Welcome back to Five Weeknight Dishes. This was the week I killed the sourdough starter. We were close during the first month of quarantine, but with humans to feed, provisioning enough flour and time to keep the relationship alive was getting harder. It was giving me reproachful vibes from the counter every time I passed through the kitchen. I also felt reproached by some scallions in the kitchen of the chef David Chang, who was cooking on Instagram this week. He is saving the root ends of his scallions, cutting off only the green parts and regrowing new ones in water glasses. Damn, I thought. That is how a real cook does it.
But anything that makes us feel like we should be doing a better job in the kitchen is not helpful right now. So far, we don’t have to be chefs and bakers and gardeners and learn every homesteading skill in the book. For normal people in strange times, just getting dinner on the table is a small victory.
Here are five recipes to help you do that this week.
One of our favorite cookbook authors, Diana Henry, stripped this one-pot recipe down to the particular flavors that make black beans shine: cumin, garlic, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes. Chicken thighs and white rice, of course, make it a satisfying dinner.
Shrimp can take all the garlic, butter and parsley you have to throw at them. Even frozen ones taste great in this recipe.
3. Farro e Pepe
Samin Nosrat’s recipe for tender, starchy grains robed in silky cheese is new enough to be interesting, but also familiar enough to be comforting. Make sure to cook the grains all the way through so they have only a soft bite to them. She uses Pecorino Romano, which is funkier and sharper than Parmesan, but Parmesan is lovely here too.
4. Vegan Chili
Our resident food scientist, J. Kenji López-Alt, reverse-engineered this vegan stew to give it all the depth of flavor and umami of a slow-cooked meat chili. If dried chiles aren’t readily available, substitute ground pasilla or ancho powder. If you can’t find or don’t use plant-based meat, simply leave it out: The texture it adds is pleasant but not really needed.
This superfast recipe is built for when all you want is to get dinner together in the time it takes to boil water, then head straight to the couch. Be like our reader Everett and consult the comments to develop your own favorite version. “I’ve made this maybe once a week for a year,” he noted recently. “Tried all the top comments. I know, a bit crazy.” Not crazy, Everett.