In her new cookbook, "I Dream of Dinner, So You Don't Have To," New York Times contributor Ali Slagle creates 150 recipes that are ideal for dinner any night of the week.
Many of Slagle's dishes are plant-based and she took inspiration from resourceful home cooks. Slagle's under 45-minute meals use readily available, inexpensive ingredients in clever, uncomplicated ways.
Slagle shared two of her simple and speedy one-dish dinners that boast minimal ingredients and maximum flavor.
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
6 garlic cloves
1 tin of anchovies
6 tablespoons double-concentrate tomato paste
3 tablespoons capers
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces baby spinach
8 ounces small pasta (ditalini, orzo, mini shells)
Thinly slice 6 garlic cloves and coarsely chop 1/2 cup Kalamata olives.
Heat 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 anchovies, and the garlic in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium. Cook, smashing the anchovies with your spoon, until the garlic starts to brown around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the olives, 6 tablespoons double-concentrate tomato paste, 3 tablespoons capers, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Season with half teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste turns a shade darker, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil over high.
Once boiling, add 8 ounces small pasta (ditalini, orzo, mini shells, about 1 1/2 cups) and 5 ounces baby spinach (about 4 1/2 cups), ripping the leaves into smaller pieces as you plop them in. Stir to combine, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking, until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. While you wait, maybe make some anchovy breadcrumbs (below). Eat with a sprinkle of those, a drizzle of olive oil, more red pepper flakes and a spoon.
Cook's Notes and Tips
- 20-minute pasta that tastes like you simmered it for hours.
- The pasta boils in the sauce so ingredients have lots of time to meld (and you don’t need to wait for a big pot of water to boil).
- The pasta gives off starch as it cooks, making the sauce creamy.
- Puttanesca marries pantry staples that pack a pow: garlic, anchovies, capers, olives.
- Olives, anchovies, and capers are full of salt and brine right from the jar.
- Omit the olives, anchovies, and capers and you have a rich—and fast!—classic tomato sauce.
- A small amount of red pepper flakes adds warmth but not necessarily heat. Increase quantity if you want a spicy pasta.
- Tomato paste + water is the secret to a super-fast, deeply flavored tomato sauce. The paste is made from cooking down tomatoes forever, so you don’t have to.
Skillet Chicken Thighs with Peas and Pickled Chiles
2 pounds, bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
2 fresh chiles, red Fresno or Thai
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups snap peas
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup soft herb leaves (mint, dill)
1/2 cup crumbly cheese, optional
Pat 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven. Add the thighs, skin side down, and set over medium. Cook, undisturbed, until the skin is deep golden brown and unstuck from the pan, about 15 minutes. If your stove is getting splattered, cover the skillet with a baking sheet. Flip the thighs over and cook until the meat is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, thinly slice 2 fresh chiles (red Fresno, Thai). Add to a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar, and 2 teaspoons salt. Pour ¼ cup boiling water over the chiles and stir to dissolve the sugar. Trim 4 cups snap peas, then thinly slice on a very sharp diagonal so they’re almost shredded. Pluck 1 cup soft herb leaves (mint, dill).
Transfer the chicken skin side up to a plate, leaving the fat behind. Still over medium, add 2 cups frozen peas (10 ounces) and the pickled chile mixture to the pan. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan for browned bits, until the peas are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Off the heat, add the snap peas and herbs and crumble half cup crumbly cheese (feta, Cotija, ricotta salata) over. Stir just once or twice to coat.
Cook's Notes and Tips
- Make sure your chicken is dried with a paper towel so it gets as brown as possible.
- Chicken thighs are ideal for weeknights because they’re impossible to overcook.
- As the thighs cook, the give off chicken fat, which is like liquid gold.
- Cook any vegetable right in the chicken fat for a super quick, really delicious side dish.
- Spring vegetables like sugar snap peas, green beans, snow peas, and asparagus are great dinner sides because they cook in minutes and are even good raw.
- Frozen peas are often better than fresh ones because they were packaged at peak season. Keep a bag in your freezer for a fast vegetable any night.
- To thinly slice a chile without burning your eyeballs, use the stem as a handle.
- Store fresh chiles in the freezer; they’ll keep for years.
- At the end, pour in a little water, stock—or here, a spicy, vinegary liquid—and to make a quick pan sauce for your dinner. Scrape as it simmers to get all the browned bits stuck to the skillet (browning = flavor!)
- Spicy chiles balance the sweet peas.
- If you don’t have herbs or cheese, skip it—no sweat.
Alternate skillet chicken options with different ingredients
• Asparagus + corn + turmeric + cumin seeds
• Escarole + white beans + honey + chile flakes
• Peppers + onions + za’atar
• Cauliflower + dates + dill
• Kimchi + boiled potatoes
• Broccoli + fish sauce + lime
• Shallots + red wine vinegar
• Cabbage + salami
• Parsley + croutons
"Reprinted from I Dream of Dinner. Copyright © 2022 by Alexandra Slagle. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Mark Weinberg. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House."