A frequent reference made by many food bloggers these days is to the Food Network’s show “Chopped.” As are its television contestants, real-time home cooks are often faced today with a hodgepodge of ingredients from their fridge and pantry and challenged to get a meal on the table.
This Saint Patrick’s Day was the first time I ever made corned beef and cabbage. Its debut at our table can only be attributed to our supermarket’s almost giving it away at a ridiculously low price and my better-half’s sneaking it into our grocery cart.
Being Italian and having attended a predominantly Irish parochial school in the 50s, I remember that Saint Patrick’s Day typically led to some kind of minor altercation between the Irish majority and the Italian minority, with the latter opting to celebrate their saint’s day, Saint Joseph, two days later on the 19th.
Once again, during this crisis, I tentatively prepared a New York Times recipe for a ragù that I had filed away but wasn’t quite sure would work out because of the quality of the main ingredient: sausage.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been using sausage from my local salumeria, but given our shelter-in-place restrictions, this was not a possibility. Thanks to the extraordinary kindness of some young neighbors, however, I was able to procure, among a load of other groceries, a log of bulk sausage from our local supermarket.
I don’t know how you are coping with this pandemic, but given our ages, we’re sheltering in place, trying to stay calm and carry on. To this end, preparing comfort food has helped a lot.
A case in point. Last night, after a hectic day trying to set up a work-from-home connection, we were both not at our best. So with what we had on hand, I decided to make something easy and comforting: an improvised Chicken Parmigiana.
Watching news coverage of my family’s homeland suffering from this viral nightmare has been difficult for me. Recently, however, I came upon a video depicting residents of an apartment complex in Naples one evening joining in song to express solidarity in the fight against this virus and longing for a hug. The song, Abbraciame (Hug Me), begins:
Finally tonight I’m here with you
and no one can hear.
I’m a bit shy and you know
I’m not good at this.
Who doesn’t have courage in life,
They can only lose their dream.
Therefore, if you’re here you got it
that my dream is you.
I’ve fallen in love with you
I’m crazy for you, I’m crazy for you!
One voice, which eerily reminded me of my long deceased aunt’s, is heard above the others singing the subsequent lyrics in local dialect:
And then yes, hug me stronger
because then who gives a f…k?
If all the time that passed is wasted time,
or if tomorrow nothing will exist,
hug me tonight. . .
Even though our San Diego winters are nothing like those we experienced while living in New York City, they are nonetheless chillier and darker than our only other season “spring-summer-fall” and we find ourselves gravitating to hibernal fare like braises and stews. So with the arrival of daylight-saving time this weekend, I thought we’d have our last hurrah for winter cooking: a long braise of beef with loads of onions, anchovies, and green olives along with tomatoes and a full bottle of red wine.
As some of my readers here may know, I’m a fan of Alison Roman of the New York Times. Her unaffected, simple approach to food so often leads to some of the tastiest dishes I’ve made. In fact, one of my most popular posts was based on her recipe for Vinegar Chicken with Crushed Olive Dressing. A modicum of ingredients and minimal preparation yielded an extremely flavorful and vividly colorful weeknight supper.
Well recently I came upon another of Ms. Roman’s recipes on the New York Times “Cooking” website: “Wine Braised Chicken with Artichoke Hearts.” What intrigued me most about it was her use of canned artichoke hearts. Yes, canned.