Unexpected Dinner Inspiration

A year into this pandemic, I’m taking dinner ideas wherever they come.

Last week, my daughter and I read “Bread and Jam for Frances,” the 1964 picture book about a little badger who doesn’t want to eat any of the food her mother cooks (soft-boiled eggs, toast and fresh orange juice for breakfast; breaded veal cutlets with baked potatoes for dinner). She wants only bread and jam, and so that is all her mother gives her. Frances finally breaks when the rest of the family sits down to spaghetti and meatballs. Two thoughts: One, I wish this talented and cunning mama badger would cook for me. If someone put a freshly fried breaded cutlet down in front of me, my gratitude would be effusive to the point of embarrassing. Two, I had to make meatballs. And I did it. I made meatballs. (And red sauce too.)

I would love to know about your unlikely sources of culinary inspiration. Email me, and I’ll try to share a few here in future newsletters: [email protected] In the meantime, I hope at least one or two of the recipes below call your name this week.

1. Roasted Chicken Thighs With Cauliflower and Herby Yogurt

Yossy Arefi makes this sheet-pan meal shine by seasoning the chicken with coriander, smoked paprika and Aleppo pepper flakes, and by serving it with herbed yogurt sauce. Keep that sauce recipe in your back pocket: It could bolster any number of dishes, like roasted salmon or a pot of grains.

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View this recipe.

2. Kimchijeon (Kimchi Pancake)

These pancakes, which Samin Nosrat adapted from the chef Young S. Kim of Pyeong Chang Tofu House in Oakland, Calif., are so crisp on the outside, chewy within and very fun to eat. The more flavorful your kimchi, the more delicious they’ll be.

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3. Sheet-Pan Cajun Salmon

Spice blends provide you with a supremely fast way to make dinner delicious. Millie Peartree knows: She uses Cajun seasoning (paprika, cayenne and other spices) to bring instant flavor to this easy sheet-pan recipe of salmon, potatoes and springy asparagus.

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4. Pork Schnitzel With Quick Pickles

This recipe is for Frances’s mother, for all long-suffering parents who cook, and for anyone who appreciates the deliciousness of a fried breaded cutlet. You don’t need to make the quick pickles in this Melissa Clark recipe, but I would. (If you have more time to cook, also try our meticulous new schnitzel recipe by J. Kenji López-Alt.)

View this recipe.

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5. Olive-Walnut Pasta

I delighted in this Ali Slagle dish when I cooked it: Like all of her recipes, it’s cleverly conceived, simple to execute and extremely tasty. If you love both olives and walnuts, I can’t recommend it enough.

View this recipe.

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