My Pandemic Diary, Entry #42
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
It’s a gorgeous Monday, cool but sunny. A nice way to start the week.
Yesterday I got to have a more “day of rest” kind of Sunday, although I had to push against my tendency (or compulsion) to always stay busy. In no particular order, I caught up on answering some emails, Mark and I had our weekly Sunday night Zoom cocktail with our San Francisco friend, I did my daily French exercises, started a no-knead bread dough, fussed a bit at my desk, and savored a big block of time to read.
Because it was such a nice day we had the windows open. There were so many people out and about, plus there was more car traffic, that more than once, at least acoustically, everything sounded normal. I heard children playing, an occasional car horn, waves of music, and laughter. That haunting silence of the past seven or so weeks was, at least for a few hours, gone. I've never loved noise more.
This morning I was glad that I awoke to such a cheerful day because I had bad dreams last night. This doesn’t happen often, but it happens. I don’t know anything about dream interpretation, apart from the clichés, but I don’t think it takes much imagination to understand why we might be having dreams about being lost and just outside of the reach of people we know, which is the kind of dream I’ve been having. Fortunately, when I wake up, I am safe and found, although sometimes a disturbed feeling lingers longer than my memory of the dream.
Today it’s another variation of the usual, with a few tweaks. Mark is finishing washing the windows. Even with the modest amount of windows we have, it’s a Herculean effort but wow, what a difference it makes, especially as spring and its unique quality of light arrives. I’ve got my bi-weekly French lesson tomorrow so I’m hard at work getting ready for that. I have to bake the bread that’s been brewing all night. And I’m finishing my plan for Mark’s birthday tomorrow.
Cooking and Groceries
Last night’s dinner was roasted chicken thighs, on the bone (425° F for 40 minutes), that I had seasoned with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of Espelette. I like them plain and Mark had his with some mango chutney. Since I had packages on hand of cherry tomatoes and mini cucumbers, both of which were likely to soon lose their mint condition, I added them to a bowl of tabbouleh. Despite my generally preferring to make my own than buy pre-made, I’ve said before that the packaged Near East brand of tabbouleh is far better than what I make, plus it’s a snap to make and yesterday I wasn’t in the mood to fuss over dinner.
For tonight’s dinner I’m defrosting a rib eye steak and I think I’ll serve it with roasted broccoli and a salad. The refrigerator’s contents are getting sketchy so I will make an early morning grocery run tomorrow. I’m planning a nice meal for Mark’s birthday and it will be helpful if I can add a few things to make his dinner special. He asked me to make a duck breast, which I can do because I have two in the freezer. And I’m thinking of making fregola, which if it’s not familiar to you is a Sardinian specialty of toasted large pearl couscous, like Israeli couscous, and it has a very savory, nutty flavor that is excellent with poultry. I buy it by the large bag when I make one of my periodic visits to Kalustyan’s and fortunately, in a case of dumb-luck good timing, I had gone there in mid-February and re-stocked all my spices and odd ingredients. Including fregola.
I don’t like to add too much to fregola because on its own, it makes a perfect foil for other foods that you may be featuring on the plate, like slices of roasted duck breast, but tomorrow I’m going to cook and drain the fregola (just as you cook pasta) and then add sautéed sliced mushrooms and minced shallots, finishing it with a shower of grated pecorino. And I’ll make asparagus, cooked simply and drizzled with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. While we don’t usually eat sweets (we both gave up almost all processed sugar several years ago which is why you don’t read about my making cookies, etc.), I’m planning the surprise of some ice cream, which Mark loves, so Mark, if you’re reading this (which of course he is because he is my proofreader), please act surprised.
In getting ready for tomorrow’s big grocery shop, it’s making me think a lot about how my food shopping has changed as a result of all the limitations we’ve either had imposed on us or that we’ve chosen ourselves, whether it’s due to shortages or opting out of shopping at the big markets. Plus we’ve begun a major seasonal food change, which normally, for most home cooks, is a pleasurable time, when we can be delighted by local asparagus or the scent of the first local strawberries. Our Greenmarkets are working hard to make it safe to shop and I think it will be downright joyous to be able to put the amazing flavors of local fruits and vegetables back into our meals. Soon, I hope.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.