The fish that makes me want to cook and more recipes – The Denver Post

By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times

At the end of another week in this world of ours, I saw an article appear with the headline “19 Extremely Easy Recipes for When You’re Burned Out,” written by my wonderful colleague Margaux Laskey. I felt so seen, to use the parlance of our times.

But even with that burnout, I’m finding there are still recipes that can draw me in and get me excited to cook (or maybe it’s more accurate to say that they get me excited to eat). Zainab Shah’s kharra masala fish is one, with its tomatoes and onions, ginger and chiles, and a spray of spices. That recipe, and the four others this week, are on my to-cook list for the days ahead.

1. Kharra Masala Fish

By Zainab Shah

The classic sweet and sour combination of onion and tomato makes the base for this quick fish kharra masala. Optional mustard seeds add pungent flavor and pair well with lemon juice, ginger and the smoldering heat of dried round red chiles. Use any kind of white fish you like and add more onion for more sweetness. Serve this bright and punchy dish with rice or roti, or by itself. For a saucier dish that’s more like a curry, stir in a half cup of water, fish stock or coconut milk after Step 2 and bring to a simmer.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons ghee or neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional)
  • 6 dried whole round red chiles, preferably Dundicut
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, or white, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chile powder
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds firm, skinless white fish, such as cod or haddock, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon, about ¼ cup
  • 2 chopped Thai green chiles
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


1. Heat ghee in a medium pot over medium until it melts, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the seeds and round red chiles. Stir continuously until fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds.

2. Add onion. Stir occasionally, and continue cooking until it starts to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garam masala, cumin, turmeric and chile powder. Add the tomatoes and salt, and stir so all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender and the oil starts to separate (you’ll see the oil form an outline around the jammy tomato), about 7 minutes.

3. Add the fish pieces in one layer, cover and let cook over low heat for 7 minutes. Remove the lid, and flip the fish pieces so they are coated with masala on all sides. Cover again and let it cook on low until the fish is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Top with lemon juice, green chiles, ginger and fresh cilantro. Serve with roti, rice or by itself.

2. Soy-Glazed Chicken Breasts With Pickled Cucumbers

By Dawn Perry

The pan-steam method used here ensures boneless, skinless chicken breasts cook quickly while staying moist. The technique works with water, but a flavorful mixture of soy sauce, honey, garlic and coriander infuses the chicken with even more flavor. Depending on the size of the skillet you use, the sauce may reduce a little slower or faster than the time indicated. When you swipe a rubber spatula across the bottom of the skillet, the sauce should hold a spatula-wide trail that fills in with liquid pretty quickly. If you happen to reduce too much, whisk in water one tablespoon at a time until you’re back to a shiny sauce that can be drizzled. Rice is an obvious side, but the sliced chicken and pickled cucumbers are really good tucked inside flour tortillas, too.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, peeled, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly smashed with the side of a heavy knife
  • Cilantro leaves and tender stems, for serving
  • Steamed rice, for serving


1. In a medium bowl, toss to combine the cucumber, shallot, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside while you make the chicken.

2. In a shallow dish, stir soy sauce and honey together; add chicken and turn to coat.

3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add garlic and coriander and stir to coat. Add chicken breasts (reserve the marinade) and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. (Browning happens a little faster than usual here because of the honey and soy; if the marinade is getting too dark, lower the heat slightly.)

4. Add reserved marinade and 1/4 cup water to the skillet. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes more per side.

5. Uncover the skillet, increase heat to medium-high and cook, turning chicken occasionally, until liquid is reduced and chicken is glazed, about 5 minutes. Serve chicken drizzled with any leftover glaze over rice with cucumber salad and cilantro.

3. Pasta and Lentils (Pasta e Lenticchie)

By Ali Slagle

This classic Neapolitan dish’s heartiness comes from cooking pasta with lentils so that the starches thicken the liquid into something creamier and richer than a basic lentil soup. There are many versions of this peasant food, including ones with pancetta, carrots, parsley or Parmesan rinds; some also use a hodgepodge of pasta shapes from half-empty boxes — it’s a true pantry meal. Brown lentils will fall apart more quickly than green, but they’ll create a luscious sauce either way. Stir the pasta often, especially toward the end of cooking, and add more water if the pot is dry (the sauce will thicken as it cools). Leftovers will keep for up to 3 days refrigerated; warm over low heat and add water to loosen.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: About 1 hour


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal) and black pepper
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils
  • 3 thyme sprigs (optional)
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, cut in the can with scissors
  • 10 ounces tubular or ridged pasta, like penne or radiatore (or use long noodles broken into pieces)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving


1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 5 cups of water, the lentils and the thyme and bay leaves (if using). Partially cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are al dente, 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil over high. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking to the pot, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 20 minutes. (It may take longer than the cook time on the package.) If the pot starts to look dry at any point, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.

3. Turn off the heat, discard the thyme and bay leaves, then stir in the Parmesan. Cover and let sit for 3 minutes so the flavors meld and the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat with more Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

4. Honey-Glazed Mushrooms With Udon

By Hetty McKinnon

In this weeknight dish, caramelized mushrooms are bathed in a satiny glaze of honey and butter, delivering the winning trifecta of sweet, savory and earthy. Cremini mushrooms are the hardest workers of the fungi world; they are inexpensive and accessible, and while they may not feel as fancy as some wild varieties, with some time in the pan, they burst with complex flavor. (Button mushrooms also do the job well.) Chubby udon are the ideal carriers for the luscious sauce, but for the most satisfying results, use fresh or frozen noodles, rather than the thinner dried strands. (Though in a pinch, they work, too).

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


  • Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen udon (vacuum-sealed)
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter, preferably salted (see Tip)
  • 1/2 small head Napa cabbage, finely sliced (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the udon and cook for about 2 minutes, using wooden chopsticks or tongs to gently loosen the noodles from their tight bundle. Drain, rinse with cold water and leave to continue draining while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Heat a wok or large (12-inch) skillet on medium-high, until very hot. Add oil and mushrooms, and stir-fry for 7 to 8 minutes, leaving undisturbed for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time, to allow them to caramelize. (Be patient: They will release a lot of liquid, then start to brown.) Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few turns of black pepper. Drizzle the mushrooms with 2 tablespoons of honey, then add 3 tablespoons of butter and toss.

3. Add the udon, Napa cabbage and soy sauce to the pan, then toss for 2 minutes, until the cabbage is wilted and everything is well combined. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and season with more salt and black pepper, if required. To serve, scatter with scallions and sesame seeds.


If using unsalted butter, add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of salt in Step 2.

5. Sheet-Pan Cod and Scallions With Cucumber Yogurt

By Melissa Clark

You can use any mild, flaky fish for this quick, weeknight-friendly recipe. The scallions add sweetness and crunch to the delicate fish, flavored with soy sauce and fish sauce for an extra salty depth. Then it’s all dolloped with a tart, creamy yogurt sauce that’s both pungent from the garlic and cool and crisp from the chopped cucumber. Serve this dish with more sliced cucumber on the side and some pita bread or a baguette to soak up any remaining sauce. You won’t want to waste even a drop.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 1 bunch scallions, green and white parts separated
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless cod fillets
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped Persian or English (hothouse) cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill or mint
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or mashed to a paste
  • Red-pepper flakes, preferably Urfa or Espelette
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving (optional)


1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mince enough of the scallion greens to equal 2 tablespoons and reserve. Halve remaining scallion whites and greens lengthwise to make ribbons. Place scallion ribbons in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of salt; set aside.

2. Season cod with salt and pepper, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle cod with a little oil, soy sauce and fish sauce. Transfer to the oven and roast, 2 minutes. Add scallion ribbons to the baking sheet, spreading them out in one layer around the fish, and roast until the fish is opaque in the center and golden at the edges, and scallions are browned in spots, 6 to 10 minutes.

3. While fish roasts, make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon minced scallion greens, the yogurt, cucumber, dill, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

4. To serve, arrange cod and scallions on serving plates and squeeze lemon over the top. Dollop yogurt sauce over with cod and garnish with remaining scallion greens, red-pepper flakes, more black pepper, and sea salt, if you like.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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