Easy Recipes for When You’re Burned Out
You probably think all of us here at New York Times Cooking love to cook. And for the most part, we do! We cook for work, we cook for fun. But we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to sometimes wilting at the thought of planning another week of meals, or groaning when the last of the ketchup runs out because it means another slog to the grocery store. Sometimes, it’s just all (gestures wildly in every direction) too much. These recipes are for the days when your survival instinct tells you to order takeout (which we do all the time, too), but your heart longs for something homemade.
This traditional Mexican soup from Jocelyn Ramirez is cozy and edifying. If you can’t get good fresh tomatoes or you don’t have a blender, mince the garlic and use crushed tomatoes or canned tomato sauce like one reader’s grandmother does. Top with any combination of avocado slices, sautéed mushrooms, lime juice, queso fresco, cooked potatoes or Mexican cream.
This vegetarian sheet-pan dinner from Ali Slagle is mercifully simple. Toss shelf-stable gnocchi, mushrooms, scallions, shallot and olive oil on a sheet pan, season well with salt and pepper, then roast until the gnocchi is crisp at the edges. (For more, this guide from Melissa Clark can show you how to put together a sheet-pan dinner with practically anything.)
In this version of gyeran bap, a Korean pantry meal of fried eggs stirred into white rice, Eric Kim cooks the eggs in browned butter, drizzles them with soy sauce and sesame oil, then scatters salty roasted seaweed over the finished dish. Many readers like to sprinkle it all with a little furikake or sesame seeds.
Recipe: Gyeran Bap (Egg Rice)
One of the original set-it-and-forget-it recipes, Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is just three ingredients: canned tomatoes, a whole onion (peeled and cut in half) and butter. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes, then serve over any noodle you like. Mrs. Hazan called for discarding the onion, but many readers bristle at the thought and serve hunks of it alongside.
Thank the Cuban socialite Elena Ruz Valdés-Fauli for this beauty of a sandwich, which was adapted by Christina Morales. In the late 1920s or early ’30s, Ms. Valdés-Fauli, dining at El Carmelo restaurant in Havana, asked for turkey, strawberry preserves and cream cheese on a soft medianoche roll. It became a national sensation. Substitute any soft white bread roll, like brioche, for the medianoche.
Recipe: Elena Ruz Sandwich
Some one-pot recipes are myths, but this one from Yasmin Fahr, which comes together in 20 minutes, is the real deal. Fry Italian sausage until crispy, then add crushed tomatoes, cumin, red-pepper flakes, water and pasta. The pasta cooks in the seasoned liquid, so the dish is rich with flavor all the way through. (Reader tips: To avoid mushy noodles, don’t add too much water, and stir regularly to keep the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot.)
Shrimp, hot sauce, butter, neutral oil and salt are all you really need for this quick shrimp dish from Ali Slagle. According to readers, any hot sauce works. Serve over rice or with a hunk of crusty bread.
Recipe: Hot Sauce Shrimp
Alexa Weibel concocted this clever vegan riff on the classic Italian pasta dish that comes together in 30 minutes. Make a quick sauce of nutritional yeast, cashew butter, miso and toasted cracked black peppercorns, then toss with al dente noodles and a splash of starchy pasta boiling water until glossy and emulsified.
Recipe: Vegan Cacio e Pepe
This old-school sloppy Joe recipe from Marian Burros was first published in The Times in 1989. It works well with ground beef, pork, chicken, turkey or plant-based meat. Start a sheet-pan full of tater tots in the oven right before you begin browning the meat, and you’ll have a cozy school cafeteria-style meal ready in under 25 minutes.
Recipe: Sloppy Joes
This no-cook dish from Hetty McKinnon is a favorite among New York Times Cooking editors when kitchen ambition is low. Silken tofu is covered with a lively dressing of soy sauce, chile oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar and scallions. Add fresh herbs, or top with fried shallots or roasted peanuts. For a happy contrast, serve it alongside a bowl of hot rice or noodles.
It might appear a little Sunday sit-down dinner fancy, but this roast chicken from Mark Bittman is one of the easiest things you can make. Salt and pepper the dickens out of the chicken, get your skillet blazing hot, then plop the bird into the pan (careful about splatters) and roast until done. If you think of it, slide a potato or two onto the oven rack to bake alongside. (It might need a few more minutes, but let it continue to bake while the chicken rests.)
The chef Roy Choi gave this delightful recipe for instant ramen with an egg and a slice of American cheese on top to The Times in 2014. It’s not authentically Korean, but it’s a dish many Korean Americans have grown up on. “It’s our snack, it’s our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s our bowl of cereal,” Mr. Choi said.
Recipe: Perfect Instant Ramen
This crazy simple recipe from Sam Sifton will make you feel like you’re winning at life. It’s just Dijon mustard, brown sugar and salmon, but the result is a meltingly tender, flavorful piece of fish that’s ready in less than 20 minutes.
You may have seen this Sarah DiGregorio recipe before, but it’s so good and easy that it deserves a repeat. You put boneless chicken thighs, chipotles en adobo, honey and some pantry spices into the slow cooker, then let it cook for 3 to 5 hours. (Here is an Instant Pot version, and you can make it in Dutch oven in a 300-degree oven for about 3 hours.)
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Chipotle Honey Tacos
That can of chickpeas in your cabinet is calling to you. In this recipe, Kay Chun combines them with a lemon-tahini dressing, celery and scallions and sandwiches the hearty mix between two pieces of multigrain bread. It’s also great eaten right from the bowl you mixed it in with tortilla or pita chips.
Recipe: Chickpea Salad Sandwich
This delightfully easy dish from “Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family” by Priya Krishna and Ritu Krishna is melt-in-your-mouth good. Combine cooked rice with sautéed onion, chile and tomato, top with Cheddar, then broil until golden brown.
Recipe: Tomato Rice With Crispy Cheddar
When you’re truly wiped out, assembly, not cooking, is the name of the game. This vegetarian salad from Corinne Trang calls for cannellini beans, avocado, cilantro and lemon juice, which are tossed with an easy garlic oil made by crisping sliced garlic in olive oil. Top the finished salad with lemon zest and the crunchy fried garlic bits — a lovely textural contrast to the creaminess of the beans and avocado.
Melissa Clark calls for snow peas and mushrooms in this 30-minute red coconut curry, but you can whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. Frankly, it’s hard to mess up this dish. Just keep in mind that you may need to increase the cook time a bit for heartier vegetables. (For a nonvegetarian red curry, try Ali Slagle’s adaptation of kua kling, a Southern Thai dry red curry, made with ground chicken.)
When in doubt, there is always breakfast for dinner. Genevieve Ko smartly cooks bacon and eggs together on a sheet pan, so everything cooks evenly, no flipping required. Be sure to start with room-temperature eggs. If you forgot to take them out of the fridge in time, pop them into a bowl of hot tap water, and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
Recipe: Crispy Oven Bacon and Eggs