A Little Night Chopping

Let dicing ingredients be a welcome interlude between work and dinner.

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By Brian Gallagher

Hello, everyone. I’m a senior editor on the Food desk, and I’m filling in for Emily Weinstein this week.

To me, cooked alliums like shallots, garlic and onions of all sorts are the perfect weeknight ingredient for winter. In terms of flavor, they bring a skein of warmth and a lightly savory base note without necessarily adding heft. Satisfying and hearty, but not too rich.

More important to me, though, is the act of chopping. For many, this can be tedious, but I find it a welcome little interlude between work and dinner. You can chop with as much focus, artistry, satisfaction or ire as the preceding hours might dictate. But, mostly, I just like to zone out a bit — though not enough to lose a fingertip — and run the knife through its paces. Is this mindfulness? Who knows? But these five dishes will give you a chance to feel that out. Happy cooking!

1. Doenjang Salmon Rice Bowl

Eric Kim is behind a wealth of weeknight go-tos for me, but this dish is one of my favorites. The doenjang soybean paste has just the right spike of salty-and-sweet tang, and our humble friend the yellow onion both absorbs and stands up to the doenjang.

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2. Creamy Chickpea Pasta With Spinach and Rosemary

An allium twofer, this Alexa Weibel recipe is a hit for me. You get to chop garlic and shallots (the best supporting actor of the allium world), after all, and add portions of greens and legumes. But, more than anything, this is just so tasty and easy. Don’t skip the lemon squeeze.

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3. Farro and Lentils With Jammy Onions

Here is the ideal canvas for winter dinners. You can enjoy this vegetarian dish from Ali Slagle on its own — the combination of lentil, farro and caramelized onion is deeply fortifying — but it can also support almost any protein. Accessorize freely with salmon, chicken or even a sliced skirt steak.

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4. Toum Grilled Cheese

In terms of the effort-to-satisfaction ratio, a grilled cheese is hard to beat. This version ups the satisfaction with the creamy bite of toum, a garlicky Lebanese condiment that is slathered on the outside of the bread before cooking. (And since mentioning a grilled cheese sandwich brings to mind tomato soup, I suggest this wonderful version by Ali.)

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5. Garlic-Ginger Chicken Breasts With Cilantro and Mint

Now we are talking: eight cloves of garlic, minced. This is some quality chopping. On the flavor front, Priya Krishna nails it with the killer combination of cilantro, mint, ginger, turmeric, coriander and chile. You can’t treat a boneless, skinless chicken breast much better.

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