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A&E >  Cooking

In the quest for an all-around family meal, sometimes a top-it-yourself bowl is the answer

Sept. 21, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 21, 2022 at 2:51 p.m.

Last week I got an email from a reader named Rachel that really spoke to me, and will probably speak to anyone who’s ever had to feed children or another phalanx of picky eaters:

Could you also please share a recipe that all three of my kids will eat? One eats most things but not peanut sauce, one eats only cucumbers and pizza, one eats only dino nuggets and whatever I am currently eating, especially if I’m very hungry and not in the mood to share.

The stringent randomness of kid preferences, the irritating puzzle of how to feed everyone with one meal, the cannibalization of your own dinner – it’s all here.

I picked two recipes that may work in that scenario, and a few others that I’m making for dinner myself.

Sesame Salmon Bowls

From Kay Chun

This one-pot meal, which is inspired by chirashi, or Japanese rice and raw fish bowls, features a savory vinegared rice that’s typically served with sushi. Traditionally, the rice is cooked first, then mixed with vinegar, but here, the rice is cooked in vinegar-seasoned water to eliminate a step. The result is sticky rice that’s tangy and sweet, and a perfect bed for fatty salmon. The salmon is added toward the end to steam directly on top of the rice for an easy one-pan meal. Packaged coleslaw is a time saver, eliminating extra knife work. Make a double batch of the zesty dressing for drizzling over roasted vegetables or green leafy salads the next day.

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

1 ½ cups sushi rice (short-grain white rice), rinsed until water runs clear

1 ½ pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped scallions

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (from one 2-inch piece)

3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

8 ounces green coleslaw mix (about 3 packed cups)

1 avocado, halved, pitted and thinly sliced

Torn toasted nori sheets, for garnish (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt; stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the rice and 1 ¾ cups water, and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, toss salmon with 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil and season with salt. Once rice is tender (after about 20 minutes), arrange salmon in an even layer on top of rice. Cover and steam over low heat until fish is cooked to medium, about 12 minutes longer.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, white vinegar, safflower oil, scallions, ginger and the remaining ¼ teaspoon sesame oil. Mix well, and season with salt.

4. Scoop salmon and rice into bowls. Top each with some cucumbers, coleslaw mix and avocado. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with nori, if using.

Yield: 4 servings

Pizza Chicken

From Melissa Clark

With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, it’s no wonder that I always think of this easy skillet dish as “pizza chicken.” It’s a tangy, milky, gooey, lovable meal that’s somewhat reminiscent of chicken Parmesan, but with succulent bone-in chicken pieces instead of breaded and fried cutlets. Even better, it has pancetta and anchovies for complexity of flavor, and the whole thing comes together in under an hour.

3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces (or use a 3 ½ pound chicken cut into 8 pieces)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5 ounces pancetta, diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 anchovy fillets

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes

1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving

8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into ¾-inch pieces)

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large ovenproof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.

3. Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil.

4. Add garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.

5. Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.

6. Scatter bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Tofu With Sizzling Scallion Oil

From Kay Chun

This refreshing weeknight meal comes together in less than 15 minutes and barely requires turning on the stove. Aromatic garlic, ginger and scallions are gently heated in oil until they sizzle and infuse it, turning into a fragrant, lively sauce for mild silken tofu. Peppery arugula and a final drizzle of tangy cilantro sauce brighten the dish. Enjoy with steamed rice for a heftier meal, or top with fried eggs. Leftover tofu can be stored in the scallion oil and refrigerated; it will have absorbed even more flavor the next day.

1 (14- to 16-ounce) package silken tofu

Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) and pepper

¼ cup neutral oil, such as safflower or canola

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

¼ cup thinly sliced scallions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced, peeled ginger

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 cups baby arugula

1. Remove the tofu from its package; drain the tofu then pat it dry. Scoop spoonfuls of the tofu onto a large platter and arrange in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a small saucepan, combine neutral oil, sesame oil, scallions, garlic and ginger. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling and garlic, ginger and scallions are softened but not browned, about 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, cilantro and vinegar.

4. Spoon hot scallion mixture over the tofu. Top with arugula and drizzle with the cilantro sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Sheet-Pan Sausage With Peppers and Tomatoes

From Ali Slagle

Good, flexible and fast, this recipe is a surefire standby: All you have to do is toss together sausage, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, shallots and olive oil on a sheet pan, then slide the entire thing under the broiler. In just 15 minutes, you’ll have nicely seared sausages, tomatoes and peppers, all of which have released juices that you should dunk bread into or spoon over pasta or rice. Experiment with adding cumin, paprika, oregano or red-pepper flakes in Step 1, or swap the garlic for scallions or red onion. You could also scatter crumbled feta, lemon slices, olives, pickled hot peppers or string beans across the top in the last few minutes of broiling.

1 pound fresh sausage, such as sweet or hot Italian sausage

1 pound sweet or mild peppers, such as mini sweet peppers, bell or Cubanelle, seeded and sliced into 2-inch strips if large

1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 shallots, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

1. Heat the broiler with a rack 6 inches from heat source. Score the sausages in a few places on both sides, making sure not to cut all the way through. In a shallow baking dish or baking sheet, toss the sausages with the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, shallots and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread in an even layer.

2. Broil until the sausage is cooked through and the peppers and tomatoes are nicely charred, 10 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and ingredients as needed so everything gets under the broiler. If everything is charring too quickly, cover the pan with foil. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Orecchiette With Corn, Jalapeño, Feta and Basil

From Colu Henry

Sweet, peak season corn is at the heart of this flavorful and simple-to-make summer pasta. The jalapeño offers a pleasant kick, and the feta cheese tossed in at the end melts slightly, giving the sauce a silky texture. It’s worth seeking out orecchiette here, as it nicely catches the corn kernels, creating perfect bites. If you can’t find it, fusilli or farfalle would work in its place. Serve with a bright, simple salad alongside and fresh fruit for dessert.

1 pound orecchiette

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 jalapeño, finely chopped

5 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (about 3 ½ to 4 cups kernels)

Kosher salt

8 ounces crumbled feta cheese

½ cup torn basil leaves, plus more for serving

Flaky salt, for serving (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until it is just short of al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

2. While pasta cooks, make the sauce: In a 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add jalapeño, and cook until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add corn, and cook until it begins to brown in spots, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt. Add ¼ cup of pasta water and bring to simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add pasta to skillet, tossing to coat with sauce. Add feta cheese and an additional ¼ cup of pasta water, tossing until pasta is slick and glossy with sauce. If needed, add in another ¼ cup pasta water. Stir in basil. Transfer to a large bowl and scatter with remaining basil. Season with flaky salt, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

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