I don’t know why I stopped with the Blog Posts, but now, in this age of Covid-19 and all the eating at home, it seems like time to get back to it. If nothing else, it will serve as a food journal while I wait for what else gets thrown at us.
I have never liked the term “the New Normal”, ever since it began to become a part of our vernacular years ago. How can something that is “new” be “normal”? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?? But now I get it. Now I know what it means. Because eating at home every night of the week is it, the new normal. And as most of you know, if you have read any of the previous posts on this Blog, Barbara doesn’t do much cooking. But, never fear, she does live with a Chef, who loves to cook. Thank goodness for that.
Does that picture make you want a focaccia sandwich?
Since the shut-down, with all restaurants shuttered, our credit card company has taken a noticeable hit, since we are not using it to dine-out, which granted, had already slowed up but now was completely kaput. (Okay, is that a silver lining I see – less credit card debt??) However, of course that means more money spent at the Grocery Store.
Well, maybe not everything is available, but our pantry is pretty good on dry goods and condiments. And luckily, we recently received an order from Rancho Gordo for 6 pounds of dried beans. Lucky, because they too are running low on supplies. And also lucky – well, maybe luck isn’t the right word – we have a food business which means we can order from our purveyors the things that may have not yet made their way through the supply chain to the local grocer, like flour and yeast. ((While our dinners for the month of April (at the least) are cancelled, we still have the Market to provide for and, well, a cook’s gotta cook, so when the Market re-opened this week after our well-timed seasonal shut-down, we were stocked and ready. We sold out of everything Kevin made.)) So, cooking at home, every night, with a Chef, seems to be the New Normal.
Each morning, while we are drinking our tea and discussing the approaching day, we muse about what we will have for dinner. We might have to take something out of the freezer – is everyone pretty much emptying their freezers recently? another silver lining maybe? – or maybe we have some produce in our “cooler” that needs to be used. I say cooler in quotation marks, but it really is a cooler, on the porch, where we’ve been storing our winter produce. It keeps things very well, we don’t have to store things in the unusually crowed refrigerator and the produce seems to last a lot longer at that not-so-cold temperature.
It’s not a Yeti guys, but it’s a pretty good knock-off. And who doesn’t have plenty of ice packs in the freezer, taking up valuable space? There used to be a lot more stuff in there, but I think Kevin robbed it to use at work… Anyway, we start talking about food – dinner mostly – before we finish our tea. Maybe everyone does this already, but our life has not involved dinner at home every night for about 47 years, so it is a sort of new routine for us.
One of the best things Kevin has made so far is a fresh pasta that we learned about on the wonderful PBS show, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”. Last weekend they had a marathon on MPT2 (our main source of screen entertainment, being without internet at home, which is maybe kind of a drag right now??), which, during the Italian Episode, had a segment on this cool looking pasta called “umbricelli“. It looked like something we would like to eat, so, Kevin went to work:
Long ropes, hand rolled
In the pot
Took about 2 minutes
On the plate
It was delicious! Maybe next time roll it out a hair thinner, since it really did swell in size a bit. We used a pint of our HM tomato sauce from the freezer (yay!) and had a little Caesar salad (my contribution to the meal) on the side.
The other dish we’ve had a few times lately is a vegetable gratin, made with any vegetables we can find, mostly root, cooked together with a tiny bit of cream and some stock and topped off with a Parmesan cheese and bread crumble. Eat half for dinner and save the other half for the morning repast.
This version consisted of parsnips, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery and onion, with a couple leftover burger buns for the crisp topping. Oh, and lima beans, from, you guessed it, the freezer!
Avocados are generally a staple in our house, and last night were what’s for dinner: the Comegys Road tostada bar. Take two avocados and make your usual guacamole recipe; set out your favorite nacho condiments like pickled onions, cilantro, sour cream, maybe some queso fresco, Cowgirl Candy and what ever else you like. Put a couple tostadas out, some broken, some not, it doesn’t matter in this case, and make yourself a custom tostada. A little Maldon sea salt on the whole kabang does no harm.
The process of layering
Complete and ready for the mouth
Kevin is playing with his food again
Of course dinner isn’t the only meal of the day. We generally eat a sort of “brunch”, too late to be considered ‘breakfast’ and too early for lunch. This usually consists of leftovers from the night before, as previously mentioned, or something scraped together from leftovers. For instance, a sandwich with day old focaccia, trimmings from the rib eye Kevin broke down for the Market and a couple of slices of cheese. Or beans! Beans are a great start to the day; they hold you for quite a while, they are very satisfying to eat and you can do so much with them. You can make basic brothy bean soup, with your carrots and onion and celery, maybe a little bacon or ham, and once you’ve enjoyed them as soup, you can take a cup or so and mash them up in the frying pan with some garlic and maybe hot pepper, spread them on a tortilla or tostada and breakfast is ready!
One thing I can make is Fried Chicken, which is what we had for Kevin’s 65th birthday on day 10 of Isolation:
Kevin was compelled to make the mash potatoes
Not my mother’s recipe this time
With tarragon butter biscuits
More limas! And the biscuits were a riff on a food magazine recipe that called for buttermilk and onions – we traded that partly with some tarragon butter that we had made a bunch of and stored in the you-know-what until needed. Like now. Making that tarragon butter from our quite healthy tarragon plant last fall was one of the best things we put in that freezer last year!
I don’t know about you, but I am feeling quite overwhelmed by recent events. Physical distancing, ultra hand-washing, even masks, I can do all that, and I will until it’s over. But to not get together with people at a table over a meal and wine and conversation, that is still really hard to take. My whole life as an adult has revolved around feeding people as a social event. I guess writing this stuff about food and eating is a sort of panacea for me right now. Sharing somehow. A cook’s gotta cook and a share-er’s got to share? Anyway, enough for now. Thanks for listening. Now I gotta go walk a couple miles to work off all this food!