I love mattar paneer (the traditional Indian dish of peas and paneer in spiced, creamy tomato gravy), but I don’t love the break-out-the-blender hassle of puréeing the sautéed onions, tomatoes and cashews that you’ll find in most recipes. Sadly, that one step has usually been enough to knock the dish out of my low-effort weeknight dinner rotation.
Lo and behold, Zainab Shah has discovered a terrific shortcut. In her 25-minute mattar paneer recipe (which you can also make with tofu if cheese isn’t on the menu), she substitutes cashew butter for the nuts, which means you don’t need a blender to achieve the velvety sauce, fragrant with ginger, cumin seeds and garam masala. Our NYT Cooking recipe developers are smart like that, always exploring the many routes to deliciousness.
Kay Chun’s sheet-pan salmon and eggplant with XO sauce is another brilliant example of easy-cooking ingenuity. Instead of making the XO sauce with pricey dried shrimp and scallops, she substitutes a can of smoked mussels to give an oceanic, umami character to the dish that balances the rich sweetness of the salmon. Save the extra sauce for scrambled eggs, fried rice or roasted vegetables. It will keep for a month, if you don’t eat it all first.
Or maybe you’re looking for a meal that’s simple, speedy and child-friendly, even for those white-foods-only kids. In that case, I’d go for Ali Slagle’s one-pot pasta with ricotta and lemon, a crowd-pleaser with over 14,000 ratings and hundreds of notes with variations galore. Be sure to use the best ricotta you can find (whole milk for the win). Serve it as is, or jazz it up with more vegetables (peas seem to be popular), bacon, chiles, herbs or maybe even those leftover smoked mussels you have on hand from last night’s XO sauce. This dish goes with the flow.
For something lighter and brighter, Tamar Adler’s health soup is filled with good-for-you green vegetables rounded out with tofu, miso and dried shiitakes for wonderfully earthy depth.
And for dessert (or maybe breakfast, or both!), my pantry crumb cake can be baked with whatever fresh, frozen or dried fruit you have available. It’s a light cake with a nubby brown sugar and oat topping that’s homey, adaptable and just begging for a steaming mug of coffee or tea.
As always, you’ll want to subscribe to read all these smart recipes and so many more (in the tens of thousands range). If you need any technical help, the brilliant people at firstname.lastname@example.org are there for you. And I’m at email@example.com if you want to say hi.
That’s all for now, see you on Wednesday.