What to Cook Right Now

Make some nibbles to go along with your tea, try Eric Kim’s recipes for boneless chicken thighs, and more.

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By Melissa Clark

Have you read the children’s book “Frederick,” by Leo Lionni? It’s about a family of field mice who live in an old stone wall. In summer, while all his siblings scurry around storing food for winter, little Frederick sits on a rock and stares at the wildflowers. Naturally, this annoys everyone, until one dreary winter evening when Frederick brings back that summer warmth and color by reciting a poem about a field of red poppies in yellow wheat.

I thought about Frederick when it was sunny in New York City. I cut fragrant handfuls of peppermint and lemon verbena from the boxes on my deck and then spread them out to dry. Three days later, I pulled the papery leaves from the stems and packed them into a jar of winter tea. I love knowing that when the chill sets in, I can steep those leaves and release a verbena-scented reminder of summer.

Yes! The work of a poet is vital to the community (rodent, human or otherwise). And yes, there can be poetry in the herb tea you’ve dried yourself. Give it a try — this technique works with purchased herbs, too.

Now let’s find you something to nibble with your tea. Maybe some flaky cranberry-orange scones, slathered with salty butter? A chunk of peanut butter fudge or a lemon-spice visiting cake? My favorite has always been simple shortbread, dunked into minty tea.

You might want to have dinner first, and I’d suggest any of Eric Kim’s new recipes for boneless, skinless chicken thighs from his column in The Times this week. There’s a simple one with parsley and lemon, another with tangy apricots and carrots (above) and a third with sun-dried tomatoes and orzo. Chicken thighs are my second-favorite cut next to chicken necks, which, unlike turkey necks, are impossible to buy without the rest of the bird. (Why is that, I wonder?)

Other recommendations for your weeknight dinner table: Kay Chun has a clever dish inspired by Spanish tortillas, to which she adds leeks and pieces of cod. I might pair that with creamed corn. Ali Slagle’s version can be made with fresh, canned or frozen corn, and she purées some of the kernels to thicken it up. Or can I tempt you with this cozy, vegan bowl of creamy cauliflower soup topped with spicy harissa-roasted tomatoes? Choices!

To get the recipes, you’ll need a subscription. Subscribing supports our work so we can continue to bring you dozens of new recipes every single week, adding to the thousands and thousands already available. We’re also on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, where Zainab Shah made a fantastic-looking one-skillet mattar paneer thickened with cashew butter. It’s a recipe she adapted from a WhatsApp exchange with her mom and her aunt.

Back to mice and poems: In autumn 1785, “weary Winter comin fast,” Robert Burns accidentally plowed over a mouse nest and wrote a poem about it. That’s where we get “the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,” which is as good a maxim for a home cook as any.

And speaking of things Scottish, today is World Porridge Day, which means it is time for the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. How will you celebrate? For me, it’s the perfect occasion to revisit one of the great no-recipe recipes, “How to Eat Oatmeal.” I first read it on the long-vanished blog Textism in 2001, but luckily this fellow has quoted it in full.

Now I can ponder once again “how many souls deserve your oatmeal this morning.” See you on Wednesday.

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