Chicken katsu, weeknight rescue

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Monica Pierini.

Of all the crispy fried cutlet variations that have tantalized me over the years, Kay Chun’s chicken katsu might be the most weeknight friendly. Instead of turning to the usual messy deep-fry, Kay shallow-fries the cutlets by using just enough oil to submerge them halfway. The thin disks of meat emerge golden, crunchy and juicy inside, ready for their customary accompaniments of steamed white rice and a shaggy mound of shredded green cabbage. Kay provides a recipe for tonkatsu sauce (a tangy Japanese barbecue condiment with Worcestershire and ginger), but it’s easy to buy a bottle if you want to save a step.

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Chicken Katsu

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Pounding meat into thin cutlets is one age-old path to speedier cooking; using ground meat to make meatballs is another. For a lighter, brighter take on the usual meatballs in tomato sauce, I have a gingery, cumin-scented version that calls for fresh tomatoes rather than canned. I created this recipe to use up all those overripe summer beauties that usually congregate on my countertop, threatening to leak their sweet juice if they soften faster than I can eat them. But this dish works well with firmer fresh tomatoes, too, or even with the stalwart cherry or grape tomatoes that I buy all year long. A finishing squeeze of lime juice and a scattering of cilantro take this far from spaghetti-sauce territory, in the very best way.

For a midweek meal without meat, Hetty Lui McKinnon’s mushroom pasta stir-fry shows how versatile stir-frying can be, brilliantly using the technique to make a simple but deeply flavored pasta sauce out of mushrooms seared with fragrant Chinese five-spice powder and drizzled with a mix of maple syrup, soy sauce, and chile and sesame oils. The broccolini introduced near the end stays bright green and crisp, adding texture and freshness to this earthy, hearty dish.

Want dinner even faster than that? Try Kay’s vegan coconut-caramel braised tofu — it’s ready in 20 minutes. Kay is a master at coaxing complex flavors out of just a few ingredients. Here, she chars green beans until they start to blacken, giving them a smoky flavor that carries into the miso and the coconut milk-based sauce. Serve these pillowy tofu cubes over rice for dinner, and then save the leftovers to toss with noodles for tomorrow’s lunch, an unbeatable two-for-one meal deal.

For dessert, let’s keep it plant-based with Genevieve Ko’s vegan banana bread, which features a crunchy, nutty topping. Overripe bananas take the place of eggs here, binding the batter and delivering an intense banana character with an extraordinarily tender crumb. It makes a great breakfast, too, or a not-too-sweet snack whenever you need it.

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Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.

Let’s bring it back to pasta for this week’s one-pot meal, with Sarah DiGregorio’s one-pot miso-mascarpone pasta. Using just four ingredients (not counting salt and pepper), this easy dish has the creamy appeal of mac and cheese, but gets you there without any grating or chopping. The combination of shiro miso and mascarpone makes for an especially umami-rich dish.

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