Dinner recipes to break the Christmas monotony

Here’s five excellent candidates for dinner this week that aren’t at all festive, says Emily Weinstein

Monday 06 December 2021 12:19
Comments
<p>Crispy tofu with cashews and blistered snap peas</p>

Crispy tofu with cashews and blistered snap peas

Dinner always seems a little beside the point this time of year, which I fondly regard as cookie season. Why think about chicken when you could be daydreaming about hibiscus-ginger cookies, minty lime bars or chocolate babka rugelach?

Some of our brilliant recipe editors and bakers of have come up with 24 cookies for you – an advent calendar of sorts, to take us right up to Christmas. (Amazingly, a reader has already baked all of these cookies and posted them on Instagram: cookbook author and blogger Amy Ho, who said she’d made them in 15 hours!)

And yet, we have to eat dinner, and really, it should be good. We’ve got five excellent candidates for your table below, recipes that are full of flavour and brim with cooking smarts.

Pasta with andouille sausage, beans and greens

This pasta is extra-zippy

Highly seasoned andouille sausage makes this pasta extra-zippy, while white beans and collard greens give it a rustic flair. They are not ingredients typically used in pasta, but this dish may become part of your regular rotation once you try it. This one-dish dinner is perfect for cold, cosy nights when you want something hearty to stick to your bones, but it will satisfy any time. Swirling in lemon juice and olive oil just before serving adds freshness and ties all of the flavours together.

By: Vallery Lomas

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Salt and black pepper

450g rigatoni or any pasta with ridges

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

340g andouille sausage, diced

1 shallot, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch collard greens, stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 (425g) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large tomato, diced

Handful chopped flat-leaf parsley

Handful thinly sliced chives

1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges, for serving

Grated parmesan, for serving

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente according to the package’s instructions.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 2 minutes.

3. Add collard greens and toss to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the thyme, cannellini beans and tomatoes and toss to warm through. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Reserve ½ cup pasta water and drain pasta. Return pasta to the empty pot and set over medium-low. Add the sausage mixture and toss to combine, gradually adding the reserved pasta water as needed to create a sauce.

5. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with parsley, chives, lemon zest and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.

Frying pan chicken with silky peppers and green olives

A lively and bright savoury chicken dish

Made with diced fresh tomato and colourful sweet bell peppers, this savoury chicken dish is lively and bright. Cooked as written, the sauce is on the brothy side, perfect for pouring over rice or couscous, or for sopping up with bread. But if you prefer it to be heartier, remove the chicken pieces from the pan once they’re cooked, then simmer to reduce the sauce, stirring occasionally, for another 5 to 8 minutes. Return chicken to the pan and stir in olives, then garnish with herbs to serve.

By: Melissa Clark

Serves: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

1kg bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or 2 tsp dried)

2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers (or a combination of colours)

5 garlic cloves

1 medium fresh tomato

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

⅛ tsp red-pepper flakes

Handful pitted, roughly chopped green olives, such as Castelvetrano

Handful roughly chopped fresh parsley, basil, coriander or a combination

Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Method:

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season all over with 1 tablespoon oregano, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside at room temperature while preparing the vegetables (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours).

2. Slice the peppers into ½cm strips, removing the seeds. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Chop the tomato.

3. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. When the oil thins out and coats the bottom of the pan, add chicken, skin side down, and sear until browned on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Do this in batches if necessary; don’t crowd the pan. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate as they brown.

4. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and stir in peppers. Sauté until tender and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, remaining oregano and red-pepper flakes, and cook until garlic is lightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomato and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and cook until tomatoes begin to release their juices, 3 minutes.

5. Lower heat to a simmer and nestle in the browned chicken, skin side up, pouring in any accumulated juices from the plate. Partly cover the pan and cook until chicken is cooked through and peppers are soft and stewy, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. In the last minute or two of cooking, stir in olives to let them heat up. Remove from heat, and sprinkle parsley or other herbs on top. Garnish with lemon wedges, if you like.

Rice cakes with peanut sauce and hoisin

This vegan dish is reminiscent of Cantonese fried cheung fun

This vegan dish is reminiscent of the classic Cantonese dim sum of fried cheung fun, or steamed rice noodle rolls, which is served with two contrasting sauces: a caramelly hoisin sauce and a nutty sesame sauce. In this recipe, tenaciously chewy rice cakes are stir-fried until crispy, then smothered in a sweet and earthy peanut sauce and finished with syrupy hoisin. Rice cakes deserve to be a pantry staple for many reasons: they can be used as a filling substitute for short pasta, added to stews or quickly pan-fried with your favourite sauce. Sold in Chinese or Korean markets, they come in tubes (like those used in tteokbokki) or sliced disks, and are packaged in vacuum-sealed packs or frozen, so they keep for ages. If you’re looking for a suitable substitute, you could use fresh rice noodle rolls or even gnocchi.

By: Hetty McKinnon

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

For the rice cakes:

Salt

900g rice cake sticks or sliced rice cakes, fresh or frozen

2 tbsp neutral oil such as vegetable or grapeseed

1 tbsp soy sauce

225g yu choy or other Asian greens, halved lengthwise

2 tbsp hoisin sauce, diluted with 1 tsp water

2 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds

For the peanut sauce:

80g smooth peanut butter (natural or emulsified)

3 tbsp hot water

½ tbsp sugar

1 garlic clove, grated

1 tsp soy sauce

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the rice cakes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Drain and refresh under cold water.

2. Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce: In a medium bowl, place the peanut butter, hot water, sugar, garlic and soy sauce, and whisk together until combined. Set aside.

3. Heat a large (30cm) non-stick frying pan or wok on medium high. (Check the drained rice cakes. If they are sticking together, rinse them with cold water and gently toss to separate before adding them to the pan.) When the pan is hot, add the neutral oil and rice cakes, and toss to combine. Add soy sauce and stir-fry for 6 to 8 minutes, until the rice cakes begin to caramelise (if more than a few clump together, add a tablespoon of water at a time and break them up with your spatula). Add the yu choy and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the greens are wilted. Turn off heat, add the peanut sauce and toss to coat.

4. To serve, drizzle with the diluted hoisin sauce, scatter with spring onions and finish with sesame seeds.

Lentils diavolo

Lentils diavolo isn’t just spicy – it’s devilishly spiced

Lentils, like beans, soak up whatever flavours they’re cooked in. Here, it’s a chilli oil made with both dried and fresh chillies, so it’s devilishly spiced – not just spicy. Simmer the lentils in the potent oil and some tomato paste until they’re glossy and tender, rich and spicy as you’d expect from a diavolo-style sauce (add more water if you’re after more of a quasi-chilli). Eat the lentils with a spray of lemon juice, parsley and/or breadcrumbs on toast, grains, pasta, a sweet potato, bitter greens or all on their own. The lentils will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge; reheat over low heat or in the microwave loosened with a little water.

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 jalapeño, halved, seeded if desired, and finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp red-pepper flakes

56g tomato paste

315g brown or green lentils

1 tsp salt

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or casserole dish over medium heat. Add the jalapeño, garlic, paprika, black pepper and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.

2. Add the lentils, and cover with 4cm of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are soft and the water has mostly evaporated, 30 to 35 minutes. If they are looking dry at any point, add a little hot water. Season with the salt and serve.

Crispy tofu with cashews and blistered snap peas

Add some snap peas, spring onions and mint to freshen this dish up

A ginger and coconut milk reduction can coat pretty much anything that browns nicely on its own. Here, it’s pieces of pan-seared tofu, but small morsels of chicken and pork will work just as well. The soy and the teaspoons of molasses give the sauce a little caramelisation and a little shine and gloss. For a fresh side, add some blistered snap peas tossed with sliced spring onions, a little mint and a splash of rice vinegar. Snow peas, green beans, broccoli or asparagus? If it’s fresh and green, it’ll work just fine.

By: Yewande Komolafe

Serves: 4

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (400g) block firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

3 tbsp neutral oil, such as grapeseed, vegetable or canola, plus more as needed

Salt and black pepper

340g snap peas, trimmed

1 (5cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tbsp)

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 (370g) can unsweetened coconut milk (light or full-fat)

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp molasses, dark brown sugar or honey

Handful toasted cashews

1 tbsp rice vinegar

4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Handful mint leaves, torn if large

½ to 1 tsp red-pepper flakes (optional)

Rice or any steamed grain, for serving

Method:

1. Slice the tofu in half horizontally, and leave on paper towels to dry any excess liquid.

2. In a medium frying pan or cast-iron pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Season both sides of the tofu with salt and black pepper, place in the pan and sear without moving until tofu is browned and golden on both sides, turning once halfway through, about 8 minutes total. Move the tofu to a plate.

3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, and add the snap peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered and just tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and move to a bowl.

4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the ginger and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk, soy sauce and molasses. Simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce reduces and its colour deepens to a dark brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. It should coat a spoon without running right off. Stir in the cashews, break the tofu into 2.5cm pieces and toss in the pan to coat with sauce. Remove from heat, and taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

5. Toss the snap peas with the rice vinegar, spring onions, mint and red-pepper flakes, if using. Divide among plates, along with the tofu and cashews. Serve with rice or any steamed grain.

© The New York Times

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in