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Meals to cook when you have no time to think about eating

Peas are an easy way to add a little touch of nutrition to the comfort food we seem to all be eating right now.
Peas are an easy way to add a little touch of nutrition to the comfort food we seem to all be eating right now. Food styling by Brett Long. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

The events of the past few weeks have been, to put it mildly, a lot. On top of the continued stress of life at home under the coronavirus shutdown, the protests and civil unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd have placed the reality of serious race issues in our country front and center. In our everyday lives, tense but necessary conversations are taking place, especially at work. The Times is no exception, and in our Cooking content, my colleague Genevieve Ko and I are struggling to find where we fit into the cultural conversation.

It’s in stressful times like these that I rely on extremely low-stakes cooking — dishes with as few ingredients as possible that can be made quickly. Ideally they’re packed with vegetables and good for me, but if they’re a cheese-packed comfort dish, I’ll take it. The point is to take care of yourself right now, no matter what you’re going through, by giving yourself permission to eat the comfort food you crave. It’s a simple act you can control in a time when everything in our world seems to be in a constant state of chaos.

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Spring Pea Carbonara

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 2 to 4

Peas add just the right amount of nutrition to this comforting pasta classic.

Spring Onion Home Fry Tacos

Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Crispy potatoes are an easy filling for store-bought tortillas. Serve with your favorite salsa or hot sauce, crumbled cheese and lime.

Shrimp, Leek and Watercress Stir-Fry

Time 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Thaw some frozen shrimp or fish fillets if that’s all you have, and use them and any hearty chopped greens in place of the shrimp and watercress.

Seared Eggplant with Spicy Glazed Peanuts

Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Make extra spicy peanuts to keep in the fridge for showering over any grilled vegetable for an instant dinner.

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APL Kale Salad

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Kale and crunchy vegetables make this quick salad healthful while the Parmesan and lemony vinaigrette make it comforting and bright.

Korean Corn Grilled Cheese

Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Melting cheese and sweet corn combine to make what may be the best filling between bread in this grilled cheese inspired by the delicious Korean barbecue side dish.

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Ask the cooks

In reviewing your chocolate cake recipe, I found a part that is confusing to me: “In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate with one cup water over medium heat.”

I did not see one cup of water in the ingredient list so wasn’t sure if this was to be added or used in a double boiler set up?
— Julie Bruinsma

This is a great question because it allows me to also give a little background information on how we write recipes. But first, the short answer: The water goes in the cake, so it should be mixed with the butter and chocolate.

As a rule, most recipes from food publications don’t list water in ingredient lists because it’s something that you technically don’t need to buy. We write our ingredient lists so they resemble, as much as possible, grocery shopping lists. Exceptions are in recipes like making bread where you’d want filtered water because it has no impurities that would affect the delicate flavor of bread; recipes that call for sparkling water, like cocktails; or recipes that call for boiling water, which is also an ingredient you don’t need to buy, but it is one you’d need to prep in advance.

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