Last week I got an email from a reader named Rachel who actually spoke to me, and probably will speak to anyone who has ever had to eat. children or another phalanx of picky eaters:
Can you please share a recipe that all three of my kids will eat? You eat most things but no peanut sauce, you only eat cucumbers and pizza, you only eat dinosaur nuggets and whatever I eat, especially when I’m very hungry and not in the mood to share.
The strict arbitrariness of children’s preferences, the irritating puzzle of feeding everyone with one meal, the cannibalization of your own dinner – it’s all there.
I chose two recipes below that might work in that scenario, and a few others that I make myself for dinner.
sesame salmon bowls
Inspired by chirashi, or Japanese bowls of rice and raw fish, this one-pot meal features savory vinegary rice typically served with sushi. Traditionally, the rice is first boiled and then mixed with vinegar, but here the rice is cooked in vinegar-seasoned water to eliminate a step. The result is sticky rice that is spicy and sweet, and a perfect bed for greasy salmon. The salmon is added towards the end to steam directly on top of the rice for an easy one-pot meal. Packaged coleslaw is a time saver, eliminating the need for extra knife work. Make a double batch of the spicy dressing to drizzle over roasted vegetables or leafy green salads the next day.
Through: Kay Chun
Total time: 40 minutes
60 ml unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
200 g sushi rice (short grain white rice), rinsed until water runs clear
680 g skinless salmon fillet, cut into 2½cm cubes
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
60 ml low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp safflower or canola oil
2 tbsp coarsely chopped spring onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (from a 5 cm piece)
3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
225g green coleslaw mix
1 avocado, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
Torn toasted nori sheets, for garnish (optional)
1. Combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a large saucepan; stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the rice and 400 ml of water and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, mix the salmon with ¼ tsp sesame oil and season with salt. Once the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes), arrange the salmon in an even layer on top of the rice. Cover and steam over low heat until fish is cooked through to medium, about 12 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, white vinegar, safflower oil, scallions, ginger and remaining ¼ tsp sesame oil in a small bowl. Mix well and season with salt.
4. Spoon salmon and rice into bowls. Top each with some cucumbers, coleslaw mix, and avocado. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with nori, if used.
With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, it’s no wonder I always think of this easy one-pan dish as “pizza chicken”. It’s a spicy, milky, gooey, tasty meal somewhat reminiscent of chicken parmesan, but with succulent pieces of bone-in chicken instead of breaded and fried cutlets. In fact, it has pancetta and anchovies for the complexity of the flavor, and the whole thing comes together in less than an hour.
Through: Melissa Clark
Total time: 45 minutes
1.6kg boneless chicken pieces (or use 1.6kg chicken cut into 8 pieces)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
140g pancetta, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 (800g) can of whole plum tomatoes
1 large basil branch, plus more chopped basil to serve
225 g bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), halved (or use a large mozzarella ball cut into 2 cm pieces)
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Add chicken to the pan. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Drain everything except 1 tbsp oil.
4. Add garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes to the pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
5. Return the chicken to the pan. Return pan to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.
6. Sprinkle bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over the pan. Set the oven temperature to roast. Return pan to oven and grill until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch closely to make sure it doesn’t burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.
Tofu with sizzling spring onion oil
This refreshing weeknight meal is ready in less than 15 minutes and hardly needs to be put on the stove. Aromatic garlic, ginger and scallions are gently heated in oil until they sizzle and sizzle, turning into a fragrant, vibrant sauce for mild silken tofu. Peppery arugula and a final splash of spicy coriander sauce brighten up the dish. Enjoy with steamed rice for a heartier meal, or top with fried eggs. Leftover tofu can be kept in the spring onion oil and kept refrigerated; it will have absorbed even more flavor the next day.
Through: Kay Chun
Serves: 2 to 4
Total time: 10 minutes
1 (400-450g) package silken tofu
Salt and pepper
60 ml neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
25 g thinly sliced spring onions
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped, peeled ginger
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves and soft stems
2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 cups baby arugula
1. Remove the tofu from the package; drain the tofu and pat it dry. Scoop spoonfuls of the tofu onto a large platter and arrange in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a small saucepan, combine neutral oil, sesame oil, spring onions, garlic and ginger. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until oil sizzles and garlic, ginger, and scallions are tender but not brown, about 3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, coriander and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Spoon the hot spring onion mixture over the tofu. Sprinkle with arugula and drizzle with the coriander sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Traybake sausage with bell pepper and tomatoes
Good, flexible and quick, this recipe is a surefire standby: all you have to do is toss sausage, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, shallots and olive oil together on a baking sheet and slide it all under the broiler. In just 15 minutes you have nicely seared sausages, tomatoes and peppers, all of which have released juices for you to dip or spoon bread into pasta or rice. Experiment with adding cumin, paprika, oregano or red pepper flakes in Step 1, or swap the garlic for scallions or red onion. You can also sprinkle crumbled feta, lemon slices, olives, pickled hot peppers, or string beans over the top in the last few minutes of grilling.
Through: Ali Slagle
Total time: 20 minutes
450 g fresh sausage, such as sweet or warm Italian sausage
450 g sweet or mild peppers, such as mini peppers, paprika or Cubanelle, seeded and cut into 5cm strips, if large
450 g cherry or grape tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallots, peeled and cut into 1½ cm wedges
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the grill with a grid at 15 cm from the heat source. Score the sausages in a few places on both sides, being careful not to cut them all the way through. Toss the sausages in a shallow baking dish or baking sheet with the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread in an even layer.
2. Grill until sausage is cooked through and peppers and tomatoes are nicely charred, 10 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and ingredients as needed to get everything under the grill. If everything chars too quickly, cover the pan with foil. Serve immediately.
Orecchiette with corn, jalapeno, feta and basil
Sweet corn is the heart of this tasty and easy-to-make pasta. The jalapeno offers a pleasant kick and the feta cheese thrown in at the end melts slightly, giving the sauce a silky texture. It’s worth seeking out orecchiette here as it catches the corn kernels nicely and creates perfect bites. If you can’t find it, fusilli or farfalle would work in its place. Serve with a bright, simple salad and fresh fruit for dessert.
Through: Colu Henry
Total time: 30 minutes
450 g orecchiette
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
570-650 g sweetcorn (or 5 ears of corn, shelled and seeds removed)
225 g crumbled feta cheese
½ cup torn basil leaves, plus more to serve
Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil. Add pasta and cook until just not al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
2. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce: melt the butter in a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat. Add jalapeno and cook until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add corn and cook until starting to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt. Add ¼ cup (60 ml) pasta water and bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add the pasta to the pan and stir with sauce. Add feta cheese and an additional ¼ cup of pasta water and stir until pasta is smooth and shiny with sauce. Add another ¼ cup of pasta water if needed. Stir in the basil. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with the remaining basil. Season with flakes of salt, if desired.
© The New York Times