My Pandemic Diary, Entry #51

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My Pandemic Diary, Entry #51

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Wednesday and a beautiful day, cool and sunny. 

I woke up early with lots of energy and feeling really focused. If only that would happen every day because when one day drifts into the next, it’s a challenge to have to invent structure and motivation and enthusiasm. It’s even worse when you have to also do it for others, including children or distanced colleagues. If it doesn’t come easily, we have to still fine a way. Rise to the occasion, as my Dad used to say. He was a gentle and kind man, but he had also been a Marine in WWII and saw his share of occasions to which to rise, and I suspect he would think many of us could now be a bit tougher and maybe he would be right.

But today I feel great and hope to get a lot done. I have a long to-do list of things minor and major. Minor includes ordering dishwasher soap and researching where to find hand weights which have been sold out everywhere just like bread flour. I have other writing to do and in addition to my usual French homework and drills I want to do more work online and on YouTube to improve my listening comprehension which is terrible. And I need to clean and store our humidifiers that were around our apartment during the over-heated winter months and replace them with the fans that supplement our air conditioning. Despite this cold spring, summer is coming.

Cooking and Groceries

Last night’s dinner was leftovers. I warmed slices of sirloin from Sunday night’s steak and farro salad, cut the half roast chicken left from Monday’s dinner into pieces and warmed them as well, and made a big green salad. I also made a large bottle of vinaigrette which usually is enough to dress three large salads and it keeps well refrigerated for easily a week; maybe it would last longer but we use it up by then so I don’t know its real shelf life, although because it’s acidic, it’s not quick to spoil.

I make my vinaigrette in a salad dressing bottle that’s made by Oxo that I love. Of course you can make vinaigrette in any jar with a cover, but this bottle has a nice pouring spout that makes it easy to dress your salad without pouring in too much. It’s sold at most housewares stores, at Amazon, of course, but also at Sur La Table, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and other stores. It’s made from hard plastic and it goes in the dishwasher, although I found that the plastic discolors a little bit from the machine washing. It comes in two sizes, 12 and 8 oz., and in two colors, black or green. Because we have salad several times a week, my 12 oz. bottle is indispensable.

It's been more than a week since I grocery shopped and our food supplies are dwindling. I will soon need to do a grocery run, but before I do that, I need to inventory the pantry and the freezer and make a meal plan for the coming 10 days or so and I want to include some new ideas. Mark may not be tired of roasted chicken thighs, but I am. This makes me remember an economic concept I learned in graduate school known as “chicken fatigue” that maybe I should share with you. Another time.

So I’m going through recent cooking magazines I receive – I especially love Fine Cooking and Milk Street magazines -- plus my favorite cookbooks. I have a large cookbook collection and I’m always looking out for new ones that suit the way I cook and how Mark and I like to eat. Once I fall in love with a book, I will go back to it often, as you may have noticed with the number of times I’ve mentioned ones by Diana Henry and Sara Jenkins. I’m also a big fan of Patricia Wells; I think her Vegetable Harvest cookbook is so appealing and accessible – and it’s not all just vegetables but also dishes that may include meat or fish but will feature vegetables. There are other authors whose books I love and cook from often and I’ll write about them in another diary soon.

For today, I still haven’t taken anything out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner as I’m being indecisive. The freezer has chicken thighs (of course), ground lamb, ground turkey, ground beef, a smoked turkey kielbasa, boneless pork chops, a pork tenderloin, a couple of steaks, a gorgeous ham that my niece sent me, and a huge 4-pound chuck roast destined to become beef stew. I think there’s also pieces of salmon and cod. In the refrigerator I have some wilted kale, broccoli, salad makings, carrots, lemons, and potatoes, and in the freezer, both peas and artichoke hearts, one pound of cavatelli pasta and two bags of pierogies. Somewhere in that list I’ll find inspiration.

Not exactly cooking specific, but speaking to our time and situation, I have two articles I wanted to pass along from The Atlantic, the first about why flour has disappeared from our grocery shelves.

The other is about the causes and consequences of quarantine fatigue of which I suspect we all have some degree.

And finally, if you’re bored by your usual cocktail hour beverage, from Town & Country here are "10 Quarantinis to Drink While Social Distancing.” 

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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