My Pandemic Diary, Entry #59
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
Today is Thursday and it’s another beautiful day in May. Today I’m working, doing laundry, and trying to wrestle back control of my desk.
It dawned on me yesterday that this coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend. This momentarily confounded me because time is so surreal right now that I couldn’t help but feel that if every day is today, how can it suddenly be summertime? We’re not ready.
It’s unofficial, of course, but isn’t the start of summer what Memorial Day sparks? The first barbecue, the first venture to a maybe-still-too-cold beach and its boardwalk, the delight that comes the first time you wear shorts and flip flops, baseball and a beer, the opening of public pools, and most of all, a mind-shift toward being freer, looser, and lighter, spending more time outdoors on long weekends and enjoying all the things that make summertime different: the books we read, the permissions given to children for ice cream or weekend nights staying up late, the different shoes/makeup/clothes we wear, music festivals, summer movies, leaving work early on Fridays (or Thursdays), tomatoes with burrata, cold Sancerre.
This summer will be different and it’s going to be complicated. And probably hard. The papers are already full of ideas about virtual or distanced versions of the summertime habits and rituals we crave and you know they won’t satisfy. We’ll also have some new things to fuss about, like wearing cloth face masks when it’s in the 90’s and at full-sweat humidity. My mask is already making me break out; what’s a heatwave going to provoke? Covid-19 acne?
But as Mark often says to me, this is our life and let’s try to live it, so a day-at-a time continues as does sucking it up. As for this coming Memorial Day, it should be easy to recall what the holiday is really about – to recognize sacrifice and service -- because we’re surrounded by so much of it right now. The good thing to keep in mind is that we can do both: we can honor those who give so much and we can also crave summertime with all its playful liberties. The two are not incompatible.
Cooking and Groceries
Last night’s dinner was an easy meal to make after a late-in-the-day French lesson. I cooked a boneless New York strip steak, cooked medium rare, served with my frisée salad that was so doctored that by the time I was done with it you really couldn’t call it Lyonnaise at all. It included frisée, cherry tomatoes that I first halved and salted to make really juicy before adding to the salad, 1-inch pieces of cooked bacon, croutons, and a vinaigrette that had half olive oil and half warm bacon fat. The steak we shared was small but the salad was huge and we ate it all.
To go with the steak, I pan seared some shishito peppers that I had found at Whole Foods last week. It’s a favorite flavor combination of mine because the peppers add an almost sweet flavor with an unexpected hit of heat that pairs nicely with beef’s rich taste. I say unexpected because the thing that is tricky, and adventuresome, about shishitos is that you can eat four of them, all mild, and then number five will be a explosion of heat. They’re wonderful. I cook them whole – leave the inedible, coarse stems on – in a sauté pan with a little oil over medium high heat until the peppers collapse and become tender and the skin browns and blisters. Serve with a pinch of good salt and they’re delicious as a bar snack, as an ingredient in an omelet (although cut off the stems if you’re adding to another dish), or as I like them best, as a side to go with meat, poultry or a stronger-flavored fish.
Mark and I had our dinner in bowls so that we could watch “Call My Agent,” the Netflix series we’re now addicted to. We watched two episodes and are glad that there’s still a long way to go. I think they produced three seasons and we’re just finishing season one. The fun continues.
For dinner tonight I need to cook a small boneless lamb shoulder roast that’s in the refrigerator. I say need because I don’t have room for it in my freezer and its cook-by date is probably now. I'd rather not serve meat two nights in a row but I don't want it to spoil. More on my roast tomorrow, including why it’s essential to cook a shoulder roast differently than we do a leg or loin roast. It’s one of the best things I learned in culinary school.
Sam Sifton of NYT Cooking is doing another happy hour tonight on YouTube at 6:00 pm EDT. We’re hoping it will be happier than the first one, but no matter, we’ll be glad to see Sam. With him will be author and chef Yewande Komolafe who is also a contributor to NYT Cooking. Here is the link. I’ll see you there.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.