My Pandemic Diary, Entry #27

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #27

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s a beautiful Sunday in New York.  It’s a little chilly, but with blue skies. 

Mark and I are back from a long morning walk that included a detour to one of the city’s Greenmarkets. It wasn’t the one in my neighborhood that I normally go to every Friday morning but now don’t because it’s so crowded. But today our walk would take us within a couple of blocks from another, smaller market and we thought we’d check it out to see if we could comfortably shop there, and we could. 

This market was set up to run along a sidewalk. Today it had two bakeries, a fish guy, a meat guy, one producer with duck, another with turkey, an apple farmer who also sold potatoes, a vegetable farmer with a large assortment of greens and salad makings, one farmer with eggs and another, just with mushrooms. The market was busy but not crazy and the market manager had chalked the sidewalk in six-foot increments to designate where to form a distance-safe line. Almost everyone wore masks and gloves, with some of the farmers also wearing face shields. Nothing is self-service; you ask for or point to what you want and it’s handed to you when you pay. To the best of what I could see, all purchases had to be in cash or a pre-purchased Greenmarket token.

After all the groceries I’ve bought in the last ten days, anything I got today was from want rather than need. But I knew the duck producer from his regular place at the Union Square Greenmarket, or as I call it, the mother market, so I bought a beautiful one-pound duck breast, as well as a duck prosciutto which I’ll slice and add to salads as a treat. I also got a half-loaf of whole grain bread to supplement the no-knead bread I make myself, which is not whole grain.

Cooking and Groceries

It’s always a relief to get home, to this safe place, and do what is now a routine re-entry with multiple hand washings, wiping door knobs and keys, sanitizing masks, and the rest of the drill. Soon I’ll be turning my attention to the nine-pound ham in my refrigerator which I’ll bake later today, as well as the bowl of rising bread dough that I mixed last night that will go into the oven before the ham starts its two-hour cook. 

Last night’s dinner was easy and quick: I pan-cooked to medium rare and sliced a sirloin steak that I first marinated in a mix of fish sauce/lime zest/lime juice/garlic/brown sugar; I made a crunchy salad from sliced mini cucumbers, red peppers, and scallions tossed with a mix of soy sauce/lime juice/fish sauce and vegetable oil that mimicked the steak marinade flavors; and a radicchio and red onion salad that I dressed with my usual vinaigrette.

It’s important to remember that marinade ingredients usually do more than add flavor. They also tenderize the meat by breaking down the proteins, in the same way that lime juice can “cook” raw fish to make ceviche. So if you marinade the steak for too long, you can damage its texture and over-flavor the meat. Despite the original recipe that I used for this marinade saying that you could leave a steak in it for up to 24-hours (refrigerated), I’m positive that would wreck the meat due to the amount of acidic lime juice and salty fish sauce in the mix. Instead I only marinate my steak for 45 to 60 minutes (depending on the steak’s thickness) and I get the result I want – improved flavor and improved tenderness, especially for a cut like a sirloin which can be a little tough.

Pandemic Tips

Here is a terrific article from Eater about how to successfully manage our freezers. I found it very useful and learned a lot about containers, how to prep foods, and defrosting as well as tips for freezing some things that never occurred to me to freeze. Like milk.

One of my favorite NYC neighborhood blogs is West Side Rag. It’s been around for many years and it has a dedicated following of readers, some of whom are skilled in the “get off my lawn” type of comments. But it has a great network of sources who have broken their share of stories like this particular entry which is a sad one, about one of the long-time employees at Zabar’s dying from Covid-19.   

Since I’m getting ready for my upcoming French lesson, I’ll leave you with what my teacher told me is the closest translation for saying “stir-crazy,” (an idiom that is said to be a play on when “stir” meant “prison”) but in French:  “je ne tiens plus en place" which literally means “I no longer hold in place.”  Close enough.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough 



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