Recipes to Alter Your Mood

Good morning. “Tomorrow was another day, at least by the calendar,” the novelist Patrick O’Brian wrote in “Blue at the Mizzen,” “but the two could hardly be told apart: the heat, the faintly drifting cloud, the ship pitching heavily with no way on her, the flaccid sails, were all the same.” It’s been like that for a lot of us lately, stuck on our ships in the doldrums of lockdown, marking the passage of time with meals that take on an unrelenting sameness: a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner, repeat.

Maybe that’s you, too? How to get out of it, I think, is to cook anyway, and to cook things that are new to us, things we’ve never cooked before, meals to surprise and delight. The idea is to achieve what the coaches of corporate culture call “state change.” It’s time to get out of our heads.

For instance, I love the affection that our Tejal Rao has for the barbecue chicken pizza (above) that she ate as a child at the mall, and I’ll make my own to see if I can’t share it with her as a man in his kitchen, far from the mall. And I’ve never had brown-butter lentil and sweet potato salad. So let’s see what that’s like.

I’ll make my own mozzarella in carrozza, a restaurant favorite I’ve never cooked myself. I’ll do the same with this winter vegetable soup with turnips, carrots, potatoes and leeks. I’ll make pâte à choux, Boston cream doughnuts, pan-seared gyoza, vegan queso just because!

And I’ll cook for the future, too, experimenting with some new-to-me Thanksgiving sides: extra-crispy Parmesan-crusted roast potatoes, for example, or kaddu, a kind of sweet and sour stew of butternut squash that Priya Krishna introduced me to. Have never made it. Now I will. State change.

Thousands and thousands more recipes to lift your spirits are waiting for you on NYT Cooking. Go browse and see what you find. Save the recipes you like. Rate the ones you’ve made. And please leave notes on them, if you like, either to remind yourself of a hack or substitution or to tell your fellow subscribers about them.

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Now, it’s a long ocean journey from chicken and dumplings, but today is the birthday of the singer Diana Krall. She’s 56. Here she is with “East of the Sun (And West of the Moon).”

I loved this Jennifer Szalai review of the painter Celia Paul’s memoir, “Self Portrait,” in The Times.

I had not heard of brick swaps until the television producer Gavin Purcell mentioned them on Twitter. I took to TikTok: Brick swaps are a real thing.

Finally, you might want to listen to our Modern Love podcast for this week, about a dog who helped his two-legged companion through a stressful time. I’ll be back on Wednesday.

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