By Request: Fast, Easy, Weeknight Recipes

You may not know this, but I’m actually a bit of a data science whiz. I’ve developed a complex algorithm to analyze every newsletter that I send, detect intricate patterns in reader behavior, and pinpoint precisely the content to which you will be most receptive.

Just kidding. I don’t do science (data or otherwise), couldn’t develop an algorithm if my life depended on it, and the only intricate pattern I’ve detected in this newsletter is that it gets sent on Tuesdays and Fridays.

That said, I do find it kind of interesting to sift through the emails that we’ve done so far and try to figure out which sorts of recipes everyone seems to like (spoiler alert: modern technology lets me see how many people click on each one). My rigorous analysis (which entails looking at a bunch of numbers and seeing which ones are big) has led me to the conclusion that many of you are pretty into what I would call fast, easy, weeknight recipes. This makes sense. We do most of our cooking on busy weeknights, and if given the choice between making something fast and easy, or long and arduous, well…

My “analytics” aside, this is also just a good time for totally doable recipes: it’s the beginning of the year, many of us want to be cooking more, and these are the kinds of simple dishes that help us slide back into that day-to-day rhythm of being in the kitchen. So, here are some good ones (in theory, one for each of the four remaining weeknights if you want to do a little meal planning). None take more than 30 minutes, and all are a hell of a lot easier than an algorithm. Have a wonderful week.

— Mark


Melina Hammer for the New York Times

The most time-consuming part of making meatballs is rolling them. The solution? Don’t. Just use two spoons to drop little mounds of the mixture into the hot skillet. (Skipping the rolling also prevents you from overworking the meatballs until they get tough.) Leave them alone to brown beautifully on the bottom while you start building the tomato sauce around them.

Also, quick note: you’ll see in this recipe that the ingredient prep (grating cheese, chopping parsley and onion, and so on) is woven directly into the instructions. This is a feature from my book How to Cook Everything Fast (where this dish originated), and is meant to capture, in recipe form, the real-time cooking (aka not prepping everything in advance) that most of us do day-to-day. FYI.

SPAGHETTI WITH DROP MEATBALLS


Andrew Scrivani for the New York Times

For most people, even experienced cooks, weeknight dinners are not so much a result of careful planning but of what’s on hand — and what can be accomplished fairly quickly. Noodles of all kinds are easy and beloved. But soba noodles, a Japanese staple, are special: they usually take no more than 3 to 4 minutes to cook and, because they’re made from buckwheat, have a slightly firm texture and a nutty flavor. Traditionally, soba are served hot and cold, making them a flexible partner for almost any fresh ingredients you have in the kitchen. In this case, they’re paired with shelled frozen edamame, carrots and spinach, and a light dressing.

SOBA SALAD


Craig Lee for the New York Times

This curry is tailor made for weeknight cooking: fast, easy, and infinitely adaptable based on what you have on hand (shrimp, fish, tofu, or chickpeas are all wonderful substitutes for the chicken, and even cook a bit faster). The most time-consuming part of this dish is cooking the onions, which is what builds up the flavor. After that it comes together very quickly. Consider the 2 teaspoons of curry powder a starting point; if you like a strongly flavored curry (as I do), you may want to add more.

EASY CHICKEN CURRY


This is a dish that is almost too simple to believe, one that combines wonderful textures and flavors with a minimum of ingredients, no added fat, and almost no preparation or cooking time. Like the best simple dishes, everything counts here: the fish, the leeks—which remain crisp and assertive thanks to the quick cooking time—and even the wine or stock. The Dijon mustard provides a bit of a kick. You need a tightly covered container to preserve all the liquid and flavors inherent in this dish, but that can be as simple as a pot with a good-fitting lid or a heatproof glass casserole—anything that prevents moisture from escaping.

FISH BAKED WITH LEEKS


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.