Economical main dishes

Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs

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Chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of economical, healthy cooking, and this simple citrus marinade makes them really shine. I come back to it again and again.

This dish is fairly quick, flavorful, and versatile. I’ve used this recipe with both bone-in and boneless varieties, although bone-in hold up a bit better — especially if you decide you’d rather grill outdoors than broil, which works well too!

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A few tips for marinading: you want both an acid (citrus) and an oil. Use a glass container or plastic bag, not metal, and keep the meat in the refrigerator. With chicken, don’t marinade longer than 2 hours.

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The chicken and reserved sauce are fantastic served over roasted spaghetti squash or pasta and  a large helping of broccoli, or try it with a bed of your favorite greens. Next time, try a double batch of the marinade and use it for grilled or roasted vegetables.

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Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs

From Bon Appetit

Makes 4 servings (2 thighs per person)

1 bunch scallions (green onions), white and light green parts only
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 chicken thighs, preferably bone-in, skin-on (about 2 pounds)

If you like raw scallions, finely chop them and set aside 1/4 cup.

Place all ingredients except chicken into a food processor or blender and pulse until a coarse purée forms. Set aside 1/4 cup marinade; place remaining marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill at least 20 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Line a broiler-proof baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side down on baking sheet; discard marinade. Broil chicken until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn; continue to broil until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 12–15 minutes longer.

Serve chicken with reserved marinade and scallions, if desired.

Sriracha-Glazed Drumsticks

On the weeks I’m super-organized and inspired, I go to the store on Sundays with a week’s worth of menus already planned and a full shopping list. Other weeks, I might have an idea or two, but I look to the market or store for inspiration. What’s in season? What looks delicious? What’s on sale? (With any luck, at least two of those three questions intersect.)

One of the things I picked up on this weekend’s shopping trip was chicken drumsticks, which are both economical and tasty. I cobbled together a marinade and roasted the chicken with some sweet potato wedges, and served it with a salad.

Sorry, no picture. I forgot all about it until well past dinner.

Sriracha-Glazed Drumsticks

Serves 3-4

1 1/2-2 pounds chicken drumsticks (6-8 drumsticks)
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons (or more) Sriracha sauce
3 tablespoons honey (or your sweetener of choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger

Pat chicken dry and season generously with salt. Combine all remaining ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add chicken and toss to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Shake excess marinade off chicken and arrange in a glass baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Meanwhile, place remaining marinade in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low and let the mixture thicken slightly. Add heated marinade to the pan of chicken, tossing to coat. Cook an additional 10 minutes until chicken is done and sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let the mixture thicken slightly.

Simmered Black Beans

I love workhorses in the kitchen: versatile ingredients and dishes are a lifesaver for busy people who don’t have time to cook from scratch every day, but get bored eating the same leftovers more than once or twice (especially if you’re cooking for one or two people).

Black beans  might top my list of kitchen workhorses. Black bean soup, fish tacos, Chipotle-style “burrito bowls,” breakfast burritos or tostadas, nachos, veggie burgers, tossed into a salad, or simply heated up and served in a bowl, over rice or quinoa or alone…. really hard to go wrong. They’re also one of the most economical protein sources, and vegetarian to boot.

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Canned black beans are easy and inexpensive, and if you opt for the kind without added salt, your fingers won’t swell up from sodium overdose.

But if you make them from scratch?

You may never want to buy canned beans again. You will, of course, but you’ll forever be comparing them to their fragrant, thick, nutrient-dense homemade cousins.

And there really is no comparison.

Do yourself a favor, and knock out a batch of these this weekend.

Simmered Black Beans

From The New York Times

Yield: 6 servings

1 pound black beans
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves (or more), minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish if desired
Kosher salt to taste

Rinse the beans; soak in water for at least six hours or overnight. (If they will be soaking for a long time in warm weather, put them in the refrigerator.)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add half the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the beans and soaking water. The beans should be covered by at least an inch of water. Add more as necessary, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and skim off any foam that rises. Cover and simmer one hour.

Add the salt, remaining garlic and cilantro. Continue to simmer another hour, until the beans are quite soft and the broth is thick and fragrant. Taste. Add additional salt and/or garlic if needed. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor.

Advance preparation: The cooked beans will keep for several days in the refrigerator and will freeze well.