towards the end to steam directly on top of the rice for an easy one-pan meal. Packaged coleslaw is a time saver, eliminating extra knife work. Make a double batch of the zesty dressing for drizzling over roasted vegetables or green leafy salads the next day.

By: Kay Chun

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

60ml unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning

340g sushi rice (short-grain white rice), rinsed until water runs clear

680g skinless salmon fillet, cut into 2.5cm cubes

½ tsp toasted sesame oil

60ml low-sodium soy sauce

3 tbsp distilled white vinegar

2 tbsp safflower or canola oil

2 tbsp coarsely chopped spring onions

2 tbsp minced fresh ginger (from one 5cm piece)

3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

225g green coleslaw mix

1 avocado, halved, pitted and thinly sliced

Torn toasted nori sheets, for garnish (optional)

Method:

1. In a large saucepan, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt; stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the rice and 400ml water and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, toss salmon with ¼ teaspoon sesame oil and season with salt. Once rice is tender (after about 20 minutes), arrange salmon in an even layer on top of rice. Cover and steam over low heat until fish is cooked to medium, about 12 minutes longer.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, white vinegar, safflower oil, spring onions, ginger and the remaining ¼ teaspoon sesame oil. Mix well and season with salt.

4. Scoop salmon and rice into bowls. Top each with some cucumbers, coleslaw mix and avocado. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with nori, if using.

Pasta with cauliflower, bacon and sage

A comforting dinner for a cold night

A comforting dinner for a cold night, this hearty pasta has all the makings of a crowd-pleaser, like fried sage leaves, crispy bacon and nutty roasted cauliflower. This recipe demonstrates the magic of starchy pasta water: swirled with lemon juice and parmesan, it creates a luxurious sauce without the addition of cream or butter. Add more pasta water than you think you need so the pasta stays moist as it absorbs the sauce.

By: Lidey Heuck

Serves: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

1 medium head cauliflower (900g-1.1kg), cored and cut into 2cm florets

2 to 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed

Salt and black pepper

225g thick-cut bacon, diced

Large handful fresh sage leaves

450g short pasta, such as gemelli, casarecce or penne

Zest and juice of one 1 lemon, separated

45g grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 220C. Place the cauliflower on a baking tray. Drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, and toss to coat. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and browned all over, 20 to 25 minutes. While the cauliflower roasts, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Heat a large (30cm) frying pan over medium-high. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the sage leaves to pan and fry until they begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sage leaves to the plate with the bacon. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan (or add additional olive oil, if needed) and remove from heat.

3. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until just al dente, reserving 360ml of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the reserved pan; heat over low. Pour or squeeze the lemon juice over the pasta, along with 240ml pasta water and the grated parmesan. Toss until the sauce comes together.

4. Stir in the cauliflower, bacon and sage, adding a splash more pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lemon zest and serve with extra parmesan on the side.

Kaddu (sweet and sour butternut squash)

This cosy vegetable main is an ode to earthy, maple-y fenugreek

This cosy vegetable main is an ode to earthy, maple-y fenugreek, a staple spice of Indian cooking that is a perfect match for the mild sweetness of butternut squash. Normally roasted, butternut squash is gently stewed here with ginger, onion, turmeric, tomatoes and brown sugar, bringing out a unique and addictive sweet-and-sour flavour. Kaddu is traditionally paired with puri, a type of fried bread, but roti, tortillas and even toast work well with this bright and hearty one-pot dish.

Recipe from: Priya Krishna and Ritu Krishna

Adapted by: Priya Krishna

Serves: 4

Total time: About 25 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 tbsp minced fresh ginger

½ tsp red chilli powder, such as cayenne

¼ tsp asafoetida (optional)

1 medium butternut squash (about 900g), peeled, seeded and cut into 1.5cm cubes

1 tsp salt, plus more as needed

4 medium Roma tomatoes, cut into 1.5cm cubes

2 tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime), plus more as needed

2 tbsp light brown sugar

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (stems and leaves), for garnish

Method:

1. In a large (30cm) deep sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the fenugreek seeds and cook until they start to sputter, which should be within seconds. Reduce the heat to medium-low and swirl in the turmeric. Add the onion and sauté until it just starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger, chilli powder and asafoetida (if using), and cook for 1 minute. Add the butternut squash and salt, cover and cook until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, lime juice and brown sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the tomatoes are soft but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the lime juice and salt according to taste. Garnish with the coriander and serve warm.

© The New York Times

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