9 weeknight dishes to ease summer’s drift to fall


By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times

Oh, September. You are madness. You are back-to-school and back-to-work after August laze and Labor Day. You are crisp new notebooks and backpacks. You are closed-toe shoes. You are calendars cross-referenced, car pools arranged, nut-free lunches assembled.

Figuring out dinner every day is already a chore, but in hectic September, it can be a trial.

In honor of September, I’ve picked dinner recipes I think you should try this year, ideas that make it easy to eat deliciously. All recipes are straightforward, and many need only 30 minutes to make. None take more than an hour, and if they do take that long, most of the time is hands-off. I kept kids in mind when I picked these recipes, but the truth is that no matter where you are in life, September has a way of sweeping us all. I hope you find dishes here to love and that you put them on repeat all year long.

1. Chile Crisp Fettuccine Alfredo With Spinach

Swirling chile crisp, a popular Chinese condiment, and spinach into fettuccine Alfredo gives you an immensely satisfying meatless one-dish dinner. The firecracker crunch of chile crisp intensifies when sizzled in butter before cream tempers its heat. Parmesan heightens the sauce’s savory umami, and pregrated cheese works just fine here. This astoundingly simple meal — it doesn’t even require any chopping — comes together in under 30 minutes but tastes as complex as anything you’d get at a restaurant.

By Genevieve Ko

Yield: 6 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chile crisp, plus more to taste (see Tip)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound dried fettuccine
  • 1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (2 1/4 ounces), plus more for serving


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. While the water heats, melt the butter with the chile crisp in a very large skillet or Dutch oven over low heat. Whisk in the cream and keep warm over low. (It should steam, not bubble.)

3. Cook the fettuccine until al dente according to the package directions. Use tongs to transfer the noodles to the cream mixture, reserving the pasta water. Add the spinach and turn with tongs until the noodles are well coated.

4. Add the Parmesan and toss, still over low heat, until the noodles are slicked with a creamy sauce, adding a spoonful or two of pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce. Divide among serving dishes and top with Parmesan and more chile crisp, if you’d like. Serve immediately.


You can make chile crisp easily at home or buy it in supermarkets or online. It varies in spiciness, so adjust the amount to your taste. For this dish, try to add more of the solids than the oil to the sauce for the most flavorful dish.

2. Chicken Katsu

Katsu, a popular Japanese comfort food of breaded cutlets, is commonly made with chicken or pork. For this chicken version, boneless chicken breasts are pounded thin, dredged in flour, egg and panko, then fried until golden brown for an irresistible crispy crust that yields to — and protects — juicy meat inside. The traditional accompaniments are a mound of crunchy shredded cabbage, steamed rice and a generous drizzle of sweet-savory katsu sauce. Also called tonkatsu sauce, it’s a tangy Japanese-style barbecue sauce made with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, ginger and clove. Although you can purchase bottles of it in Asian markets or online, the sauce is easy to make, lasts indefinitely in the fridge and serves as a great all-purpose dip.

By Kay Chun

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


For the tonkatsu sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons unsulphured molasses
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • For the chicken katsu:
  • Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved crosswise then pounded 1/4-inch-thick
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 cups tightly packed finely shredded green cabbage (about 12 ounces)
  • Tonkatsu sauce, steamed rice and lemon wedges, for serving


1. Prepare the tonkatsu sauce: In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. (Makes 2/3 cup.)

2. Prepare the chicken: Fill a large cast-iron or heavy skillet with 1/3-inch oil. Heat over medium until an instant-read thermometer registers 350 degrees.

3. Place flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in 3 separate wide, shallow bowls or large plates.

4. Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Working with one cutlet at a time, dredge in flour until fully coated, then shake off excess. Dip in egg, coating both sides, let excess drip off, then press into breadcrumbs until well coated. Transfer to a clean plate and repeat with remaining 3 cutlets.

5. Gently lower 2 cutlets into the oil and fry until golden underneath, about 2 minutes. Adjust heat to keep it as close to 350 degrees as possible. Turn over and fry until chicken is golden on the second side and cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and season with salt. Repeat with remaining 2 cutlets.

6. Slice cutlets into thick slices and transfer to plates. Divide the cabbage in mounds next to the katsu. Drizzle the katsu with some of the tonkatsu sauce. Serve with small bowls of rice, lemon wedges and extra tonkatsu sauce.

3. Kimchi Fried Rice

Not the high-heat stir-fry you might expect, this homestyle fried rice recipe uses a simple technique: make an easy, flavorful kimchi sauce, mellowed out with butter, and saute leftover rice in it. It’s perfect for a snack or a quick, simple meal. The Spam, though optional, reflects many Koreans’ love of foods introduced by the U.S. military.

Recipe from Grace Lee

Adapted by Francis Lam

Yield: Serves 2

Total time: 30 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 small onion, medium dice
  • 1 cup roughly chopped kimchi (6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons kimchi juice, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup small-dice Spam, ham or leftover cooked meat
  • 2 cups cooked, cooled rice (preferably short-grain)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • Crumbled or slivered nori (roasted seaweed) for garnish
  • Sesame seeds for garnish


1. In a nonstick saute pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat, and add onions. Cook, stirring, until the onions start to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add kimchi and kimchi juice, and stir until it comes to a boil, about 3 minutes. Add Spam, and cook until sauce is nearly dried out, about 5 minutes.

2. Break up the rice in the pan with a spatula, and stir it to incorporate. Turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the sauce and is very hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste, and adjust with more soy sauce, sesame oil or kimchi juice. Turn heat down slightly, but let the rice continue to cook, untouched, to lightly brown while you cook the eggs.

3. Place a small nonstick saute pan over medium heat, and add the vegetable oil. When it is hot, add eggs, season with salt and fry to your desired doneness. Serve rice topped with fried eggs, nori and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

4. Baked Cod With Buttery Cracker Topping

Baked stuffed fish is an old-school restaurant staple in New England; covered in lemony, butter-soaked cracker crumbs, it’s a wonderful way to eat mild white fish like cod or haddock. The dish has a long history and relies on two ingredients New Englanders have in abundance: fresh seafood and crackers, which are descended from sailors’ hardtack. Fannie Farmer’s 1896 “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” has a recipe for cracker-stuffed halibut, seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and onion juice. Some modern versions use saltines, others use butter crackers like Ritz, and many enrich the crackers with crabmeat. This recipe is an easy weeknight variation: Instead of rolling the fish up around the stuffing, which requires long, thin filets, it is generously covered in the stuffing and roasted until the cracker topping is toasted and the fish flakes.

By Sarah DiGregorio

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 4 ounces butter-flavored crackers, such as Ritz (about 1 1/2 sleeves; 1 1/2 cups crushed)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice, plus more lemon wedges for serving
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) fillets of cod, haddock, halibut or other white fish
  • Coarse kosher salt and black pepper
  • Sweet paprika, for serving


1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the crackers in a medium bowl and use your hand to crush them until they are finely crushed. (Some coarser bits are OK.) Add 4 tablespoons of the melted butter, the chives, parsley, lemon zest and onion and garlic powders, and stir to evenly combine, making sure to moisten all the crumbs.

2. Put the fish fillets in a large, ovenproof skillet. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over the fish and turn to coat. Season the fish on all sides with salt and pepper. Mound the cracker mixture on top of the fish, covering it. (Some cracker crumbs will fall off the fish.)

3. Roast in the oven for 10 to 16 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Plan for about 10 minutes per inch; the fish should flake easily, and the juices should be bubbly around the edges. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.

5. Crisp Gnocchi With Sausage and Peas

This quick skillet dinner combines crisp gnocchi and brawny sausage with sweet pops of peas and herbs. It tastes like spring, but it can be prepared perennially — and without any chopping or waiting for water to boil. (That’s right; you don’t need to boil the gnocchi before searing.) Draped in a combination of mustard and melted Parmesan, the dish is creamy, with a salty bite like cacio e pepe. However, if plush Alfredo is what you’re craving, you could add a splash of heavy cream along with the browned gnocchi in Step 4.

By Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 (12- to 18-ounce) package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 cups/10 ounces frozen peas (no need to thaw)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup/1 ounce grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup torn dill, mint or basil leaves, plus more for serving


1. In a large (12-inch) nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Break up any stuck-together gnocchi and add to the skillet in an even layer. Cover and cook, undisturbed, until the gnocchi are golden brown underneath and unstuck from skillet, 2 to 4 minutes. Cook, stirring, until crisp on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. If the gnocchi are burning instead of browning or the skillet looks dry, add more oil. Transfer to a bowl or plate.

2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, still over medium-high. Add the sausage and break into small pieces. Cook, undisturbed, until sausage is browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir and cook until the sausage is cooked through, another 2 to 4 minutes.

3. Stir in the peas, mustard and 1/2 cup water and scrape up the browned bits on the skillet. (It may not look like a lot of liquid, but the peas will release some as they cook.) Simmer until the peas are cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.

4. Add the browned gnocchi and the Parmesan; stir until the cheese has melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the herbs. Serve topped with more herbs, Parmesan and black pepper as desired.

6. Black Pepper Beef and Cabbage Stir-Fry

Coarsely crushed black peppercorns star in this quick weeknight dish, which is built primarily from pantry staples. Don’t be shy about adding the entire tablespoon of pepper, as it balances out the richness of the beef and adds a lightly spicy bite to the dish. A quick rub of garlic, brown sugar, salt, pepper and cornstarch seasons the beef; the cornstarch helps tenderize the beef and later imparts a silky texture to the sauce. Feel free to marinate the beef up to 8 hours ahead and cook when you’re ready. If leftovers remain, tuck them into a crunchy baguette or roll them into a wrap.

By Sue Li

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed with the bottom of a cup or pan
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil or other neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 head small green cabbage (about 8 ounces), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, crushed with your fingertips
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Cooked rice, for serving


1. Add peppercorns, garlic, brown sugar, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add sliced steak and toss to coat.

2. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add steak and cook, stirring frequently, until some of the edges are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add soy sauce and toss beef to coat, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a bowl or plate.

3. Add cabbage to skillet, spread in an even layer and let cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute so that some pieces caramelize in the pan. Toss and cook cabbage, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season with salt.

4. Add steak and any juices back to the skillet, and stir until well combined with the cabbage and warmed through, about 1 minute. Top with toasted sesame seeds and scallions; serve with rice.

7. Red Curry Lentils With Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

In this vegetarian main inspired by Indian dal, lentils are cooked with an aromatic blend of Thai spices — fresh ginger, turmeric, red curry paste and chile — then simmered in coconut milk until fall-apart tender. Browning the sweet potatoes before cooking them with the lentils brings out their sweetness, balancing the heat from the chile and curry paste, while baby spinach tossed in just before serving adds fresh flavor. Serve over steamed white or brown rice or with toasted flatbread on the side.

By Lidey Heuck

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 1 hour


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 red chile, such as Fresno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed, then minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 (13-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 (4- to 5-ounce) bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for serving (optional)


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