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Recipe: 4 options for those too tired to cook

The NYT Food team suggests four dishes that perennially sustain, nourish and even inspire them — even when the thought of cooking is exhausting.

Becky Hughes, a social media editor, always has the main ingredients for Judy Kim’s saucy, spicy, chile-oil noodles in her pantry: dried noodles, chile crisp, sesame oil and soy sauce. While the noodles cook, Becky will chop up whatever vegetables she has kicking around to add right before serving. Leftover protein is also a welcome addition.

CHILE-OIL NOODLES WITH CILANTRO

  • 14 ounces dried udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup chile oil with crunchy garlic
  • 2 tablespoons pure sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan chile oil, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced garlic chives or scallions, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought fried shallots, crumbled by hand (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (see tip), plus a few sprigs for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil; cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain well, then rinse in cold water until cooled.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all three oils with soy sauce and garlic chives.

Add noodles to bowl and toss. Gently fold in crumbled fried shallots, if using, and chopped cilantro. Divide among 4 bowls and top with more garlic chives and cilantro sprigs. Serves 4.

>> Tip: To crisp up cilantro, place leaves and stems in an ice water bath until leaves are firm. Drain and spin in a salad spinner. Store cilantro in the spinner and refrigerate until ready to use.

YEARS AGO, food reporter Julia Moskin decided that penne alla vodka from Colu Henry is a complete meal because good canned tomatoes count as a vegetable and heavy cream is full of protein.

PASTA ALLA VODKA

  • Kosher salt, to cook pasta, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • >> Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta (optional)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt to about 7 quarts water). Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce: Heat oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or pot over medium. Add pancetta, if using, and fry until crisp, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.

Turn heat to medium-low, add vodka and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, then fill the can halfway with water and swish it around to loosen up any leftover tomatoes; add a quarter to half the water to pan. Simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper.

Add remaining water in can if sauce is too thick; simmer 2 to 3 minutes more.

Reduce heat to low, add cream and cook, stirring, until sauce is an even pinkish-rust color, about 1 minute.

Stir in cooked pasta and cheese; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with more cheese; sprinkle with herbs. Serves 4 to 6.

FOR A truly no-fuss main dish, editor Mark Josephson turns to Mark Bittman’s salmon and tomatoes in foil.

SALMON AND TOMATOES IN FOIL

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillet, cut crosswise (4 pieces)

12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Salt and pepper, to taste

16 basil leaves

Make 4 packages out of foil: Place one 12-inch-long sheet of foil on top of another. Smear top sheet with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, and top with a fillet of salmon, 6 tomato halves, salt and pepper, 4 basil leaves and another half-tablespoon oil. Seal package by folding both sheets of foil over fish and crimping edges tightly. Repeat to make other packages, and refrigerate until ready to cook, no more than 24 hours later.

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Place packages in a roasting pan. After the mixture starts to sizzle, roast 5 minutes (for medium-rare) to 8 minutes (for well-done), or roughly 10 to 12 minutes total. (Packets also may be cooked on top of the stove in 2 skillets over medium- high heat.)

Let packages rest a minute, then cut a slit along the top with a knife. Use a knife and fork to open each package. Spoon salmon onto plates. Top with tomatoes, basil and juices. Serves 4.

EDITOR Genevieve Ko’s fallback when she needs a meal for her daughters is the simplest version of jian bing, Chinese crepes. Toss a beaten egg into a hot skillet, top with a tortilla, cook until set and flip out.

SCALLION EGG WRAP

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 (8-inch) flour tortilla

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 scallion, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (about 4 sprigs)

1 tablespoon Chinese pickled mustard greens (optional)

Hoisin sauce, chile paste and sesame seeds, for serving (optional)

Beat eggs and 1/4 teaspoon salt with a fork until almost blended, with some yellow streaks remaining.

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium. Put tortilla in skillet and turn until warm and pliable, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Raise heat to medium-high. Add oil to skillet, then the scallion and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until just bright green and tender, about 30 seconds.

Add eggs, vigorously stir with a silicone spatula to scramble lightly, then quickly spread in an even layer. Top with cilantro and pickled greens, if using, then immediately press the warmed tortilla on top and let cook until egg just sets and sticks to the tortilla, about 30 seconds. Flip onto a plate, egg facing up.

If using, drizzle hoisin sauce and chile paste over egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Fold in quarters and serve immediately, or wrap in foil to eat out of hand. Serves 1.

>> Tip: The wrap will stay relatively warm for about 15 minutes when wrapped in foil.

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