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Let the Oven Work for You – The New York Times

by Arifa Rana

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Ali Slagle’s gnocchi with sweet and hot peppers is delightfully hands-off, cooking both sauce and pasta at the same time.
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I made Ali Slagle’s gnocchi with sweet and hot peppers for dinner this week, which is one of those easy, let-the-oven-do-the-work recipes that hit just right after a long day. In that recipe, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and canned chipotles roast in oil until they collapse into a sweet and smoky sauce for gnocchi, or really for anything you’d like.
I love — love! — letting the oven do the work, which gives me a minute to do things like play Wordle, snack on cheese or pour myself a drink (or all three). For a recipe to fit the bill, there must be minimal prep. One pan is ideal; two is fine; three is too many.
You know who’ll love letting someone or something else do the work? Moms. You could treat them to pancakes or a Dutch baby for Mother’s Day; artichoke carbonara, roasted dill salmon, sheet-pan bibimbap or buttermilk roast chicken for dinner; or strawberry spoon cake for dessert.
One announcement: I’m chatting with Samin Nosrat and Tejal Rao, wonderful writers whom I’m lucky to call colleagues, on May 17 at a virtual event devoted to cooking great vegetarian food. Learn more and sign up here! And reach out to me anytime at dearemily@nytimes.com.
When I made this dish by Ali Slagle the other night, I halved the gnocchi and added boneless chicken thighs to a sheet pan in its place. (Cooking the thighs in the sauce would work just as well.) Other possibilities to play around with: sprinkling nuts or cheese on top, or swapping in grains or noodles for the gnocchi.
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My broiler is broken, so I had to roast the salmon and asparagus in the recipe from Yasmin Fahr, but that didn’t diminish its deliciousness whatsoever. The mustard-soy sauce glaze brings deep, salty swagger, but it’s the light herb salad on top I liked most. That salad requires some chopping; use the biggest cutting board and sharpest knife you have, or use the food processor, very quickly pulsing the herbs until they’re just chopped. (Do not let the food processor run freely, or you’ll have herb mush, not herb salad.)
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Pad Thai, like most stir-fries, is simple to make, fast to cook and irresistible when it’s fresh and piping hot. (The time investment comes from preparing the ingredients, which you really must do first and have lined up at the stove.) This version of the classic noodle dish, adapted from the cooking teacher Watcharee Limanon, is savory and tart with the right level of sweetness.
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There are tricks out there to make chicken meatballs juicy (the meat is lean, so without some zhuzhing the meatballs can be dry), but I’d never tossed grated zucchini into the mix, as Ali Slagle does here. The results are great: a meatball that is both juicy and healthful, with extra sliced zucchini roasted alongside. The feta dressing is a tangy touch, and leftover dressing is good on asparagus, eggs and grains. As with every meatball recipe, I think you should double it. Extras freeze well.
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Iranian cuisine is known for its exuberant use of herbs and bright green hues, as seen in this gorgeous spring stew with eggs from Naz Deravian. Use frozen favas or canned butter beans, limas or even cannellini beans to make prep go quickly; peeling fresh favas is a chore I wouldn’t take on after work. As with the salmon recipe above, you can pulse the dill in rapid bursts in a food processor instead of chopping it by hand.
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