Most of the time, I’m an eager beaver in the kitchen, but there are days when life gets so busy that by dinnertime I become more of a languid cat.
A few nights ago, I made a dinner so easy that I didn’t even get out a knife. Here’s my no-chop, no-recipe recipe: I tipped whole cherry tomatoes onto a sheet pan, coated them with olive oil and salt, and roasted them at 425 degrees until they shriveled and sweetened. Then I nudged them to one side of the pan, laid salmon fillets on the other side and topped everything with more salt, oil and a sprinkle of dried oregano and chile flakes. Less than 10 minutes later, I drizzled on rice vinegar and served it all with a baguette, a green salad and salted yogurt. It was a tasty, satisfying meal prepared in under 30 minutes, without so much as dirtying a cutting board.
The thing is, I like to chop. I like grabbing my big chef’s knife and reducing unruly mounds of vegetables and herbs to tidy piles. I’ll put on some music and sway, knife in hand. There’s a lot of satisfaction in this kind of busy-beaver energy. And a good place to direct it is Kay Chun’s new recipe for sabich bowls (above), based on the beloved Middle Eastern fried eggplant sandwich and prepared on a sheet pan. It takes a lot of chopping, slicing and dicing to make, but the glorious results are well worth it — a mix of velvety eggplant, crisp chickpeas, hard-cooked eggs and a cucumber-tomato salad all coated with a creamy tahini dressing.
For those more languorous evenings when it feels hard to even pull out a food processor, The Times’s Food and Cooking editor, Emily Weinstein, has a fantastic newsletter devoted to easy, speedy weeknight dishes. Some of my favorites include my very minimalist baked fish (any fish, though I’m partial to hake) served with a smear of chile crisp; my lemony chicken with potatoes, all cooked in one pan; and Lidey Heuck’s lovely, savory-sweet sheet-pan sausages with caramelized shallots and apples.
For easy meatless meals, Tanya Sichynsky, a senior staff editor at The Times, writes a terrific weekly vegetarian newsletter called The Veggie that’s brimming with suggestions. Some of the hits in my current rotation: Ali Slagle’s silky refried white beans with chile-fried eggs; Alexa Weibel’s umami-filled creamy miso pasta, topped with slivered seaweed snacks that I always keep around for munching; and Hetty McKinnon’s creamy, tangy silken tofu with spicy soy dressing.
Another time-honored, lazy-cat-mode strategy is serving breakfast for dinner. Ultra-creamy scrambled eggs, oven bacon, avocado toast and even savory oatmeal all taste just as good at night as they do when you wake up.
Don’t sleep on getting a subscription so you can find all the recipes, and subscribing to New York Times Cooking couldn’t be any easier. We are also on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, where you can watch Yotam Ottolenghi’s butternut squash lasagna pie being made.
Now, back to cats: The tradition of library cats has persisted at least since the Middle Ages, and, like bookstore cats and museum cats, it is very much alive. Back in 1997, Greg Roma released a fun documentary, “Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat.” His website even has a clickable map of library cats around the globe, last updated in 2021 in case you care to investigate locally.
And let us not forget the beaver: “Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America,” written by Leila Philip, documents how the eagerness of beavers has reshaped their (our) environments much for the better. Another book, “Once They Were Hats,” mentioned in Jennifer Szalai’s incisive book review of “Beaverland,” captures the reason for the animal’s steep decline. But one hopes that some humans’ recent conservation efforts will help. Chop-chop.
I’ll see you on Wednesday.