Five weeknight dishes: Smart shortcuts for big flavor The Denver Post

By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times

I love a cooking shortcut, especially when it delivers tremendous flavor. Ingredients like Italian sausage, kimchi and feta cheese are immediate dish boosters, doing much of the heavy lifting for you. I’m also happy to lean on packaged sliced or chopped vegetables at the end of the busy day. (I can’t remember who told me to buy peeled garlic, but I’m indebted to you.) The recipes below are animated with that big flavor energy, without requiring extra work from you.

1. Grilled Shrimp With Spicy Slaw

Lightly charred, citrusy grilled shrimp are the star of this quick slaw made from a pile of thinly sliced, crunchy green cabbage tossed with a sweet-tart citrus dressing. Cilantro adds bright flavor, and this dish has a bit of spice in the form of fresh jalapeños. They range quite a bit in their heat level, so start with a small amount and add more as you see fit. (You can also add julienned mango to tame the heat, if you like.) Feel free to substitute any quick-cooking protein for the shrimp; grilled chicken thighs or slabs of grilled tofu would work wonderfully. The cabbage will soften as it sits, so serve soon after it has been dressed to maximize its crunch.

By Yossy Arefi

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 orange)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced jalapeño (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 pound large (16 to 20 count) peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 4 packed cups thinly shredded green cabbage (1/2 medium head)
  • 1 mango (optional), peeled and julienned
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions


1. Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, oil, honey, jalapeño and salt. Taste and add more jalapeño if you’d like more heat.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of the dressing to a medium bowl and toss with the shrimp; let the shrimp marinate while you heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high.

3. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the dressing from the large bowl, then add the cabbage, mango (if using), cilantro and scallions to the large bowl; toss to coat.

4. Grill the shrimp until lightly charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Transfer the slaw to a serving platter. Set the shrimp on top and drizzle shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of dressing; serve immediately.

2. Crispy Sour Cream and Onion Chicken

Picture sour cream and onion dip slathered on chicken cutlets, dredged in panko breadcrumbs, and fried until crisp like a potato chip, and you’ll envision this recipe. The marinade doesn’t just deliver flavor here: The lactic acid in the sour cream also keeps the thin chicken breasts juicy. Shower the crispy chicken with fresh chives and lemon juice, or, if you crave something creamy for dunking, pair it with a dip of sour cream, lemon juice and chives.

By Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 35 minutes


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally (see tip) and pounded 1/8-inch thick, or use 4 chicken cutlets (don’t split or pound)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced chives (or 1 tablespoon dried chives), plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


1. Pat chicken dry, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, chives and 1 tablespoon onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat. (Chicken can sit in the marinade for up to 8 hours. Refrigerate, then let come to room temperature before cooking.)

3. In a shallow bowl or lipped plate, stir together the panko and remaining 1 tablespoon onion powder; season with salt and pepper.

4. Working one at a time, press the chicken breasts into the panko, using your fingers to pack the panko onto both sides of the chicken, and place on a large plate or a sheet pan.

5. Line a plate with paper towels. Heat 1/8-inch canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Drop a piece of panko in: If it sizzles, the oil’s ready. Add a chicken cutlet (or two, if they can fit comfortably), and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding and heating more oil as needed, and removing excess panko from the pan with a slotted spoon.

6. Serve chicken with more chives and lemon wedges for squeezing.

TIP: Freezing the chicken breasts for 15 minutes to firm them up will make slicing them through the middle easier.

3. One-Pot Tortellini With Meat Sauce

This no-chop, one-pot wonder comes together in 45 minutes with just a handful of pantry staples. Refrigerated or frozen tortellini plump in a meat sauce that’s brawny with hot or sweet Italian sausage and garlic. Finish the dish with a grating of Parmesan, or even a blanket of melted mozzarella, if you would like to turn it into more of a baked pasta.

By Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 45 minutes


  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole or crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini (no need to thaw)
  • Finely grated Parmesan, for serving
  • 1/2 cup/4 ounces grated mozzarella (optional)


1. Finely grate the garlic into a large Dutch oven or skillet. Add the olive oil and tomato paste and set over medium-high heat. When it sizzles, stir until the oil is a rusty red, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is starting to crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes. (If using whole tomatoes, break them up with your spoon.) Season with salt and pepper and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer over medium until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Stir in the tortellini, cover and cook until tender, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway through and scraping any that might be stuck to the bottom of the pot. If the sauce looks dry, add 1/4 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with Parmesan.

4. If you’d like a melted-cheese top like a baked pasta, heat the broiler with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Sprinkle the tortellini with the mozzarella. Broil until melted and browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes.

4. Coconut Curry Fish

Jamaican curry powder plays a major role in this deeply savory weeknight dish, giving the sauce its unique flavor and golden hue. The traditional spice blend is heavy on the turmeric, and benefits from being toasted, which brings out its notes. This recipe calls for frozen whiting, which doesn’t hold up to frying but shines here, simmered in a sauce studded with red and green bell peppers. If whiting is unavailable, cod is also a good choice.

By Millie Peartree

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, deseeded and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder (hot or mild)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 4 (6-ounce) fillets frozen fish, such as whiting or cod
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 lime
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, for garnish
  • White rice or couscous, for serving


1. Heat a medium (10-inch) saucepan with deep sides over medium-high. Drizzle in olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add red and green bell peppers and onion, and sauté until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the curry powder to the pan, and toast for about 1 minute, stirring often to keep the curry from scorching. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the grated ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Place fish on top of cooked vegetables, or nestle them into the vegetables, if your pan is becoming too full. Pour coconut milk over fish and vegetables.

4. Cover and simmer over medium-low until fish is cooked and starts to flake, about 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Squeeze lime to taste over the top and garnish with scallions and cilantro. Serve with white rice or couscous.

5. Sheet-Pan Baked Feta With Broccolini, Tomatoes and Lemon

When baked, feta gains an almost creamy texture, similar to goat cheese but with feta’s characteristic tang. In this easy vegetarian sheet-pan dinner, broccolini (or broccoli), grape tomatoes and lemon slices roast alongside the feta until the broccolini crisp, the tomatoes burst and the lemon rinds soften. (Remember, broccolini has a tender, delicious stalk so only the bottom half-inch needs to be trimmed.) Serve this dish over a pile of orzo for a complete meal. If you like, cut the broccolini, feta and lemon into bite-size pieces and toss with the orzo.

By Yasmin Fahr

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 1 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed, thick stalks split lengthwise, or broccoli, stalks trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled, quartered and cut into 2-inch wedges
  • 1 lemon, 1/2 cut into thin rounds and the remaining 1/2 left intact, for serving
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 (6- to 8-ounce) blocks feta, cut into 1-inch slices
  • Cooked orzo or farro, for serving
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil or cilantro leaves and fine stems, roughly chopped (optional)


1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack set in the lower third. On a sheet pan, combine the broccolini, tomatoes, onion and lemon slices with the olive oil and toss. Add cumin and red-pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and toss again until evenly coated. Nestle the feta slices into the vegetables. (It’s OK if they break apart a little.)

2. Roast 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through but leaving the feta in place, until the broccolini is charred at the tips, the stems are easily pierced with a fork and the tomato skins start to blister and break down.

3. Serve over orzo or farro. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with the remaining lemon half for squeezing. Top with fresh herbs, if using.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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