If it’s your job to think about food all day, your enthusiasm for meal planning may have plummeted as the pandemic has worn on. Though members of the NYT Food team may occasionally be tired of cooking, they never tire of talking about cooking. These are the dishes that perennially sustain, nourish and even inspire them. Here are four dishes for the week.
Chile-Oil Noodles With Cilantro
Becky Hughes, a social media editor, always has the main ingredients for Judy Kim’s saucy, spicy chile-oil noodles in her pantry: dried noodles, chile crisp, sesame oil and soy sauce. While the noodles cook, Becky will chop up whatever vegetables she has kicking around to add to the dish right before serving. Leftover protein is also a welcome addition.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes
14 ounces dried udon noodles
1/4 cup chile oil with crunchy garlic
2 tablespoons pure sesame oil
2 teaspoons Sichuan chile oil, or to taste
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup finely sliced garlic chives or scallions, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons store-bought fried shallots, crumbled by hand (optional)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (see tip below), plus a few sprigs for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions, stirring from time to time to prevent them from sticking. Drain well in a colander, then run noodles under cold water until cooled.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all three oils with the soy sauce and 1/2 cup garlic chives.
3. Toss cooled noodles into the chile oil mixture. Gently fold in the crumbled fried shallots and chopped cilantro. Divide among four bowls, and top with more garlic chives and cilantro sprigs.
Tip: For crisp cilantro, place leaves and stems in an ice water bath until the leaves are firm. Drain and spin in a salad spinner. Store cilantro in the spinner and refrigerate until ready to use.
Pasta Alla Vodka
Years ago, food reporter Julia Moskin decided that penne alla vodka is a complete meal because good canned tomatoes count as a vegetable and heavy cream is full of protein. Colu Henry’s version has several ingredients that are completely optional: onion, pancetta and fresh oregano.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces diced pancetta, optional
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
3/4 cup vodka
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt to about 7 quarts water). Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or pot over medium. Add the pancetta, if using, and fry until crispy, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the vodka and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the tomatoes and then fill the can halfway with water and swish it around to loosen up any leftover tomatoes; add a quarter to half of the water to the pan. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. If you prefer your sauce a little looser, go ahead and add the remaining water and simmer 2 to 3 minutes more. Reduce heat to low, add the cream and cook, stirring, until the sauce becomes an even pinkish-rust color, about 1 minute.
4. Stir in the cooked pasta and 1/4 cup cheese; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls, top with additional cheese, if desired, and sprinkle with the oregano and parsley.
Scallion Egg Wrap
Editor Genevieve Ko’s fallback when she needs a meal for her daughters is the simplest version of jian bing: Toss a beaten egg into a hot skillet, tortilla on top, cook until set and flip out.
Yield: 1 wrap
Total time: 5 minutes
2 large eggs
1 (8-inch) flour tortilla
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (about 4 sprigs)
1 tablespoon Chinese pickled mustard greens (optional)
Hoisin sauce, chile paste and sesame seeds, for serving (optional)
1. Beat the eggs and 1/4 teaspoon salt with a fork until almost blended with some yellow streaks remaining.
2. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Put the tortilla in it and turn until warm and pliable, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
3. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the oil to the skillet, then the scallion and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until just bright green and tender, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs, vigorously stir with a silicone spatula to scramble lightly, then quickly spread in an even layer. Scatter on the cilantro and pickled greens, if using, then immediately press the warmed tortilla on top and let cook until the egg just sets and sticks to the tortilla, about 30 seconds. Flip onto a plate, egg facing up.
4. If using, drizzle the hoisin sauce and chile paste over the egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Fold in quarters and serve immediately or wrap in foil to eat out of hand.
Tips: The egg wrap will stay relatively warm for about 15 minutes when enclosed in foil.
Salmon and Tomatoes in Foil
For a truly no-fuss main dish, editor Mark Josephson turns to Mark Bittman’s salmon and tomatoes in foil.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillet, cut crosswise (4 pieces)
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Salt and pepper
16 basil leaves
1. For each of 4 packages, place one 12-inch-long sheet of aluminum foil on top of another. Smear top sheet with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, and layer a fillet of salmon, 6 tomato halves, salt and pepper, 4 basil leaves and another half-tablespoon oil. Seal package by folding foil onto itself and crimping edges tightly. Repeat to make other packages, and refrigerate until ready to cook, no more than 24 hours later.
2. When you are ready to cook, heat oven to 500 degrees. Place packages in a roasting pan. (Or they can be cooked on top of the stove in 2 skillets over medium-high heat.) Cook 5 minutes (for medium-rare) to 8 minutes from the time the mixture starts to sizzle, or roughly 10 to 12 minutes total.
3. Let packages rest a minute, and cut a slit along the top with a knife. Use a knife and fork to open the package. Spoon the salmon, garnish and juices onto a plate, and serve.
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