My Pandemic Diary, Entry #70
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
It’s Monday and today is the start of both a new week and a new month. Maybe it’s good karma that it’s also a beautiful, breezy, blue sky day. We could sure use some good karma.
It’s been a full week since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Since then we’ve seen some of the best and the worst of our fellow citizens and of our leaders. But seeing the fires burn and the lights turned off in the White House – for me it has been hard to not despair. It’s almost enough to forget that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic.
Having yesterday as a day off was a respite. I started the morning by watching some of the news coverage of the overnight violence but I forced myself to turn it off so I could instead read something that was about neither the virus nor the demonstrations. Then Mark and I took a long walk, which was a pleasure because the day was so gorgeous, and on the way home we stopped by a neighborhood market to get strawberries for his protein smoothies and romaine hearts for our salads.
I had the rest of the afternoon to myself and I put on some music, which I never listen to when I work. But after listening to my piano teacher’s concert on Friday night when he performed Sonata #30 by Beethoven, I decided to dig deeper and selected my recording of Daniel Barenboim playing the entire 32 sonata cycle, starting at number one so that I could hear their progression. The sonatas accompanied me as I spent the rest of the day puttering, writing emails, moving papers around my desk, choosing new library books, and letting the music comfort and change my world for a few hours. Finally, I prepped our dinner early because we had our weekly 7:00 pm FaceTime visit with our San Francisco friend and we didn't want to be eating too late.
Cooking and Groceries
Last night’s dinner combined a new recipe with an old favorite. I made Char-Grilled Pork Patties, a recipe I make often that is from Patricia Wells and her terrific The French Kitchen Cookbook. The recipe says to grill them, but since I can’t do that, I simply sauté them in my cast iron skillet.
The recipe seasons the ground pork with thin rings of sliced shallots (two shallots for one pound of ground pork), one tablespoon fish sauce, two grated garlic cloves, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and lots of ground black pepper. It usually also includes grated fresh ginger and minced scallions, but I had neither so I went without, but the burgers were still delicious.
To go with the burgers I tried a new-to-me recipe by Lidey Heuck of LideyLikes.com, who is also a contributor to The New York Times food section. She started her food career working as Ina Garten’s assistant for six years and her appealing style of cooking is a lot like Ina’s but is a bit more casual and seasonal ingredient-driven. To me her recipes often feel improvised (in a good way) even though the final flavors are quite particular.
That was absolutely the case with last night’s Hot Honey Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese which used a mere tablespoon of honey and a big pinch of red pepper flakes, plus a scatter of plain goat cheese, to transform a simple sheet pan of roasted carrots into a beautiful and delicious result. The only change I made to the recipe was that I toasted the pumpkin seeds in a tiny bit of olive oil before scattering them on top of the finished dish.
Saturday night’s dinner was also a success. I made Chicken Fricassee, a recipe I adore that is also from Patricia Wells and the same cookbook as the pork patties. Chicken parts (I used leg/thigh pieces but you could use anything, including a deconstructed whole chicken) are braised, covered, on top of the stove, in a vibrant tomato sauce made by combining a 28-oz. can of chopped or diced tomatoes (I used a box of Pomi chopped), with marinated artichoke hearts, olives, capers, onions and a cup of white wine. Her recipe calls for fennel, which I leave out (I love fennel raw but am not as much a fan of its stronger anise taste when it’s cooked), but I did add one grated garlic clove. The dish comes together quickly – its most time-consuming step is to chop an onion – and it cooks in about 40 minutes, including the time to brown the chicken parts at the outset.
I cooked a little rigatoni to serve with the amazing sauce, plus made a radicchio and arugula salad. It became a dinner with a lot of flavor that seemed special, but in fact was really easy to make.
Let's hold on to one another at this awful time, even if it's from a distance.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.