My Pandemic Diary, Entry #21
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
It’s a rainy day here in Manhattan and it’s Monday. Or given what Tom Hanks said in his SNL monologue this past weekend -- “There’s no such thing as Saturdays any more. Every day is today.” -- welcome to today.
I had a productive weekend. We got to take an energizing Easter walk, I re-stocked my grocery stash, I did some cleaning and housework, I finished the second half of The Goldfinch which I had started but then stopped reading two years ago so it was long-delayed gratification, and we had FaceTime glasses of wine yesterday with our dear friend Helene who lives in San Francisco. This is now a regular weekly date: Sunday nights at 7:00 pm our time/4:00 pm hers; she says she’s glad to decide if it’s too early or not to uncork a rosé. Mark and I had set up his iPad by a window facing the street and just as we began our visit, the cacophony of it being 7:00 pm in NYC began so I turned the iPad to the sound and let Helene hear our neighbors’ cathartic noise.
David Remnick, who acutely observes so much, has his own take on this nightly racket. You can listen to it here at The New Yorker podcast.
Early on in his piece, Remnick offers a bit of why we live here by quoting from E.B. White’s small but gigantic book, Here is New York: “…New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy.” I think White’s slim volume should be required reading in the New York City public schools and by anyone who ever signs a lease to live here. Especially now.
Cooking and Groceries
I'm still working out tonight’s dinner but I have defrosted some boneless chicken thighs and I’m going to use a favorite recipe by Melissa Clark in which the chicken is marinated a bit in olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice, plus the elements that make up the Middle-Eastern spice mix called za’atar: usually thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds and sumac. The chicken is then grilled or broiled. Having no grill, I broil them, only about 5 minutes a side depending on how thick the thighs are. It’s nice to serve them with a cool yogurt dressing made with 1 c. plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon grated garlic, 2 T minced parsley, 2 T minced fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice or more to taste.
I follow most of Clark's recipe but instead of her custom-made herb and spice mix, I use some ready-made za’atar that I buy at Kalustyan’s, New York’s spice market. If you don’t know Kalustyan’s, you should absolutely make a visit when we are able to leave our homes (they also sell online). There is nothing that they don’t have, and they’ll have it in multiple sizes (actually they don’t have anything made with meat as the store is vegetarian). They offer several kinds of za’atar and the one I buy is what they call a Lebanese blend, with oregano, toasted sesame seeds, wild thyme coriander, sumac, and salt. Using this instead of Clark's recipe-specific blend, my marinade is 5 grated garlic cloves, 1 lemon (zest and juice), 2 T of minced parsley, 2 T minced fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint, 3 T za’atar, 3 T olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. It's not a really wet marinade so you can rub it all over the chicken pieces and marinade for about a half hour at room temperature or up to a day refrigerated.
I’m going to serve this with a green salad, my usual thing of romaine, radicchio and red onion but I also have an English cucumber I want to use before it softens and I think its crispy freshness will be nice with the spiced chicken. I’m also thinking a little couscous, maybe with some chickpeas and a few sliced cherry tomatoes will round out the meal.
A couple of updates: for folks in Manhattan, the Whole Foods at Bryant Park has closed effective today. The notice I received said this is a temporary closing so that this location can focus on deliveries. A friend who has been shopping there said that this WF location had been almost empty when he visited last week (it's not a residential neighborhood) so this sounds like a good plan if it can improve home deliveries.
While it may not affect you directly, the annual Fancy Food Show, a huge trade show for the food industry, that always takes place in late June at the Javits Center, has been cancelled. The reasons are what you’d expect – the Javits Center is now a hospital, transportation remains restricted and uncertain, and we don't yet know when it will be wise to again gather together. Shows like this always bring major revenues to our city so it’s a reminder of how hard we’re being hit economically.
Finally, if, like me, you find yourself being distracted and forgetful, turns out there’s a diagnosis for being scatterbrained and it’s normal. Whew.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.