Simple Recipes That Are Short on Budget, Big on Flavor

Hello, weeknight fans! This is Krysten, stepping in for Emily. Is this your first day back from vacation? You’re not alone. Here in New York, the last weeks of August feel so desolate that I half-expect a tumbleweed to cross my path. Then, come early September, everyone is back from their summery reveries, ready to get down to business.

And that return to reality may or may not include a look at those bank accounts. Are budgets a little tight after a European romp? Or maybe you, like me, didn’t go anywhere, but still feel the ripple effects of inflation?

I’m a firm believer that affordable meals don’t have to come at the expense of deliciousness. These five dishes feel rich, fresh and sustaining, but won’t break the bank.

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist; Simon Andrews.

1. Shrimp Fried Rice

This meal is a boon to those who keep their freezers stocked: Frozen shrimp and frozen mixed vegetables (and even frozen leftover rice!) can all work wonders in this abundant recipe from Eric Kim. I swap in a bag of frozen broccoli for some of the rice and feel especially grown-up until I spend 20 minutes making the same joke: “You mean a shrimp fried this rice?” (Do not forget the yum yum sauce, equal parts delicious and versatile.)

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Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Cyd Raftus McDowell.

2. Basil-Butter Pasta

Buttered noodles get a fancy update in this smart recipe from Ali Slagle. It may seem fussy to blanch and process the basil, but it can easily be done ahead of time — and even doubled. Any leftover basil butter can be saved to make sandwiches feel extra special.

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Credit…Nico Schinco for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

3. Kimchi Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Alexa Weibel is brilliant, and in this recipe, she does so much with just five ingredients. The kimchi powers this dish, pulled back in flavor just enough by some hoisin and balanced in texture with fresh lettuce and ground chicken.

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Credit…Julia Gartland for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

4. Roasted Broccoli and Potato Tacos

To my mind, vegetable tacos are the perfect combination of fun and nutrition. And this Kay Chun recipe is yet another opportunity to use timesaving frozen broccoli. Just add it a tiny bit early, so it can defrost while the potatoes cook.

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Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

5. Eggplant Dal

It’s still eggplant season, so make the most of it with this dal from Kay Chun, which comes together in a largely hands-off 40 minutes. It’s gently spiced and comfortingly creamy, but if you like your flavors big and bold, increase the chile and spices to taste and finish with a squeeze of citrus.

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