The 17 Best Recipes Our Food Staff Cooked Last Month

Perhaps the biggest surprise for many of us this April was the slow return to gathering, made possible by the proliferation of coronavirus vaccines. It felt like being, say, a daffodil. One by one, we poked our heads out from beneath the cold, hard ground of winter and worry, happy to face the sun and one another. The New York Times Food and Cooking team was no exception. After fighting through the cooking fatigue of late winter, we got excited by the arrival of new produce and began safely inviting those we hold dear into our homes and backyards to enjoy the bounty. Here’s what we cooked for ourselves (and others) in April.

For a little dinner party, I cooked Gabriel Hamilton’s new risi e bisi recipe, but I subbed a few things. I used asparagus instead of zucchini, and added some parsley puréed with broth to make it greener. My version was OK, but I think it’s a dish that one should practice before just freestyling through it. Freestyling worked better with this rhubarb upside down cake from Melissa Clark. Instead of rhubarb, I used the last of the frozen peaches from the summer of 2020. I mixed in some ground cardamom and added sliced almonds tossed with flour and melted butter to the pan before I poured in the batter. It was hashtag delicious, especially a day later. KIM SEVERSON

Recipes: Risi e Bisi | Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

I had bookmarked this Mangalorean fish dish from Tejal Rao way back, and this month I realized that I happened to have all the ingredients, including leftover tamarind chutney I had made a while ago for chaat and cilantro that was one second away from spoiling. I wanted some vegetables in there, so I added thinly sliced potatoes and greens per her suggestion. The flavors in this are so bright and complex, the ingredient list is pretty short and heavy on my kitchen staples, and because you are slowly cooking the fish on low heat in liquid, it is very hard to overcook it or dry it out. PRIYA KRISHNA

I live alone, which sometimes means eating things cold from the fridge, or, at best, making a big batch of something and freezing it for another time. So, with that in mind, my April entry is actually … from March, when I made a huge batch of Pierre Franey’s turkey chili. It yields a lot of servings and freezes beautifully. Sometimes I throw in the end of a bag of tortilla chips, and call it living. KRYSTEN CHAMBROT

Recipe: Turkey Chili

I made three batches of chocolate chip cookie dough from Jacques Torres. I baked one batch for myself and my crew, and the other two I rolled into balls and froze in plastic containers for two friends who are expecting babies any minute. I did this when I was pregnant, and it was the best gift I could have given myself. When I was stuck at home with a newborn, and maybe a little blue and a lot exhausted, I’d bake off one or two directly from the freezer. (You can do this in a toaster oven, too.) Nothing like a freshly baked cookie to make you feel better about things. It’s my go-to gift for new or expecting moms. MARGAUX LASKEY

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I fell hard for the spicy won tons with chile oil that Alexa Weibel adapted from Tony Tan’s “Hong Kong: Food City.” It reminded me of the dumplings served at one of the Chinese restaurants near The Times’s newsroom in Manhattan and, to honor that memory, I made a second sauce of peanut butter thinned out with hot water, soy sauce and some rice wine vinegar, and swirled it into the chile oil. This is a fantastic combination. SAM SIFTON

Recipe: Spicy Won Tons With Chile Oil

This roasted potato recipe from Ali Slagle broke my brain at first: I’ve never roasted vegetables with that much liquid (one-and-a-half cups!), and, frankly, I was suspicious. Now I can confidently say it’s magic, yielding potatoes with the perfect crunchy-to-creamy ratio and lots of lemony, chicken brothy flavor. BECKY HUGHES

It was my friend’s birthday last month, and he had a small gathering in his backyard to celebrate. So I brought along Erin McDowell’s picnic-perfect chocolate-frosted yellow sheet cake. It was a snap to make, easy to transport and you can serve it directly from the pan. I went a little nuts with the rainbow sprinkles, but otherwise didn’t change a thing. A huge hit all around! MELISSA CLARK

Recipe: Yellow Sheet Cake With Chocolate Frosting

I spent the last month just trying to keep up with life, so my fridge remained sparse. Whenever that happens, I go to an old favorite: Melissa Clark’s vegetarian skillet chili. The pantry staples in this recipe — canned beans, onions and garlic — are always in my kitchen, and it takes minutes to throw them all in a skillet. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll chop up some jalapeños for an added kick to this super quick and easy chili. GINA FERNANDEZ

Recipe: Vegetarian Skillet Chili

I just happened to have both extra olives and extra walnuts on hand, and this Ali Slagle recipe came up as I was looking for ideas about what to do with them. Oh my goodness, this was good, with so much flavor and texture. Usually if I make something with one pound of pasta, it will provide two full dinners for my wife and me. I don’t think we stopped eating this until it was gone. ERIC ASIMOV

Recipe: Olive-Walnut Pasta

Say, you’re like me, and feel the pressure to join a popular bean club. A few months in, and your cupboard, and the table, are spilling over with one-pound bags of beans. If you’re also like me, you forget to soak the beans the night before you want to cook them. In a situation like this, bean slackers can turn to the Instant Pot, or a brilliant recipe from Pati Jinich. Her frijoles de fiesta (fiesta refried beans) is a simple and not-too-time-consuming recipe that — listen carefully here — does not require soaking the beans. I cook them through step five and leave the bean purée in my fridge all week to fry as desired. SARA BONISTEEL

Recipe: Frijoles de Fiesta (Fiesta Refried Beans)

Lao Gan Ma spicy chile crisp gets heavy use in my kitchen. So after finishing several jars of it over the course of the last year, I challenged myself to make something new for when I wanted to add heat to a dish. Enter Martha Rose Shulman’s harissa recipe. This smoky Tunisian red chile paste adds wonderful levels of flavor and heat to meat, vegetables and eggs. For an additional level of depth and sweetness to complement the heat, I added a teaspoon of rose water and rose petals to the mixture before blending it in a food processor. GABRIELLA LEWIS

Recipe: Harissa

I’ve been frying potato samosas all month long. I only had to assemble them once, following Zainab Shah’s helpful video tutorial, then I froze them all. Whenever I craved a crunchy, spicy snack, I cooked a few straight from the freezer. It takes 5 minutes tops. And I keep the accompanying mint chutney in the fridge for dipping them and to drizzle it over eggs, too. I also made Yewande Komolafe’s herby avocado guasacaca sauce over and over again, first for the chicken in the recipe, then for fish. My other winner, winner, chicken dinner this month was Eric Kim’s roasted chicken thighs with fish-sauce butter. I’ve made the dish’s croutons with sourdough, milk bread and hot dog buns, and they all taste great when sizzled in schmaltz. GENEVIEVE KO

I made this one-pan recipe by Aaron Hutcherson, and dinner felt like a night out at my new favorite restaurant. The panko topping with lemon zest provides crunch, and a final sprinkle of fennel fronds lifts everything. I took his advice to turn it into a kind of simplified cassoulet by slicing up fresh sausage and burying the rounds beneath the bean mixture before popping the whole thing in the oven, but it’s just as good without. MARK JOSEPHSON

Recipe: Creamy White Bean and Fennel Casserole

I have wanted to make these Swedish cardamom buns since we first posted the recipe, and I finally did it! It’s a bit of a time commitment, but well worth it. I bought cardamom pods and ground them myself for a more intense flavor. The smell of these baking in the oven was amazing and had the whole family waiting with anticipation. The recipe makes quite a lot, but they freeze well or you can box some up and share with a friend. KIM GOUGENHEIM

Recipe: Swedish Cardamom Buns

Sam Sifton’s middle-school tacos have become a weeknight tradition for me: They remind me not of trips to Mexico City, but of gripping change for taco day, the cafeteria special worth saving my precious quarters for. Spiked with chile powder and smoked paprika, these have enough spice to satisfy a more exacting palate, but effortlessly provide a delicious hit of nostalgia, best enjoyed after a long hard day. ALEXA WEIBEL