I’ve thought a lot about my children recently, as I think just about every parent in America has. They are life itself, and my life specifically.
There were moments when I didn’t have much of an appetite, and other times when I went out of my way to cook because it was nice to have a mind-clearing task. And then, just before the long weekend, what I wanted was to gather up kids and family and friends and soak in the sun – a brief reprieve from the wider world, and one I’m lucky to be able to take.
There was food, of course. There always is. The recipes below are fast and bright, and while I don’t mean to suggest they’ll make all the wrong things right, I hope they deliver some happiness.
Tajín grilled chicken
Tajín is a Mexican seasoning made from dried, ground red chillies, sea salt and dehydrated lime juice. It is great sprinkled over fresh cut fruit like mango and pineapple, or rimmed on an ice cold margarita. But it is also an easy way to add chilli and lime to your favourite grilled meats, rubs or sauces. In this dish, the lime in the Tajín balances out the sweetness from the agave syrup, while the red chillies complement the smoky flavour of the chipotles. Serve the chicken as is or on toasted hamburger buns with a schmear of mayonnaise, chopped grilled spring onions, coriander leaves and sliced pickled jalapeños. This Tajín sauce also would pair well with grilled bass, cod or salmon, or with prawn skewers.
By: Rick A Martinez
Total time: 35 minutes
Vegetable oil, for the grill
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 900g)
170g light agave syrup or honey
120ml fresh orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
3 chipotle chillies in adobo, finely chopped, plus 60ml adobo sauce
6 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Tajín Clásico
8 spring onions, root ends trimmed
Handful coriander leaves and tender stems
1. Prepare a grill for medium-high, direct heat; clean the grates well, then brush them with vegetable oil. Alternatively, heat a grill pan on medium-high and brush the pan with oil.
2. Arrange the chicken on a baking tray and generously season both sides with salt. Whisk together the agave syrup, orange juice, orange zest, chipotles, adobo, garlic, olive oil and Tajín in a medium bowl.
3. Brush both sides of the chicken with the Tajín sauce. Grill the chicken, turning and basting often with the Tajín sauce, until cooked through, charred but brick red and glazed, 7 to 9 minutes. Grill the spring onions, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, about 5 minutes.
4. Serve the chicken with the grilled spring onions, topped with coriander.
Hot sauce prawns
So much more than a condiment for your morning eggs, hot sauce can add kick to dips, soups, marinades, sauces and more. Because most include vinegar and salt in addition to chillies, all hot sauce needs to become a silky sauce is fat. That’s the approach used in this super-quick recipe, which tastes like a cross between Buffalo chicken wings and chilli prawns. After charring some spring onions in the frying pan, prawns are cooked until plump and pink, then both are tossed with butter and hot sauce until glossy. Because hot sauces vary greatly in terms of heat, start with one tablespoon, then add more as you wish. If it’s too spicy for you, add more butter or serve it with rice, crusty bread, beer, yoghurt or ranch dressing to cut the heat.
By: Ali Slagle
Total time: 10 minutes
680g large pranws, peeled and deveined or shell-on
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 tbsp hot sauce, plus more to taste
2 tbsp neutral oil (like vegetable or grapeseed), plus more as needed
6 spring onions, trimmed, white and green parts cut crosswise into 2½cm segments
1. Pat the prawns dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Put the butter and hot sauce in a large bowl.
2. Heat the oil in a large (30cm) cast-iron frying pan over high. Add the spring onions and cook until softened and browned in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the scallions to the bowl with the butter and hot sauce.
3. Add the prawns to the pan in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, adding more oil if the pan is dry. Flip and cook until opaque all the way through, 1 to 2 minutes more.
4. Transfer the prawns and any juices to the butter, hot sauce and spring onions. Toss vigorously until the butter is melted and the prawns are glossy. Taste, and add more hot sauce and salt as needed.
Creamy, lemony pasta
This 15-minute pasta lets you decide how much effort to put in: if you’ve had a day and need an easy, no-nonsense meal, then make it as is and use kitchen shears to cut your spring onions. If you’re feeling slightly more ambitious, then make a topping that adds texture, vibrant green colour and more lemony flavour to the dish (see the tip below). But don’t cut corners when it comes to the yoghurt: use a thick, strained whole-milk yoghurt like labneh, Greek or skyr, as it will give the finished dish an irresistibly rich and tangy taste.
By: Yasmin Fahr
Total time: 15 minutes
450g short curly pasta, such as cavatappi, fusilli or farfalle
1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 1 tbsp zest and 3 tbsp juice)
Approx 70g grated parmesan, plus more as needed
60g labneh or other thick, strained whole-milk yoghurt, such as Greek or skyr, drained if necessary
2 spring onions, green and white parts, sliced
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cook until just shy of al dente, 2 to 3 minutes less than the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta, then return to the pot on the stove over medium-low heat.
2. Stir in ¾ cup of the pasta water, half the lemon juice, the parmesan and several grinds of black pepper, stirring vigorously until a silky sauce has formed. Add a tablespoon of water at a time as needed to make a creamier sauce if it looks dry. Stir in the labneh, remaining lemon juice, lemon zest and spring onions until creamy and combined, about 1 minute more. Season with salt as needed. Finish with another grind of pepper and serve immediately.
Tip: To make the lemony spring onions topping, combine 4 sliced spring onions with a handful of coriander leaves and stems roughly chopped or torn, the juice of half a lemon and a pinch or two of salt. Serve over the finished pasta.
Hot dogs with pico de gallo
Tanya Sichynsky tops salty, snappy grilled hot dogs with bright pico de gallo. Combining those two elements of fully loaded Mexican hot dogs makes these easy to cook for a crowd. You can prepare the pico de gallo early in the day and keep it in an airtight container until ready to pile onto the hot dogs, split to cradle the fresh filling. Be sure to keep the grill heat moderate. Too hot, and the hot dogs – and buns – will burn and dry out. Too cool, and they won’t take on a smoky char.
Recipe from: Tanya Sichynsky
Adapted by: Genevieve Ko
Total time: 30 minutes
For the pico de gallo:
2 ripe but firm tomatoes (450g), cored, seeded and diced
½ small white onion (115g), finely diced
2 jalapeños (85g), stemmed, seeded (if desired) and finely chopped
Handful coriander leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
For the hot dogs:
4 hot dogs
4 hot dog buns
2 tbsp mayonnaise (optional)
1. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill or a gas grill to medium heat. You should be able to hold your hand 15cm above the coals for 7 to 9 seconds before it becomes too hot. Or heat a grill pan on the stovetop over medium.
2. Make the pico de gallo by combining the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, coriander and lime juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and mix well. Taste and add more lime juice and salt, if desired.
3. Butterfly the hot dogs: slice them in half lengthwise without cutting all the way through the skin, then open them so they sit flat. Place them on the grill, cut-side down, and cook until grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the hot dogs and cook skin-side down until the skin deepens in colour, 2 to 4 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, open the hot dog buns and spread the mayonnaise on the cut sides, if you like. Grill, cut-side down, until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes, then flip and grill until lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
5. Place the grilled hot dogs in the toasted buns, cut-side up, then pile the pico de gallo into the butterflied opening. Serve immediately, with any remaining pico de gallo on the side.
One-pot rice and beans
Not only is rice with beans adored the world over, it even has its own Wikipedia page. This deeply flavoured rendition is inspired by these comforting traditions and a desire to wash as few dishes as possible: the rice cooks with the beans and the starchy liquid they’re canned in. As the two ingredients cook together, the beans disperse and glom onto the rice. For an extra kick, sauté chopped jalapeño with the onions or add ¼ cup salsa with the stock.
By: Ali Slagle
Total time: 30 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
415ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 tsp salt
210G long-grain rice
1 (440g) can black or pinto beans
Lime wedges or coriander leaves, for garnish (optional)
1. In a large saucepan or casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, cover and bring to a boil.
2. Add the salt, rice and beans (including the liquid). Stir just to combine, then cover.
3. Turn the heat down as low as it will go, then let simmer, undisturbed, for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 4 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then garnish with lime or coriander as you wish.
© The New York Times