My Pandemic Diary, Entry #63
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
Happy Memorial Day and I hope wherever you are, that it’s a beautiful Monday in May. In New York today is a gray and cool day. Not one for the beach, which is good thing given how so many are craving summer but perils remain when we forget we shouldn’t be close. Please be careful.
I was glad to have declared yesterday as a day off. It didn’t end up being very different than any other day for me except that I didn’t write my diary which was itself a lift because I got a break from looking at myself. I slept a bit later than usual, spent some time with the papers and the morning political shows (and yet still there were few insights or wisdom) and then Mark and I headed out for a long walk.
We took a detour to a slightly decrepit but much-loved neighborhood war memorial, one that normally would be having a very special gathering today. Every year on Memorial Day a few hundred New Yorkers gather to remember at an event attended by veterans of many sad wars, some wearing their uniforms or colors, plus young and determined military cadets handing out bottles of water and making sure there are enough chairs for the elderly, of which there are always many. Most of the other attendees are from the adjoining blocks, many with children or dogs or both, and folks will either take a seat to seek the sun or the shade, or else stand at the perimeter, chatting with neighbors, or leaning on a bike, or just pausing long enough to consider the day and the meaning of it all, giving the event a sense of transit and casualness despite its gravity.
There is always the laying of wreaths, the playing of taps, politicians making speeches about service and honor, and there’s a keynote, usually from someone we’d recognize from the news shows. One recent year it was Jeh Johnson who had run Homeland Security for President Obama, another year it was former NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman before his fall from grace. I remember his speech was particularly moving and personal. Having familiar names may give this community ceremony some glamour, but despite that, it feels like the ones I attended as a child in the small Massachusetts town where I grew up, waving small flags at the firetrucks leading the Memorial Day parade or watching a July 4th bonfire while eating ice cream.
Next year, I so very hope, we’ll be back again to see the laying of wreaths and I will be able to look at the photo I took yesterday at the memorial, of the American flag waving at half-mast and a trainer and his client boxing together on its empty terraced steps. That will be a good day and I look forward to it very much.
Cooking and Groceries
Even though yesterday was a day off, I still needed and wanted to cook. I baked a loaf of white no knead bread and managed to use the last of the whey from my ricotta last week. I find that substituting whey for the water in the dough really improves its flavor. One of the reasons I make this recipe is that it only requires a quarter-teaspoon of yeast and I’m down to my last two packets and harboring what I’ve got left.
I also made a pot of cabbage soup so that I could use a cabbage I’d had for weeks before it spoiled (cabbages last a long time refrigerated but not forever). I used the recipe from Veselka, the Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village. Here’s an article I wrote eight years ago that includes the recipe (I made a double batch yesterday, doubling everything except the meat) as well as a primer on using a hen for making chicken stock. Being that I wrote this article so long ago, Tello’s is no longer at our neighborhood weekly Greenmarket and so I haven’t been able to score a hen in years which is too bad because it really is better for stock than a regular chicken.
Last night’s dinner, however, was salmon cakes – what may otherwise be called salmon burgers -- and salad. My refrigerator is nearly empty and we’re making a grocery run to Whole Foods tomorrow morning so I was limited in our dinner options. Unlike many recipes for salmon burgers, I make these salmon cakes with canned wild salmon that is processed with pieces of skin and bones which you discard and then just use the remaining fish combined with an egg, crushed saltines or panko, and seasonings including dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and Old Bay Seasoning. One proviso: do not use fancy canned salmon for this. Better to buy the 14.5 oz. cans because the fish is moister, firmer, with a fresher flavor, and comes in larger pieces – the only downside is that you have to pick out the skin and bones. It’s also a far better value. This was an early City Cook recipe, first published in 2009 but I still love it for its simplicity and it's quite delicious, especially with the accompanying spicy mayo, plus it’s a great example of pantry cooking.
A small tip for staying safe when you’re cleaning your home and that is that if you decide to move furniture so that you can better mop a floor and that means moving a table out from under a hanging lamp, it would be smart to tape some kind of warning on the hanging lamp so that you don’t walk into it.
Or so I learned on Saturday when I gave myself a black eye. I’m fine and it was sheer luck that I didn’t have my glasses on at the time because that could have been real trouble. It just goes to show that as much as our homes have been sanctuaries, they can still be dangerous places. So stay safe, even when you’re not going out.
Happy Memorial Day!
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.