My Pandemic Diary, Entry #54

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #54

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Saturday and it seems like a nice enough day, and with all the windows open and the city so quiet, I can hear the birds singing all day. They are so loud today!

I was thinking about how easy it normally is to go outside. Just grab your phone, money, keys and go. Okay, maybe in the winter it can be a little extra work with boots and scarves, but that’s nothing compared to the new suiting up with gloves and masks and then, once you’re back home, doing the wipe-down of doorknobs, keys, anything else that I touched, and then the multiple hand scrubbing. Nothing now is carefree and that can’t help but take a cumulative toll.

Today I’m doing a kitchen deep cleaning, which includes wiping all the cabinet knobs, washing the floor, and moving everything off of the counters so to make sure all the surfaces, including under the blender and food processor, are pristine, instead of the usual quick wipe-around. You can be surprised what you can find if you lift up a blender. 

Very little else to report or reflect upon. The news is mostly the same with little to comfort or inspire. I do love, however, the big 2020 high school graduation event going on tonight. I’ve sent this Business Wire press release to anyone I know who’s a disappointed high school senior, or who has kids who are. No matter your politics, I think an event like this can help young people know that they’re not alone in experiencing the toll taken by this unique time, plus I expect there to be lots of messages about the future being promising for all of them.  

Cooking and Groceries

We’re going to have dinner in front of the TV tonight and to make that easy and not too messy, I’m making cheeseburgers (with no buns) and a huge salad for dinner, plus some leftovers from last night.

Last night’s dinner was a really nice piece of salmon that I pan cooked in my usual way. I also made two sides: a radicchio and red onion salad which contrasted nicely in both color and flavor – I love radicchio’s bitterness – with the salmon which is naturally a little sweet; and I made ziti with a spicy artichoke, garlic and tomato sauce.

I found a can of artichoke hearts in my pantry, drained them well and gently pulled them apart. Then I sautéed thin slices of garlic in olive oil with red pepper flakes and the disassembled artichoke hearts. When slightly browned I added a can of puréed tomatoes I’d had for a while, and let that simmer until the flavors combined, about 10 minutes. As I added the purée, it seemed rather thick to me; I usually cook with whole or diced tomatoes and forgot how purée can be so substantial. So I added a drizzle of some chicken stock that I had in the refrigerator to loosen it up. I cooked and drained the ziti and added it directly into the pan of sauce, adding a little of the pasta water to loosen it even more which helped the barely al dente ziti finish cooking. It made a large portion, far too much for one meal, so tonight I’m going to put the leftovers into a small baking dish, sprinkle some pecorino on top, and bake it until it’s warmed through and the cheese starts to melt.  Pasta, a burger and a movie.  It’s nice when something so simple can be something to look so much forward to.

I’ve been thinking about something a friend recently asked me: what can you do when you don’t feel like cooking but don’t want, for whatever reasons, to order take-out or delivery?  After a little bit of back-and-forth and questions, for my friend we figured out that he’d be happy making a tuna melt sandwich. He could do that because he had the ingredients on hand and I think that’s the answer – that when we build and maintain our pantries, we should have foods for an instant meal as well as the ingredients to cook a full supper. If you only have either snack food (I like Triscuits and cheese, too, but it’s not dinner) or things like cans of beans or tomatoes and bags of rice (I’m over-stating to make a point) then you’re still left with having to cook something.

But if you also keep cans of good tuna, like Tonnino's, or salmon or sardines, or your favorite cereal and milk and bananas, cans or boxes of soup that only need to be microwaved, eggs, peanut butter and jelly, a frozen loaf of pre-sliced bread, or whatever might make a no-work meal, then you have an alternative to the cook/delivery dyad. Plus dinner doesn’t have to be a big deal; it should just be satisfying and healthy. I mentioned eggs and I know they need cooking, but scrambled eggs with a little cheese and hot sauce and maybe a piece of toast with a sliced tomato if you have it, is a wonderful supper and it takes less than 10 minutes to make.  

It all comes back to keeping a pantry that really reflects the way you cook and the way you want to eat. And that will be a good thing even when we’re back to normal.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough



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