By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times
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?
The brilliant recipe editors and bakers of New York Times Cooking 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 flavor and brim with cooking smarts.
1. Pasta With Andouille Sausage, Beans and Greens
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, cozy 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 flavors together.
By Vallery Lomas
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pound rigatoni or any pasta with ridges
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 12 ounces andouille sausage, diced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bunch collard greens, stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped (4 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup diced fresh tomato (from 1 large)
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced chives
- 1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges, for serving
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, for serving
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 skillet 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 1/2 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.
2. Skillet Chicken With Silky Peppers and Green Olives
Made with diced fresh tomato and colorful sweet bell peppers, this savory 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
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 45 minutes
- 2 1/4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal), plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers (or a combination of colors)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 medium fresh tomato
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup pitted, roughly chopped green olives, such as Castelvetrano
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley, basil, cilantro or a combination
- Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season all over with 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Set aside at room temperature while preparing the vegetables (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours).
2. Slice the peppers into 1/4-inch strips, removing the seeds. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Chop the tomato.
3. In a large skillet, 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 skillet 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 1/2 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.
3. Rice Cakes With Peanut Sauce and Hoisin
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 favorite 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
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes
For the rice cakes:
- Kosher salt
- 2 pounds rice cake sticks or sliced rice cakes, fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil such as vegetable or grapeseed
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 pound yu choy or other Asian greens, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, diluted with 1 teaspoon water
- 2 scallions, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
For the peanut sauce:
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (natural or emulsified)
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
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 (12-inch) nonstick skillet 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 caramelize. (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 scallions and finish with sesame seeds.
4. Lentils Diavolo
Lentils, like beans, soak up whatever flavors they’re cooked in. Here, it’s a chile oil made with both dried and fresh chiles, 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-chili.) 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
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 45 minutes
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 jalapeño, halved, seeded if desired, and finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven 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 1 1/2 inches 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.
5. Crispy Tofu With Cashews and Blistered Snap Peas
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 caramelization and a little shine and gloss. For a fresh side, add some blistered snap peas tossed with sliced scallions, 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
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1 (14-ounce) block firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed, vegetable or canola, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 3/4 pound snap peas, trimmed
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (light or full-fat)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons molasses, dark brown sugar or honey
- 1/2 cup toasted cashews
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, torn if large
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
- Rice or any steamed grain, for serving
1. Slice the tofu in half horizontally, and leave on paper towels to dry any excess liquid.
2. In a medium skillet 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 color 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 1-inch 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, scallions, mint and red-pepper flakes, if using. Divide among plates, along with the tofu and cashews. Serve with rice or any steamed grain.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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