While self-quarantining these days, I’m cooking even more often than usual. I might attribute this increase to my attempt to avoid waste by using up ingredients before they go bad. I’m sure many of you face the same predicament. We buy more than we need at the market fearing that a long sought-after item might not be available the next time we’re there.
A recent case in point for me was with Roma tomatoes. Because the ones I purchased needed a little more ripening, I had set them aside on window sill where they enjoyed some California sunshine. Well, the proverbial out-of-sight out-of-mind maxim proved true and, if my better half hadn’t noticed them just in time, they might have been out-of-kitchen.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, this hoary hound recently learned a new one when he looked for recipes for a pork loin. I had a few parameters for my search: stovetop as opposed to oven; no fresh herbs (none were on hand); and easy (it was a weeknight). Ultimately, I found one that met all the requirements in Carol Field’s In Nonna’s Kitchen: “Pork Loin Roasted in Milk.”
Solace and joy. This is what I feel almost every night I prepare our dinner while confined during this pandemic. The relief and comfort that come from making an old family recipe or the joy from discovering a new one, along with a nightly cocktail, keeps us going.
Today, I’m highlighting just two examples of dishes from last week that sustained not only our bodies but our souls.
Summer’s finally here and, at least in California, we already have some delicious tomatoes, specifically those of the cherry variety. Thanks to the kindness of our neighbors brave enough to venture out to our local farmers market, we were able to obtain a nice supply. More often than not, we enjoy these tomatoes raw, perhaps sprinkled with a little salt, drizzled with olive oil, and served along side slices of fresh mozzarella. Last night, however, I decided to so something a little different.
Around the beginning of this pandemic, my husband decided to devote his Aerogarden exclusively to basil. Because we use this herb quite often and in so many dishes, we didn’t want to be without it. Five months ago, however, we didn’t realize just how much basil our hydroponic wonder would provide.
After months of sheltering in place and thinking we deserved a treat, my better half suggested splurging on a delivery from D’Artagnan, a purveyor of organic meats, poultry, and sausage as well as luxury items like foie gras, wild mushrooms, and truffles. Known for high quality, they cater to some of the finest restaurants in New York City. As might be expected, they’re also expensive.
During this pandemic and while sheltering in place, my husband and I have been struggling to make room in our over packed freezer. One by-product of this effort has been the “mystery meal,” something frozen so long ago that we don’t know what it is. Sometimes even after opening the container, we’re not able to identify it.
While cleaning out our pantry, I came across an opened bag of green lentils that needed to be used up, which was a find that serendipitously followed watching Ina Garten prepare a recipe for them on the Food Network.
Sometimes what’s in our refrigerator dictates what’s for dinner—especially when it’s produce a little past its prime. This was the case last week when I found two red bell peppers on the decline as well as a large onion in a similar state. Not surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind was pasta.
When it comes to cooking, Tuscany may be famous for its Florentine beefsteak, crostini with chicken-liver spread, thick ribolitta soup, and even its panzanella bread salad, not to mention extra-virgin olive oil and truffles. I believe few, however, would associate the area with fried chicken. Indeed, even after numerous trips to this region and having enjoyed many meals there, I never came across it. In fact, I only discovered it recently while preparing a recipe for a chicken and onion stew from Wilma Pezzini’s The Tuscan Cookbook, which I wrote about here a few weeks ago.