My Pandemic Diary, Entry #14

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #14

Hello Fellow City Cooks, 

Today was the day when Mark and I were supposed to be leaving for Italy. We had long-planned this three-week trip on which we would spend most of our time in Rome but we would also take the train north to Florence for a few days, to visit friends and our favorite art.  Art that you have to go there to see, like Masaccio’s Santa Trinità altar piece in Santa Maria Novella and Giotto’s frescoes in Santa Croce. These are works that never leave so we must go to them. Even more, we looked forward to seeing friends we have made there over the many years we have traveled to Florence. Friends like Paola and Alessandro Baroni who have an exceptionally wonderful alimentari in the Mercato Centrale which has had to temporarily close during this scourge.

The other day Mark took a photo of me carrying produce from our neighborhood sidewalk vendor in one of their cloth shopping bags so that I could send it to Paola along with an update on current life in NYC. If you’re really lucky, you get to travel to places like Florence and if you’re even luckier, you get to meet people like Paola and Alessandro.

I know you agree that friendships, both close and far, are our treasures. Ci rivedremo. We will see you again.

But right now, all the news reports are saying that this will be a terrible week. All we can do is pray that we get to the other side of it and hopefully very soon, will be able to start looking back. 

So it's a little disconcerting that today is such a gorgeous day, a real New York City spring day with the tulips blooming and the trees in full blossom.  This afternoon I have my Zoom French lesson, which I always look forward to, now more than ever. Among other things, it gives me a reason to put on lipstick, which I’ve discovered you can’t wear under a face mask. I suppose you could, but you sure would make a mess of things. Otherwise I continue with my usual to do list, the things we do to keep life in order when everything else is not. 

Cooking and Groceries

Our dinner last night was a surprise in that I had planned to cook a piece of salmon and roast some Brussels sprouts, only I completely forgot to take the fish out of the freezer until around 4:30 when it was too late. I know how to quick defrost a piece of meat but I have never tried it on fish and didn’t want to damage it when every ingredient is so precious. But this is why we have canned tuna, right?

I put the piece of frozen salmon into the refrigerator so that we can have it tonight. In its place I made a huge salad with romaine, radicchio, sliced red peppers, mushrooms, and red onion.  I added croutons made from my no-knead bread and a small container of chickpeas leftover from a few days ago from my Marcella Hazan spinach recipe, and I dressed the whole thing from a fresh batch of mustard vinaigrette. Alongside, but not in the same salad bowl because I knew it would disperse too much, I flaked a drained jar of Tonnino’s ventresca tuna which I had stocked up on a few months ago, pre-Corona, when a local grocer had it on sale.  To this I added a few raw onion slices, some peeled and thinly sliced mini-cucumbers, and a drizzle of my best olive oil, this time a Sicilian from Olive Oil Jones

And just in case this wasn’t enough for dinner, I made a second salad, this one a French carrot salad which is so simple yet wonderful:  one bag of shredded carrots (I suppose you could shred them yourself but the bagged ones are very good and you won’t scrape a knuckle on the grater; plus the bags of shredded carrots last a very long time in the refrigerator), 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt dissolved in 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and about 1/4 cup or so of minced parsley. [A quick tip: when making dressings, dissolve the salt and any other spices first in the acid -- vinegar, lemon juice, whatever -- and then add the olive oil; it will mix far better.] Toss it together and let it sit a bit so that the dressing begins to soften the carrot.

Credit for this recipe goes to one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Olives & Oranges by Sara Jenkins.  I cook from this book often and love it for its mix of European cuisines and accessible recipes that produce sophisticated and delicious results. Anyway, that is where my carrot salad recipe is from.

This salad is very classic so it's easy to find recipes for it, but I like Sara Jenkins’ the best. Some other recipes recommend adding garlic which I tried once and found it completely overwhelmed the whole idea of this salad which is the mix of the carrots’ sweetness and the lemon’s sparkle. So for me, pas de garlic.

Today is a busy day so that’s it.  Enjoy today’s blue skies and let’s all look forward to the promises of spring and getting this damn week behind us.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough




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