Five weeknight dinners perfect for sharing

Emily Weinstein misses eating with her friends, so here’s some inspiration

Monday 17 January 2022 11:39
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One thing I miss from the pre-Covid era is eating at friends’ homes, which I do sparingly at this point, and only with the precautions that you’d imagine. I love seeing what my friends decide to make, a fascination that is surely related to the fact that I’m a professional recipe recommender. Trying their dishes, another joy, is an altogether different thing from eating off the menu at a restaurant – though I miss that, too.

Last weekend, a friend made baked eggs in cream for lunch, which I wouldn’t have thought to do, along with a green salad that had a lightly sweet shallot vinaigrette. It was both simple and wonderful, and it made me want to shake up my repertoire. Other friends recently made us quiche, which I never, ever make, but which I completely devoured. As my editor once said, “Quiche low-key rules”.

Red curry lentils with sweet potatoes and spinach

In this vegetarian main inspired by Indian dal, lentils are cooked with an aromatic blend of Thai spices – fresh ginger, turmeric, red curry paste and chilli – then simmered in coconut milk until fall-apart tender. Browning the sweet potatoes before cooking them with the lentils brings out their sweetness, balancing the heat from the chilli and curry paste, while baby spinach tossed in just before serving adds fresh flavour. Serve over steamed white or brown rice, or with toasted flatbread on the side.

By: Lidey Heuck

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil

450g sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 tbsp Thai red curry paste

3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)

1 (2.5cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tbsp)

1 red chilli, such as Fresno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed, then minced

1 tsp ground turmeric

210g red lentils, rinsed

950ml low-sodium vegetable stock

2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1 (370g) can full-fat coconut milk

1 (115-140g) bag baby spinach

½ lime, juiced

Fresh coriander leaves, for serving

Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for serving (optional)

Method:

1. In a casserole dish or pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the browned sweet potatoes to a plate and set aside.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pot and set the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the curry paste, garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add the lentils, stock, salt and browned sweet potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil over high. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Add the coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the lentils are creamy and falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Add the spinach and stir until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and season with salt to taste.

6. Divide among shallow bowls and top with cilantro and coconut flakes, if using.

Quick-braised chicken with greens

There’s a family of dishes that are both tangy and cosy: hot and sour soup, braised collard greens, puttanesca, brisket and now, this pot of braised chicken and greens. Its bite comes from hot pickled peppers and their brine, while the comfort comes from browned onions, tomato paste, cumin and chicken broth – and the knowledge that you can make this dish quickly with boneless thighs and any dark, leafy greens in your fridge. Eat the stew on top of something starchy to soak up the broth; it’s especially good with crunchy olive oil-fried toast (see tip below).

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

Salt

75g sliced hot pickled Peppadew, cherry or pepperoncini peppers, and 2 tbsp brine reserved, plus more to taste

60g tomato paste

1 tbsp light or dark brown sugar, plus more to taste

1 tsp ground cumin

950ml chicken broth

680-900g boneless, skinless chicken thighs

680g (1 to 2 bunches) dark leafy greens, such as kale, Swiss chard or escarole, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped

Fried toast (see tip), pasta, boiled or mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, or grains, for serving

Method:

1. In a large pot over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion, season with salt and cook, stirring just a few times, until translucent and browned, 6 to 9 minutes. Add the peppers, tomato paste, brown sugar and cumin, and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste is a shade darker and starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the broth, chicken, greens and pickled-pepper brine. Season with salt and stir to combine. Cover the pot, keep on medium-high and bring to a simmer. Uncover, reduce heat to low, and cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through and the greens are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Using two forks, shred the chicken right in the pot into pieces, then stir to combine. Taste and adjust with salt, sugar (if it’s too tangy or spicy) and brine (if it’s too sweet or flat). Eat with starch of choice.

Tip: To make olive oil-fried toast, heat 60ml olive oil over medium in a large frying pan, add four 1.5cm-thick slices of crusty or sourdough bread and fry until crispy on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Traybake prawn gratin

The best part of a gratin is the crispy crust, and, here in this shallow baking tray version, there’s more of it. Flaky panko breadcrumbs – with a sprinkling of mozzarella and Gruyère – form a crisp, almost chiplike topping that tastes not unlike the edges of garlicky, cheesy Texas toast. In fact, the topping comes off in large, snackable pieces. As this bakes (for just 10 minutes!), the spice blend perfumes the kitchen, thanks to herbes de Provence. The shiitakes add earthy heft and incredible umami, but for a more delicately flavoured gratin, you can leave them out. Serve this with a big green salad or eat it straight out of the pan.

By: Eric Kim

Serves: 4

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

225g peeled, deveined prawns, tails removed, cut into 1.5cm pieces

1 medium courgette or yellow squash, thinly sliced crosswise into coins

100g fresh shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed, caps thinly sliced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, finely grated

1 tsp sweet paprika

¼ to ½ tsp red-pepper flakes

¾ tsp herbes de Provence

Salt and black pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

120g panko breadcrumbs

120g heavy cream

112g shredded low-moisture mozzarella

25g finely grated Gruyère

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Method:

1. Heat oven to 220C.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the prawns, courgette, mushrooms, shallot, garlic, paprika, red-pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon herbes de Provence, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and 1 tablespoon oil until well combined. Transfer to a 22-by-33cm baking tray or shallow baking dish in a single layer.

3. In the now-empty bowl, toss the panko with a pinch of salt, the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon herbes de Provence to combine. Evenly pour the cream over the prawn mixture in the pan, covering all the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle the panko mixture over the prawns, then top first with the mozzarella, followed by the Gruyère.

4. Bake until the cream is bubbling and the panko and cheese are light golden brown all over, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with the fresh lemon wedges, which should be squeezed over the gratin just before serving.

Vegetarian frying pan chilli with eggs and cheddar

This soul-warming weeknight chilli is made in a pan because the shorter sides of the pan allow the liquid to evaporate more freely, encouraging it to thicken faster than it would in a traditional pot. Eggs are nestled right into the chilli, so the whites cook and the yolks stay molten, in a preparation similar to a shakshuka, another popular eggs-for-dinner dish. Shower the chilli with cheddar, simmer for a few minutes, and there you have it: a hearty vegetarian meal. Serve with any toppings you like and something starchy like tortillas to mop everything up.

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

Salt and black pepper

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp ground cumin

4 tsp chilli powder

60g tomato paste

1 (800g) can crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes

2 (400g) tins of beans, such as pinto, black or any bean you like in chilli, with their liquid

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

4 large eggs

80g grated extra-sharp cheddar

Coriander sprigs, for serving (optional)

Warm tortillas, tortilla chips or tostadas, for serving

Method:

1. In a large (preferably cast-iron) frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin and chilli powder, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan and turns the colour of rust, about 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and both cans of beans with their liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, smashing the beans lightly and stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, then season to taste with salt.

3. Reduce the heat to low. If your chilli is thick enough, make four divots evenly spaced in the chilli and crack an egg into each divot (if the chilli is not thick enough to hold the divots, don’t worry, just crack the eggs on top). Using a fork or spoon, gently cover the whites with chilli (this helps the whites cook faster and more evenly). Season the eggs with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the chilli with cheddar. Cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, 5 to 7 minutes. Garnish, if desired, with coriander sprigs. Serve with tortillas, tortilla chips or tostadas alongside.

Glazed cod with bok choy, ginger and oyster sauce

This quick one-frying pan meal gets a boost of flavour from oyster sauce, a salty-sweet condiment made from concentrated oyster juice and soy sauce that’s often used in Chinese cooking. Here, it melds with garlic, ginger and butter to create a velvety glaze for cod fillets. If cod is unavailable, hake, striped bass or even salmon are fine substitutes. Steamed rice, soba or egg noodles are all perfect canvases for soaking up the flavourful juices.

By: Kay Chun

Serves: 4

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

3 tbsp canola oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tbsp minced fresh ginger

450g baby bok choy, halved lengthwise

Salt and black pepper

60ml oyster sauce

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

680g boneless, skinless cod fillets, cut crosswise into 5cm pieces

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp lime juice

Cooked rice, soba or egg noodles, for serving

Method:

1. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add bok choy, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

2. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce and remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium. Season fish lightly with salt and pepper and add to pan. Simmer gently over medium-low for 5 minutes. Turn fish and simmer, spooning sauce over fish, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Swirl in butter and lime juice and simmer over medium heat until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes.

3. Serve fish and bok choy over rice or noodles. Drizzle with remaining sauce.

© The New York Times

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