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How Restaurants Inspire Recipes

Peruse The New York Times list of our 50 places to eat in America, and let those meals fuel your creativity in the kitchen.

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By Melissa Clark

One question I’m often asked is where I get my inspiration for new recipes. My answer? Eating in restaurants! The best restaurant meals don’t just feed your body; they fuel your curiosity, ignite your creativity, make your cheeks glow and make my mind flutter around ingredient combinations that hadn’t occurred to me. Eating out is a special kind of thrill, a trip straight into another cook’s brain. There’s always so much to learn.

For example, the secret ingredient in the chef Kris Yenbamroong’s recipe for pad krapow gai (above), the basil chicken served at Night + Market in Los Angeles, is a drizzle of Thai seasoning sauce that adds tangy complexity. And at Superiority Burger in New York, Brooks Headley cleverly marinates pressed tofu in spicy pickle brine before breading and frying it for his crispy fried tofu sandwich. Restaurant recipes are an important part of New York Times Cooking, rounding out our offerings and adding depth and a little cheffy magic.

Of course, to figure out where to dine, I turn to this year’s edition of The Restaurant List — the 50 places across the country that New York Times Food reporters and editors are most excited about right now. From the gunpowder dosas and Goanese oxtail at Semma in New York City to the ube mousse and the sisig fried rice with chicharrón at Abacá in Los Angeles, dishes and restaurants worth raving about are presented in a far-ranging, beautifully illustrated, inspiring piece of journalism that makes me giddy in anticipation of future meals — and very, very hungry in the moment

Now, if you are a Times subscriber and want to receive our critic Pete Wells’s restaurant reviews a day before they publish online, you’ll be able to have those sent directly to your inbox. Sign up for The Restaurant Review newsletter, which is coming soon.

But what to make for dinner tonight? Could I tempt you with a pot of Thai-inspired chicken meatball soup, a plate of pepperoni pasta with lemon and garlic or some homey stuffed peppers?

Since it’s smack in the middle of a rather hectic workweek, I’m thinking something heavy on the vegetables and light on the labor. Kay Chun’s 20-minute caramelized brussels sprouts pasta is exactly that, with crispy chickpeas for crunch and capers for a salty zing. You could take a softer and creamier play on legumes with coconut curry chickpeas with pumpkin and lime. And for the legions of cauliflower enthusiasts, how about this spice-roasted take with feta and garlic?

On the subject of vegetables, I’ve gotten many emails asking for menu suggestions for a vegetarian Rosh Hashana main course. It’s such a good ask, and there are loads from which to choose. I love the looks of this root vegetable tagine over herbed couscous, this vegetarian chili with butternut squash and this spicy white bean stew with broccoli rabe. Or, less traditional to serve with the challah but still appealing, is Ali Slagle’s roasted halloumi and mushroom grain bowl. Another Jewish holiday request is for a kugel beyond the usual cottage cheese and raisin studded version. This savory potato kugel is just the thing.

You need a subscription for access to the recipes, and you can sign up right here if you’ve been putting it off (no time like the present!). You can also find us on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, where Ifrah F. Ahmed made her lacy-edged malawax, Somali cardamom crepes soaked in ghee. And, as always, reach out to us if you need help with our technology: cookingcare@nytimes.com.

Finally, here’s a question: Many of our recipes ask you to salt to taste. How do you feel about that instruction? Is it empowering, or just plain annoying? The writer and cookbook author J.J. Goode tackles that in The New Yorker. You can let me know your opinion at hellomelissa@nytimes.com.

That’s all for now. Sam’s back on Friday, and I’ll see you on Monday.

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