Mapo Tofu Wins the Day

Good morning. Andrea Nguyen is in The Times this week with a delightful exploration of her decadeslong fascination with mapo tofu, the fiery, fragrant specialty of Sichuan Province in China. Years of eating and reporting have led her to a bulletproof recipe for the dish (above) and, more recently, to the courage to use the flavors of the original to inform other dishes, including mapo tofu spaghetti and amazing mapo tofu nachos.

I can’t decide which one I want to make first this week. But, I mean: mapo tofu nachos? I’m in.

Also new this week, Melissa Clark’s terrific recipe for swordfish with caramelized eggplant and capers. It’s not the most streamlined recipe we’ve ever published — you cook the eggplant twice — but the payoff in flavor is gigantic. And you don’t even need swordfish, if you’re concerned about mercury in large marine animals. (That said, swordfish is a best choice fish, according to the Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.) You could use cod or chicken instead. I bet it’d work nicely with extra-firm tofu as well. (Skillet caramel apple crisp for dessert, please!)

It’s not in any way new, but this week I’m pretty excited to cook these spicy roasted chicken thighs that Suvir Saran taught Mark Bittman to make, which I like to eat with basmati rice and spinach sautéed with garlic and ginger.

Likewise this vegetable pajeon that Melissa Clark adapted from Sohui Kim and to which I often add chopped shrimp, sliced squid or, most recently, cubes of black sea bass. I liked that so much I started mixing the dry ingredients for the batter in bulk, so I can make the dish faster, at least once a week, with whatever I can find at the farm stand or fish market. The eternal question: Will it pajeon?

There are thousands and thousands more recipes to cook tonight and in coming days waiting for you on NYT Cooking. Go browse among them and see what strikes your fancy. Then save the recipes you like. And rate the ones you’ve cooked. You can leave notes on them, too, either to remind yourself of how you’ve tweaked them, or to let your fellow subscribers know. (Yes, you need a subscription to do that, and so much else on our site. Subscriptions support our work. Please consider, if you haven’t already, subscribing today.)

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Now, it’s a long way from the kitchen, but no less delicious for that: this virtual table read of the 1982 film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” with Sean Penn, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Dane Cook, John Legend, Jimmy Kimmel, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.

I’m re-upping this John Lee classic from 2018, “On the Run,” published in Anglers Journal, because it captures exactly how I’ve been feeling and will be feeling for the next bunch of weeks, when I can get on the water: beauty and dread combined.

Listen to Stevie Nicks and Harry Styles, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” from the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.

Finally, here’s a new novel to read: Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind.” Subversive! I’ll be back on Friday.

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