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.
LOUISIAN A BARBECUE D SHRIMP is that sort of magical dish that’s intensely flavorful, quick to cook, and perfect for sharing—all you need to do is spend a few minutes revving at the spice drawer first. Despite the name, the recipe isn’t cooked on a barbecue but simmered straight in a spicy-bright pan sauce. As Toni Tipton-Martin explains in her book Jubilee, drawn from her collection of nearly 400 African American cookbooks, “‘Barbecue shrimp’ is just the name Louisiana Creole cooks assigned to shrimp braised in wine, beer, or a garlic butter sauce.” This one is Toni’s favorite version, based on one from the late model/chef/restaurateur B. Smith.
Sometimes, Toni doesn’t even wait to get the shrimp out of the pan, serving it in the kitchen as an appetizer, right in the skillet it’s cooked in, with lots of hot crusty bread to get every bit of sauce. No more than 10 minutes have passed.
In this vegetarian riff on the classic brick chicken, mushrooms are simply cooked with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, with capers added for zing. I have used oyster, maitake, and lion’s mane—all are delicious. Each variety has a different moisture content and will release varying amounts of moisture as the mushrooms cook. I don’t keep bricks in my kitchen, but a second cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven gets the job done. The weight of the second pan compresses the mushrooms and allows a nice crunchy crust to form while keeping them juicy and tender on the inside. Once you do this a couple of times, you might start keeping bricks in your kitchen!
Buckwheat is the most popular grain in Slavic cuisine. When a crisis hits any Slavic country, buckwheat is usually the first thing that disappears from grocery store shelves. That’s how much people rely on it in their diet. I was never crazy about buckwheat when I was a kid. But when mom made me this soup, everything changed. It has the most alluring deep flavor of buckwheat and mushrooms with the right balance of sweetness and earthiness. It’s just like being wrapped in a cozy blanket and taking an autumn walk in a forest. I love eating this soup piping hot with the darkest rye bread I can find.
I am always looking for quick and easy weeknight meals, but I am never willing to sacrifice taste. That’s why I created this stew. It’s easy to make, and it’s literally bursting at the seams with flavor. I recommend making a double batch and freezing some. That way, on nights when you are feeling tired after work and want a comforting meal, you can defrost it in minutes and enjoy. For this recipe, I like using orzo or any small pasta shape, and if you are gluten-free, feel free to use a gluten-free pasta. Gluten-free pasta often requires a few more minutes of cooking time, so be sure to keep an eye on it. And while I love using spinach in this stew, use whatever greens you have on hand: kale, escarole, chard, or the like. Once the stew is done, I recommend adding a generous pinch of freshly grated cheese on top. Serve with a side of crusty sourdough bread.
The savory taste of this lemon, butter, and white wine sauce with capers over fish has made it a melt-in-your-mouth favorite in our family. The secret addition of cornstarch to the flour really helps the light coating stay on the fish while it cooks. Where we live in South Florida there is a wide variety of snapper available, such as red, hog, mutton, and yellowtail. All are delicious, and if you don’t have access to those varieties, another mild, white, flaky fish will work nicely.
Quick and easy traybakes are the way forward. I love the ease of throwing a load of ingredients into a roasting tin and just popping it in the oven, especially when the results are really good and make you think you want to do this again. Happy days.
We make a lot of shakshuka in our house, both red and green, for brunch and for dinner. This green version is milder and lighter than its tomato-based cousin, and is perfect for when you are looking for ways to increase your leafy vegetable consumption, or just want to try something new. The joy of shakshuka of any color is the soft egg yolk running all over the savory, lightly spiced vegetables. Here, crumbled feta adds a salty bite, and avocado slices, a velvety texture. Serve it with some crusty bread to sop up all the saucy goodness.
You can use any salmon, swordfish, cod or tuna for this recipe, as capers, fennel, celery and lemon juice are great accompanying flavours for just about all fish. If using tuna, remember it only needs to be seared for a very short amount of time, as you don’t want to overcook and ruin a fine-quality cut.
Hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—things don’t get much more versatile than this fiber-filled frittata. Mix up the veggies to keep it seasonal and interesting for endless weekday options. It’s earned a regular spot on my menu.