My Pandemic Diary, Entry #64

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #64

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Tuesday and a beautiful sunny day after Memorial Day in Manhattan. 

Mark and I were out early this morning to do a big shop at Whole Foods and the city seemed wide awake and a bit busier than it’s been for a while. We’re still in lockdown but with our windows all open, my block sounds a bit noisier, although any new activity would be noticed because for weeks it’s been so quiet that all we’ve heard have been either birds or sirens.

There are no longer so many sirens.

About a year ago I was at a charity event and spent some time chatting with my local New York State Assembly member and I asked him about a campaign that was underway at the time to reduce the volume of sirens when ambulances drove through residential neighborhoods (this Assembly member was involved in the talks with nearby hospitals). He told me that this effort to keep emergency transport safe and fast while also minimizing disturbances, had taught him a lot about ambulances – the complexity of siren design, how ambulances and their policies vary around the world, and what the NYC regulations were. But what stayed with me from this brief chat was his telling me about the rule that if a patient is in an ambulance, the driver is required to use the siren during their transport to the hospital.

I used to complain about siren noise, primarily because I thought it was arbitrary; I’d hear a wail and look out my window and see no traffic except the ambulance. If you think they’re loud when they pass you on Broadway, they are even more intrusive when a siren bounces off a block of twenty-story buildings and into your window. But once I knew that a siren meant that someone – right there, now, in that vehicle -- was in dire trouble, the siren was transformed from a means to clear traffic into an urgent announcement: pay attention, your neighbor needs help, let them by. I stopped complaining. Then Covid-19 arrived and the many sirens became a horrible acoustical companion to our lockdown, with their howls of sad urgency. You’d hear it and you’d know.

This weekend I was on the phone one late afternoon with my brother who does not live in NYC and while we chatted, an ambulance passed and he commented how there are always sirens when we talk. But I said, no, not today. This was the first one. We’re doing better.        

Cooking and Groceries

This morning Mark and I got to Whole Foods soon after it opened. I’ve figured out that if you go exactly when they open, the fish counter isn’t set up yet. So we stalled a bit and arrived about forty minutes after the doors opened and sure enough, there was ice and sitting on it was a modest but nice seafood selection. I bought a pound of wild shrimp and a filet of black cod. I’ll cook the black cod tonight and I think I’ll serve it with a white and red cabbage coleslaw with an Asian vinaigrette. I plan to cook the fish with either a miso sauce or a new teriyaki sauce recipe from Rika Yukimasa’s excellent new book, Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking, which I mentioned a few days ago. We’ll have the shrimp tomorrow.

I also restocked our supply of produce with broccoli rabe, fennel, haricots verts, radicchio, red cabbage, red peppers, cucumbers, radishes, arugula, shredded carrots, frisée, romaine, garlic, and asparagus, plus berries, apples, pears and oranges. And I replenished the basics – milk, yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, plus ingredients that can turn a simple dish into something interesting, including mirin, rice wine vinegar, capers, anchovies, mustard, a piece of pancetta, and another of Parmesan.

There was still no yeast, although all types of flour are back in stock. And butter was still unavailable, just like last time. I don’t know why because all the other dairy seemed normal.

I was delighted to get the fish and shrimp because Mark and I are both a bit bored with what I’ve been cooking lately as it’s been more of the same. Some of this was due to being limited by what I could get at my local grocer but it’s also always easy to fall back on old habits. Venturing back to Whole Foods has meant more options.

Today, in addition to the black cod and the shrimp, I also bought beautiful lamb shanks that I’m planning to use in a tagine. I got ground pork to make a favorite recipe by Patricia Wells for pork burgers that are seasoned with very thin shallot slices, fish sauce, and ginger. I have a pork tenderloin in the freezer and plan to defrost that and make a dish similar to one by David Lebovitz that he instead does with pork chops, adding roasted pears and blue cheese. And I bought more chicken legs/thighs to do another great Patricia Wells recipe, this one for chicken fricassee with artichokes that I had meant to make the other day before I mistakenly defrosted boneless thighs. So I think we’ll eat okay in the coming days, at least without repeats of salmon, cod, and plain roasted chicken thighs. 

Speaking of salmon, it showed up again in last night’s dinner which was mostly from the dregs of what had been in the refrigerator before refilling it today. We each had a big bowl of the cabbage soup I made on Sunday and I also made open-faced melted cheese sandwiches using an aged Manchego that I’ve had for a while. But Mark likes to have protein at our main meal and so I defrosted a small piece of organic salmon and pan cooked it for him. I stayed with the soup and sandwich. It was a nice supper and easy to make and we ate it while watching “Call My Agent” which I think we’re about half-way through. 

Pandemic Tips

This coming Friday, May 29, at 7:00 pm there will be a virtual concert at Bloomingdale School of Music called Bravo Beethoven!  Performing will be two of Bloomingdale’s piano faculty members, Robert Hidalgo and Monica Verona, each playing one of Beethoven’s extraordinary sonatas in celebration of this year being the composer’s 250th birthday.

The concert is free, although you need to register in advance, and anyone can sign up to listen to these fine musicians. I especially encourage you to attend because I play the piano and Roberto Hidalgo is my teacher. It is my privilege to study with him because he is a gifted teacher, a remarkable musician, and a kind and interesting person. This concert is also a way to be introduced to Bloomingdale School of Music, one of NYC’s last remaining community music schools, teaching both children and adults. It’s one of those only-in-NY institutions that helps make our City as vibrant as it is and we should cheer it on.

So if you’re home on Friday night at 7:00 pm, please join this audience. Consider it a birthday gift to Beethoven.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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