Spicy Tofu and Mushroom Mazemen; Chicken Koftas With Lime Couscous

March 25, 2024
Dining & Wine
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Hang on to your hats, because Hetty Lui McKinnon has done it again. Why do we all go so nuts for Hetty’s recipes? Because she somehow manages to coax maximum character out of minimal ingredients, techniques and prep work. Her creations are always satisfying and never fussy, a true boon for busy people who care deeply about what they cook.

The latest dish to get the Hetty treatment is mazemen, a brothless Japanese ramen dish that Hetty spikes with spicy, zesty, Taiwanese-inspired flavors. In this vegan version, golden seared mushrooms do the heavy lifting, but they’re abetted by nubby bits of crumbled tofu and a punchy, umami-filled sauce made with miso, sesame paste and chile crisp. Green bok choy adds a fresh and crisp element to the saucy, springy noodles.


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Continuing with the meatless, the earthy and the hearty, Ali Slagle’s lentils cacciatore skips the traditional chicken entirely. Instead, red lentils are simmered with all the tried-and-true elements of the Italian hunter’s meal — peppers, onions, carrots, rosemary and olive oil — until they break down into a glorious, thick stew. She suggests spooning it over polenta or farro, but if you want to toss it with pasta, adding a little pasta water to the mix will help it coat the noodles.

For a speedy dish that keeps chicken front and center, Ali’s easy boneless chicken thighs are seared hot and fast so they end up crisp and browned on the outside and juicy within. They’re primed and ready for whatever garnishes, sides or sauces you want to throw at them. Or else add some oil or butter to the pan drippings and use them to sauté greens or other vegetables to make a savory (and efficient!) accompaniment to your chicken.

Another one for poultry people: Nik Sharma’s recipe for fragrant five-star chicken koftas with lime couscous practically vibrates with citrus, herbs and fresh green chile. Nik mixes some dried cherries with the ground chicken, which gives the tender, meatball-like koftas a subtly sweet note, while pine nuts add crunch to the couscous. The leftovers keep well in the fridge, so it’s worth doing your best to save some for lunch the next day.

For more bold, racy flavors, we have Yasmin Fahr’s baked fish with olives and ginger. You can use any mild white fish fillets, which are ideal for absorbing the briny pungency of chopped green olives, along with the zing of grated ginger root and thinly sliced lemons. Roasted on a sheet pan, this is another minimum-effort, maximum-rewards dish to add to your weeknight rotation.

Then for something sweet, crunchy and bittersweet all in one bite, Genevieve Ko’s brilliant Rice Krispies treats with chocolate and pretzels have a flaky-sea-salt topping to balance out the sugary marshmallow, and echoed by bits of salty pretzel. It’s a more sophisticated version of a childhood fave.

To get these and thousands of other well-tested recipes, you’ll want to subscribe (and if you already do, we thank you). If you slam into any technical issues, you can send an email to cookingcare@nytimes.com. And I’m at hellomelissa@nytimes.com if you want to say hi.

That’s all for now, I’ll see you on Wednesday.

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