This is Priya Krishna, your replacement captain for this week’s Five Weeknight Dishes. The Priya you see today has come a long way in the kitchen. My young, new-to-New York self had a simple but cost-effective weeknight cooking strategy: Buy the same few ingredients every week (pasta, spinach, tomatoes, feta, frozen dumplings, sausage, yogurt), throw a surprise item (sweet potatoes! cookie butter ice cream! an avocado!) into the cart, and make it all work with the rest of my pantry.
The meals were sometimes mundane, but hey, I fed myself, saved money and wasted nothing. My fridge is fuller now. But I still firmly believe that working with what you’ve got and not overbuying groceries (child-free privilege alert!) are good principles for weeknight cooking. This newsletter is dedicated the to ingredients I tend to have in my fridge, which I think of as ticking time bombs, mere days from becoming food waste. These use-them-or-lose-them ingredients, more than anything, dictate what I cook.
This is what I had left over one recent weekend: herbs, hot dog buns, ground meat, vegetable odds and ends (carrots, broccoli, onion), and dressed salad greens. And here are five recipes that came to the rescue.
1. Creamy Pasta With Ricotta and Herbs
I’ve tried all the clever hacks for keeping my herbs fresher longer. But at some point, you just have to use them. I like this Melissa Clark recipe because it calls for essentially whatever herbs you have on hand, chopped and stirred into a simple ricotta sauce that coats any kind of short pasta. This recipe is forgiving: Even if your herbs are droopy, the pasta will still taste great.
2. Salt and Pepper Shrimp Rolls
This one goes out to the half-used bag of hot dog buns from that summer cookout (sigh, one day they’ll sell hot dogs and buns in the same quantities). They’re a beautiful canvas for Kay Chun’s crunchy, black pepper-forward shrimp rolls. If you’re nervous to fry on a weeknight, don’t be. The technique here — employing a quick cornstarch coating and a thin layer of oil — is easy. This recipe works with hamburger buns, too!
3. Rice Noodles With Spicy Pork and Herbs
Anyone else find themselves with a random lump of ground meat from when a recipe called for only 1/2 pound? Do as the chef Simone Tong did in this superfast recipe adapted by Tejal Rao and cook the meat with ginger, garlic and scallions. Make a vinegary dressing and serve it all with some cold noodles and herbs. Peanuts give the dish extra crunch and heft.
4. Sheet-Pan Bibimbap
So you’ve got a half an onion, a single carrot and small handful of kale occupying valuable crisper real estate. Throw them on a sheet pan and make bibimbap. I have made this recipe, courtesy of Eric Kim, with all manner of hardy vegetables, and it works beautifully every time. A good reason to always have a tub of gochujang handy.