Last night’s supper resulted from the two of us thinking the other had taken the chicken thighs from the freezer that morning for my sheet-pan chicken with roasted tomatoes. When I asked my husband for them, he looked dumbfounded and replied “I thought you said you were going to do that.” Perhaps, it was my slip-up, but now I was faced with bowlful of diced grape tomatoes that needed to be used up.
Growing up, the only ribs I ever had were those my Neapolitan aunt would make in tomato sauce. She used to brown them in olive oil and then slowly simmer them in a large pot of sauce, which sometimes contained cotenne, or pig-skin braciole. Yum! It was pork at its best.
Perhaps many of you who are sheltering in place during this pandemic are like me and are often faced with produce about to go bad or with other products nearing their use-by dates. I can only attribute this situation to my buying more food items than necessary for fear that when I need something, it won’t be available.
Once again during this pandemic, the result of placing an online order for groceries changed our dinner plans. In the mood for a lamb stew, I ordered three pounds of lamb shoulder; what arrived were two netted boneless legs of lamb. One was a little more than two pounds; the other, about one.
One of my husband’s favorite pasta dishes is orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage, which he’s been asking for since the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve made it quite often and have even written about it here. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to procure any broccoli rabe. When he recently suggested using regular broccoli, I shrugged and said it wouldn’t be the same and told him we would have to wait. He replied silently with a sulk.
A few days after this conversation, I opened the fridge to find a bag of pre-washed broccoli florets and a package of bulk sausage that had been resurrected from the bottom of our freezer. When I asked my better half how these items seemed to have appeared so suddenly, he replied, once again silently, with a self-satisfied smile.
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.
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.
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.