Weeknight Kitchen with Melissa Clark takes on one of the biggest dilemmas of busy people: what are we going to eat? In each episode, you’ll join Melissa in her own home kitchen, working through one of her favorite recipes and offering helpful advice for both beginners and seasoned cooks. It’s a practical guide for weeknight eating, from the makers of The Splendid Table.
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Something beautiful happens when the natural juices of the tomatoes, citrus, and fish come together with the garlic and chile butter, and you’ll want some good bread on hand to capture the moment. This is the ultimate midweek summer dish, as it only takes 10 minutes to make. As ever, make sure your tomatoes are nice and ripe, it’ll make all the difference. If you can get hold of tomatillos, these are lovely in place of green tomatoes. Of course, you can also use good-quality red tomatoes, if that’s what’s more readily available.
Tamarind chutney is one of the best uses of tamarind on the planet! A favorite condiment for Indian snacks and street food, this chutney showcases the fruit’s date-like depth and tangy acidity, and balances them with brown sugar sweetness and the woody flavors of ginger and cumin. For all that complex flavor, it’s actually very easy to make and it keeps a long time. It’s a fantastic accompaniment to crispy fried food, but it’s also terrific drizzled over roasted vegetables.
I think of salads in two distinct camps: 1) the classic tossed salad, where everything is added to a deep bowl and moved around to evenly distribute, and 2) flat salads built in layers on a shallow platter. The latter is best when you have delicate greens (like butter lettuce) that won’t take well to tossing. Building in layers also means that the construction of the servings will be roughly the same if you are the first person to be served or the last—no more lettuce-only bites for the last in line.
I have often said you can laab anything. And in “anything” I include bits of leftover meats and vegetables. Tart, spicy, and fresh, this treatment is guaranteed to “fix” any dry Thanksgiving turkey, or the ends of roast beef. I’ve even laab-ed roasted squash and cut-up pieces of omelet. Laab is usually served with sticky rice, but you can serve it with jasmine rice, wrap it in lettuce, or serve it with fresh cucumber. Note: I have provided a small base recipe here because it’s meant for using up bits and bobs in the fridge; scale up to whatever quantity of leftovers you have.
In tropical Vietnam, cauliflower is a prized cool-weather crop that’s typically stir-fried, added to soup, or pickled. Home ovens are uncommon in Vietnam, so few people roast cauliflower. In my California kitchen, however, I coat cauliflower wedges in salty-sweet-spicy seasonings typically reserved for Cantonese-style char siu barbecue pork, and then high-heat roast them. The contours of the wedges caramelize here and there to develop a deep savoriness that evokes the prized edges and corners of char siu pork. Serve this cauliflower as a satisfying main dish or tuck it into bao and banh mi.
Of all the recipes in this book, this savory dish is the one I make the most often, not just because it’s delicious, but because it connects me to my past. Throughout childhood, my grandma would make me various versions of this soup, and as an adult, it brings me so much comfort to make it and share it with others. Expect a vegan, Mexican-inspired twist on a Chicken and Rice Soup with tofu swapped in for the chicken and with the addition of fresh lemon juice and cilantro. So delicious!
Born to make wise use of leftover pasta, frittata di spaghetti is an underrated, versatile, and fun recipe to add to your repertoire. You can serve it as part of a buffet; cut into generous slices, or cube it for an unusual starter. It makes a great packed lunch for day trips, picnics, and beach outings too.
The frittata is usually made with spaghetti, vermicelli, or bucatini, but short pasta such as penne or rigatoni will also work. Eggs are the ingredient that binds everything together: as a general rule, allow one egg per person, and maybe one more for the pan. As the recipe was created to use leftovers, consider it a blank canvas and use it to upcycle any leftover cheese that has been sitting at the back of your fridge for too long: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino or cubed or sliced mozzarella, scamorza, or provola. You can also add salami, pancetta, or mortadella; see the Note.
While chicken breast is undoubtedly an easy, quick and uncontroversial option for dinner, I find it often to be quite disappointing: a little bland, usually dry and just a bit boring. Except when cooked this way: the meat is browned, then lightly poached in rich tomato sauce so it stays exquisitely tender, and each piece comes enrobed in a blanket of melting mozzarella cheese. Absolutely essential with this is some crusty bread for wiping up all the juices on your plate. And depending on your mood, you might also want a light salad or a few greens.
Almost every region has its version of seasoned rice and beans, and the Middle East is no exception. For me, the highlight of mujaddara is the deeply caramelized onions that are simply irresistible. The dish also uses lentils, which largely retain their shape and give the dish its name: “mujaddara” means “pockmarked” or “pimpled” in Arabic. In this version, we cook the cauliflower rice and lentils separately to maximize texture.
Tzatziki, meanwhile, is a similar preparation to the Indian raita, but is usually thicker and creamier in consistency because it is made with Greek yogurt. I find the pairing of these dishes particularly alluring as a complete meal.
This is one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog. Normally, a restaurant chef would deep-fry the eggplant and then cook it with the sauce in a large wok over extremely high heat to keep it glossy and crispy. To avoid all that hassle, I’m sharing my favorite method for preparing eggplant without deep-frying while still making it crispy. The eggplant is then finished in a savory, sticky sauce—just enough to coat the eggplant so that it won’t turn soggy.