My Pandemic Diary, Entry #11
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
It’s Friday, although most days I wake up and think that it’s Monday. A week of Mondays. I suspect I’m not the only one who has this calendar rut.
I am normally a person of habits and I keep a steady schedule but it’s harder to do without our external obligations and commitments, like work and children's schedules. Or even a bi-weekly gym class or a business lunch or going to my neighborhood Greenmarket every Friday morning. Without them, it’s tough to hold it together and keep from spending the day in your pajamas and letting the dishes pile up. Even if we don’t want to, making the bed is a good way to set the tone for the day. Even if we don’t want to.
Today Mark and I did our morning walk. We headed out as early as we could, anticipating rain that never came. Now I am writing today’s diary entry and then I will watch Governor Cuomo, answer some emails and talk with friends, do a little housework and French homework (still trying to nail that passive voice thing), and hopefully have time left to read. I’m ready to start a new book and my preference is fiction. I have several options on my iPad and even more stacked around our apartment and I’ll let you know what I will choose, although I think I’m going to try and finish The Goldfinch. I started it while on a trip last year and got only halfway through it by the time we returned home and then life got in the way and I never finished it. The characters and plot made a big impression on me and I remember where I left off, so now would be a good time to go back and see how the story ends. Only about 350 pages to go.
Cooking and Groceries
I’ve included here a photo of my loaf of no-knead-not-needless bread and although it’s kidney shaped (I unevenly dropped the dough into its hot baking pot), it’s still beautiful to me and I was happy with the result. Its flavor is not complex but the crumb is tender, sort of like a dense ciabatta, and it has a yeasty taste and aroma. It will make a good cheese sandwich and then as it becomes stale, excellent croutons.
Tonight’s dinner is still a work in progress. I have two boneless pork chops that I never froze after buying them on Tuesday, but I’m not sure yet what to do with them. Normally I might sauté some apples and onions and use that as a kind of relish but I have limited apples and rather save them to be my husband’s afternoon fruit snack. I do have some fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage and maybe one of those herbs will be the hint for how to give more flavor to the pork which can be a rather tasteless meat. To go with the chops, I have Brussels sprouts which we love roasted, or several heads of radicchio which could be quartered and roasted and drizzled with some fig balsamic vinegar, or I could use my sole green cabbage and shred that to cook with a jar of sauerkraut I have to make Ukrainian-style fried cabbage which I ate growing up and is mother’s milk to me. It’s also great with pork.
But I’ve wanted to save both the cabbage and the sauerkraut to make cabbage soup which I think will be a better use of both of them.
I’ll let you know tomorrow what I decide about tonight’s dinner.
But this leads me to make a point about ingredient triage and which vegetables and other ingredients keep best longer. Based on my shopping and cooking experience, among the ingredients that last the longest are:
- Eggs – leave them in their cardboard container; don’t transfer to a refrigerator tray and they’ll last longer
- Cheese – at least hard cheeses; remember to wrap them carefully and store refrigerated
- Milk and cream – they last longer than you may think and the higher the fat content, the longer they’ll last
- Cabbage – both red and green (also called white cabbage)
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes
- Carrots – they last longer if left whole rather than shredded or cut
- Onions – yellow, white, red can be refrigerated or left in a cool, ventilated place; I usually keep mine in a big bowl on my kitchen counter
- Garlic, shallots, ginger – same as onions
- Squashes like acorn and butternut
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy; greens like kale or arugula are also cruciferous but in my experience, they do not last as long as the others noted here
- Three-packs of romaine hearts – these last longer than ones deconstructed and sold in plastic boxes and longer than fresh ones sold without packaging
Vegetables lasting less long:
- Salad greens like arugula or mesclun or spring mix
- Spinach, especially baby spinach (or for that matter, kale) in plastic boxes
- Green beans and haricots verts
- Zucchini, especially little baby ones (like the ones sold at Trader Joe’s which I love) and summer squash
- Tomatoes -- resist refrigerating them as this will quickly break down their structure, making them mealy and tasteless; they’re best stored on your kitchen counter
- Pre-cut vegetables – cole slaw, spiral cut vegs, bagged kale and other greens
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some but I think you can glean from these lists that not everything keeps for the same period of time, even if you buy them all on the same day from the same store. My advice is to plan your meals keeping in mind what will turn bad first. It shouldn’t be unusual to approach your grocery shopping day and have only a cabbage and carrots (and maybe frozen peas) in your fridge. Cook accordingly.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.