My Pandemic Diary, Entry #65

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #65

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Wednesday and another beautiful day. Really beautiful. We’re back from our walk in and along and near the park. Once again there were few people but there was more car traffic. For a long while the only vehicles we’d see would mostly be delivery vans and empty MTA buses, but now there are also more cars. I’m assuming that if a lot of people in our neighborhood left town, being that summer is almost here, I doubt they’ll come back, at least if they have the option to stay where they are.

This morning I was watching a bit of the news and happened to catch an interview with former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb who is a very smart guy, plus a skilled communicator. Here’s the interview. It covers a number of topics but I was particularly struck by his saying that only about forty-five percent of us will need to take the Covid vaccine when it’s available in order to achieve herd immunity. His explanation was one of the simplest data analyses I’ve heard in all the news noise about how we get back to normal. He had other interesting things to say and despite his previous FDA appointment, he’s a bi-partisan doctor currently advising both red and blue states, so when he speaks, I try to listen.

Interviews like this, plus hearing from friends outside of New York City and how they’re getting back to pre-at-home life, is making me anticipate what it’s going to mean when our Governor lifts our lockdown. Unlike when we first closed the door, now that re-opening it is almost here, my feelings are not at all as I had predicted they’d be. For much of these past weeks when I’d think about being normal again, I’d think about specific things, people, experiences, that I missed and was so eager to return to. Zabar’s cheese counter. Walking in a busy Midtown. Going to the theater. But now that the rules are actually about to loosen, I’m not at the quick and ready. I’m not so eager.

Instead, a cautious process is far more appealing and I doubt that will be difficult because the world we will re-enter will have changed, with protocols added to keep us safe -- in stores, at hair salons, at restaurants, in offices – serving as constant reminders of the risk that remains. That leaves each of us having to find the sweet spot of caution and comfort.

In the meantime, we’ll also each find our new normal and for me, I’m getting there. A big sign has been how this diary has mostly served its purpose. I’m still afraid but I’m not anxious any more. And writing every day about every day has had the unexpected gift of finding strangers who were feeling about quotidian things just as I was, and that has been a great comfort and delight.

I’m not quite finished but my plan is to wrap up this diary, at least its daily musings, when New York City is open again. I anticipate that will be within the next two weeks. Until then, I’m still sharing what’s going on in my kitchen.

Cooking and Groceries

Last night’s dinner was pan seared black cod with lemon pepper aioli, coleslaw with an Asian dressing, and a small dish of fried potatoes. I had initially planned to cook the black cod, also known as sable, with either a teriyaki or miso marinade, but I decided I didn’t want such similar but different overlapping flavors on the same plate, meaning I thought the coleslaw and fish should be seasoned differently. I kept the coleslaw because Mark loves it.

I think I’ve written about this dressing before: 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1/3 cup fish sauce, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 large grated garlic clove, and about 1 tablespoon of finely minced jalapeno pepper, all put in a jar with a cover and shaken. I also used bags of pre-shredded white and red cabbage as a short-cut because it saves a ton of time, the quality of pre-cut cabbage has really improved so that it’s quite good, and it doesn’t cost any more than buying whole red and white cabbages.

For the aioli, I skipped the step of making my own mayonnaise, although if you have the time and the patience, it may possibly be the most luscious thing you can ever eat. But this was Tuesday night and I had had neither. I mixed about 2/3 cup of Hellman’s with a grated large garlic clove, a little lemon zest, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, a big pinch of salt, and lots of black pepper.

Mayonnaise-based sauces can be a quick and big-flavored way to dress up a simple dish. Remoulade is another example where mayo is mixed with fresh herbs, capers and slices of tiny, sour cornichons, or depending where you’re from, ingredients like paprika, creole mustard, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, hot sauce, garlic, and others. With a jar of good mayonnaise in the pantry, you can give a plain piece of fish or sautéed shrimp a real fancy dress to wear.

Last night I cooked the fish very simply in a little olive oil in a very hot pan, skin-side down first for about five minutes until the skin browns and crisps, then flipped it over for another two or three minutes, depending on how thick the fish is. I cook the fish after cutting the filet into large serving pieces instead of trying to navigate sable fish’s typical long, thin shape in a round pan. And I cooked a couple of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks, in olive oil in a non-stick pan until brown and tender. I added the potatoes to the meal because I knew the aioli would be luxurious not just on the fish but also on something wicked like a fried potato.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough



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