Paneer Chile Dry is Spicy and Sticky, Crisp and Melting

And if your basil plant is going bananas, there’s punchy, speedy pad krapow gai (Thai basil chicken) and basil butter pasta.

By Melissa Clark

In college, when I was working as a coat checker in a fancy New York restaurant, I once asked the chef what his favorite food was.

“Fried cheese,” he said, without missing a beat.

The only fried cheese I knew of at the time was the mozzarella sticks at sports bars. But Chef waxed lyrical about oozing, sautéed rounds of goat cheese plopped on salad and wedges of Camembert, pan-seared until the rinds became crisp. Mozzarella sticks got love too; his devotion to fried cheese was vast and deep.

He’d adore Zainab Shah’s new recipe for paneer chile dry (above), a dish of shallow-fried paneer cubes with a peppery, gingery ketchup-soy sauce. Served on both sides of the Pakistani-Indian border, it’s spicy and sticky, crisp and melting, and you can even swap out the cheese for tofu.

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Paneer Chile Dry

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Frying is a mood, and it may not be yours right now as we ease into the workweek. In which case, you can’t get much simpler than Ali Slagle’s three-ingredient (and nicely eponymous) basil-butter pasta. She cleverly uses the pasta cooking water to blanch the basil, then blitzes the silky leaves into the butter to lock in the herb’s bright green color. The dish evokes pesto, but with a lighter, more nuanced character.

Another place to use the basil that may be leafing out exuberantly all over your yard, fire escape or fridge is Alexa Weibel’s adaptation of pad krapow gai (Thai basil chicken) from “Night + Market.” The recipe uses ground chicken, which is more economical than chicken breast, and more convenient, too, since it defrosts quickly if you keep a stash in your freezer.

Eggplant is also peaking around now, and if you love it like I do, you’ll absolutely want to make Kay Chun’s sabich bowls. A riff on the traditional Israeli pita sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, tomato-cucumber salad and hard-cooked eggs, Kay prepares the whole thing on a sheet pan, adding chickpeas that turn golden and crisp. Served over rice or your favorite grain, it’s very satisfying and meatless to boot.

For dessert, how about an iced coffee float? Just plop a scoop of ice cream (chocolate, vanilla or maybe even my no-churn salted caramel) into a glass of cold brew and stir well. It doesn’t get more summery than that.

To see these and all the other thousands of recipes available at New York Times Cooking, you’ll want to subscribe (and thank you if you already do). For technical issues, send an email to [email protected]; there’s someone there who can help. And I’m at [email protected] if you want to say hello.

But First, Coffee Ice Cubes

If you have any cold coffee lying around, don’t toss it, freeze it! Into ice cubes, that is. Not only are frozen coffee cubes an excellent way to cool down your cold brew without diluting it, but they also become iced coffee when making a pot seems like too much trouble. Add some to a glass, top it with a splash of milk or water and let the whole thing melt while you do something else, like go for a run — or back to bed.

Melissa Clark has been a columnist for the Food section since 2007. She reports on food trends, creates recipes and appears in cooking videos linked to her column, A Good Appetite. She has also written dozens of cookbooks. More about Melissa Clark

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