Cooking in the Time of COVID – Chourico & Kale Soup

Instagram Post 4/6/2020

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

Months ago, when I last visited Newark’s Ironbound district, I paid a visit to Seabra’s flagship market at 260 Lafayette St; appropriately, it’s the size of a suburban supermarket and is the motherlode of all Portuguese and Brazilian food cravings. I bought too many varieties of Portuguese sausages (my standard MO when I can’t make a decision), did some snackin’, and stashed the rest in the freezer for another time.

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That time, obviously, has come.

Therefore, with an eye towards preparing the iconic Portuguese kale and chouriço soup, kale and potatoes topped the list on my now highly sporadic local shopping trip; I had the other ingredients on hand (chicken broth, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs and spices). If you’re curious about the sausages, there’s smoky Transmontano and two kinds of Chouriço Caseiro (home style), a dry one and a darker, softer number, both made from pork and wine.

So now, instead of too many sausages in the freezer, I have too much soup. 😕 Wouldn’t it be great if that were the worst of our problems? (Or should I say the wurst? 😉)
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Chicken Mole

Instagram Post 4/4/2020

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👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

Part of my COVID-19 culinary strategy is to shelter in place and minimize shopping trips by using leftovers augmented by whatever I have in the pantry in order to prepare a variety of diverse meals. I mean, how many days in a row can you eat chicken salad wraps before you get totally bored with them? (I maxed out at three.) And some of you know I have a pantry stocked with international ingredients and a spice rack to match at the ready, anticipating the chance to fulfill their destiny in whatever (hopefully) tasty dinner I might throw together for visiting friends.

Obviously, that’s not happening anytime soon.

So I’ve been cracking into my stash. Consequently, front and center: I shredded the last of the chicken and combined it with a packet of Mole Rojo Oaxaqueño; topped it with some crema I had in the fridge.

I always have rice on hand; I used chicken broth (made from chicken bouillon paste, so that’s chix flavor plus salt) along with onion, garlic, red bell pepper and achiote for color. I’d like to say that that’s freshly grated cotija cheese sprinkled on top, but not gonna lie: it’s Parmigiano Reggiano that I’ve always got hanging around.

On the side, the last of some black beans (you’ll see what I did with those in an upcoming post), corn, and some rescued JIT jalapeños with red pepper, onion, garlic and spices including Mexican oregano and Tajín.

I could have plated it better I guess, like scattering Tajín around the naked part of the plate, but I was too hungry after all that cooking! 😉
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Fried Rice

Instagram Post 4/2/2020

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👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

So as I wrote recently, I laid in a supply of siu mei (燒味) – barbecue/roast meats like roast pork, roast pig, duck, spare ribs, etc. – from Great NY Noodletown, 28 Bowery in Manhattan’s Chinatown when I visited a few weeks ago and needless to say, I overdid it. I don’t usually get spareribs, but they looked tempting hanging in the window and I already had a metric ton of char siu in the freezer so I succumbed; I enjoyed a plateful and froze the rest with no specific future application in mind.

Shelter-in-place solitary home cooking becoming routine these days and not eager to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I decided that I’d shave off the ribs’ meat and use it for fried rice since I already had some plain white rice left over from previous culinary hijinks and I had all the other ingredients on hand. If this isn’t comfort food, I don’t know what is.

Some of the spare ribs from Day One.
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

Bombay Kitchen

Instagram Post 3/28-30/2020

I did a few posts recently about Mumbai street food in Floral Park Queens; the examples I tasted were okay but they didn’t blow me away. So I was more than curious about Bombay Kitchen, an extension of Rajbhog Sweets at 72-27 37th Ave in Jackson Heights, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

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I like chaats in general – actually I like anything with a lot of stuff going on: probably increases the odds of finding at least one delicious mouthful. This is their Dahi Bhalla Chat, a linguistic and geographic variant on dahi vada, a sweet and spicy Indian snack with multiple variations but usually anchored with fried crispy bits, potatoes, chickpeas, onions, and cilantro and kept afloat with yogurt (dahi) and chutneys; a masala spice blend ties it all together. Sweet and savory, crunchy and yielding, creamy and tangy, it’s a delectable study in contrasts.

This instance was one of the best I’ve ever enjoyed because this bready, cakey, doughnutty, sweet, almost floral vada elevated it beyond its rivals. Excellent.

The inner workings.

I guess it all depends on how you define pizza. Dough with stuff on top of it baked in a hot oven? I’d eat that. Everybody’d eat that. But I’d be hard pressed to call it pizza. Heck, I’m hard pressed to call Chicago deep-dish pizza pizza. (Don’t hate me, okay? I went to school in New Haven back in the day when men were men and pizza was ah-beets. But I digress.) This is my second foray into “Indian pizza”. This one from Bombay Kitchen was definitely tasty and better than my first experience in Floral Park.

Cheese two ways: this is Paneer Tikka Naan Pizza which makes it non-pizza but I like it for what it is. (This is also a non-cheese pull because it’s horizontal rather than vertical; turn your screen sideways if that makes you happier.)

This is a kathi roll, Egg and Lamb Boti to be specific. The marinated, well-seasoned lamb (boti kebab) was a surprisingly good companion to the fried egg, the roti was supple and flavorful and it had a proper chew. Definitely good eats.

Deconstructed (or at least unfurled).

A grilled Bombay Sandwich (yes, that’s a thing), apparently always triple decker, features melted cheese, green pepper and red onion, coriander chutney, and in this case, slabs of chicken tikka. Much moister, and consequently better, than one I had elsewhere.

Deconstructed (or at least toppled).
Bombay Kitchen is located at 72-27 37th Ave in Jackson Heights, Queens. Best I could tell, it’s an extension of Rajbhog Sweets, so enjoy some kulfi or mithai for dessert while you’re there. Restored my faith in Indian street food!

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Lasagna

Instagram Post 3/31/2020

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👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

These days, I find myself preparing a lot of comfort food and that invariably involves a plateful of starches, an extravagance of calories, and a mountain of regret on the bathroom scale the next morning. I try to use ingredients I have on hand so when I do make the now infrequent trip to my local supermarket, I grab just a few items to support some ad hoc recipes and then make a quick getaway. I had a finger of amazing Albanian suxhuk, a dry beef sausage, in the freezer; this particular link was extraordinarily spicy and I reckoned its best use would be as a component of some concoction rather than a straight up snack.

On my way to the market, visions of comfort foods (not the least of which was lasagna, TBH) danced in my head – although my goal was to supplement whatever I had at home frugally, not to open up a whole new can of worms. But that damned lasagna relentlessly persisted in invading my thoughts. Long story short: “just a few items” became several pounds of mozzarella, ricotta, and lasagna noodles, some fresh basil, and a jar of tomato sauce I particularly favor. I rationalized my obsessive compulsive behavior by averring that I could dice the bit of suxhuk and toss it into the sauce. And beyond that, I had some fennel seed at home in the spice rack that I could use to depatriate the suxhuk from Albania to Italy by adding it to the dish.

I’m pretty sure that’s not how the strategy is supposed to work.

Now, you probably think I’m going to end this tale with feelings of remorse because I consumed too much lasagna in the first sitting alone. But no. My first thoughts after the cooking frenzy subsided were that if I could squeeze even a few moments of joy from this blimpifying violation of my own guidelines, it was worth it.

The moral? It’s okay to be a little self-indulgent during the time of COVID. Reward yourself for being able to follow all the new shelter-in-place social-distancing rules with aplomb. Eat whatever it takes.

Stay sane. We’ll get through this together.

Chinatown During COVID-19




This was Saturday afternoon in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Saturday afternoon, people.

I’ve said it before. Businesses in Chinatown are struggling to make ends meet as potential customers’ trepidation over COVID-19 festers and deters patronage. Chinatown has been an ineffable source of delight, indulgence, and comfort to so many of us. Now is the time for all of us to do the right thing and show our gratitude and support for these businesses. If ever you’ve felt the desire to give back, this is your chance.

#supportchinatown #dineinchinatown #eatinchinatown #explorechinatown

Self-quarantining? I get it. So order in! #keepcalmandcarryout

(BTW, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the conclusion of your confinement than a sumptuous dinner in our beloved Chinatown!)

All I’m asking is this: please don’t treat Chinatown restaurants any differently from the way you would treat any restaurant anywhere else. That’s the very definition of racial profiling.

#chinatown #chinatownnyc #chinatownnewyork #ilovechinatown

Over the next few days, I’ll post some photos of deliciousness from Chinatown’s restaurants, markets and street vendors taken during the past week. Stay tuned.

And thank you.

Note: This post was originally published on March 15, 2020 when the world was very different.

Mumbai Xpress

Instagram Post 3/24-26/2020

We journeyed to the far east – the far east of Queens, that is, a stone’s throw from Nassau County – to explore a South Asian neighborhood familiar to my dining pals but relatively new to me (my way of saying I’ll be back soon). One destination was Mumbai Xpress, a vegetarian restaurant at 256-05 Hillside Avenue in Floral Park with over 100 snackish items on the menu, so this post just scratches the surface.

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My favorite of the day was this Tokri Chaat (aka katori chaat). Glossary: chaat is an Indian snack featuring crispy fried dough, potatoes, onions and other veggies, yogurt, chutneys, herbs and spices but the number of variations is legion; tokri means basket, katori means bowl. In this case, the basket is made from fried shredded potatoes…

…laden with cubed boiled potatoes, mung beans, tomato, chickpeas, sev (crunchy chickpea flour noodles) all swimming in the aforementioned savory nectar of deliciousness.

Our destination in part involved sampling some of the many sandwiches on offer. There are countless delicious breads indigenous to India, but these two carbobombs borrow heavily from their American counterparts.

The first comes from the Breach Candy Special Sandwiches section of the menu – Breach Candy is a posh neighborhood in South Mumbai. To my eyes, the triple decker Mumbai Grilled Sandwich would appear to be India’s answer to the Dagwood Sandwich, at least in terms of architecture. Standard issue potato chips.

The top layer consisted of green pepper and red onion; the bottom, sliced boiled potato; melted Amul cheese, a pasteurized processed cheddar product, and coriander chutney all around. I opined that the bread-to-filling ratio seemed out of proportion, but my expert guide and sandwich stacker who has first-hand experience with the real deal assured me that on the streets of Mumbai, sauces are applied more liberally so we took matters into our own hands. Don’t know if Dagwood had such problems.

This Mumbai Vada Pav (pronounced pow) from the Mumbai Xpress Specials section of the menu is a fried potato patty with a bit of red onion for kick, covered with tamarind and coriander chutneys and sprinkled with spiced garlic masala served on a burger bun. Total starcho if you’re into that sort of thing.

This is muthiya (rhymes with shukriya, a Hindi word for thank you – sorry, I couldn’t resist). A Gujarati treat, these pillowy little dumplings are made from grated bottle gourd and onion mixed with seasoned flour, steamed and then sautéed with mustard seeds and sesame seeds. Topped with chutneys, they weren’t bad.

As I said, I’ll do a return visit to this neighborhood. And I don’t even need a passport!
(*All right, all right! It’s moo-TEE-ah.)

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Roast Pig Stir-Fry

Instagram Post 3/27/2020

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

Much of New York City is akin to a ghost town now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Manhattan’s Chinatown alone maintained that dubious distinction. Back then, when I visited to scope things out, I procured a pile of provisions from some of my favorite restaurants, markets and vendors to show my support. Great NY Noodletown, 28 Bowery, has some stellar roast pig and roast pork, so I stocked up and, of course, bought more than I could consume in one sitting.

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Now, roast pig’s claim to fame is its eyeball-rattling crispy skin that (1) swathes its juicy meat and (2) puts a smile on everyone’s face. The catch is, once it’s been refrigerated, it loses all its crunchy charm. So I dealt with the leftovers by separating the skin from the meat and flash frying it (think Chinese chicharrones) to use as a garnish for a stir fry that I made from the meat and some vegetables I still had on hand. Here’s how it looked. Totally worked.

The roast pig as it was on Day One.

Stay tuned; you’ll be seeing more “Cooking in the Time of COVID” posts from me and my kitchen.

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Hong Shao Kao Fu

Instagram Post 3/23/2020

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

A few days ago, I posted about New Kam Man, 200 Canal St in Manhattan, a Chinatown market that’s been open during the COVID-19 crisis and deserves our support. I highlighted a couple of bean curd skin snacks (they have top-notch barbecue and roast meat options too) and I spotted another that I was less familiar with, so of course, I bought it. The label read “Stewed Gluten Kao-Fu 5 Spices”.

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Hong Shao Kao Fu is an appetizing Shanghainese dish made from wheat gluten (kao fu), dried mushrooms, wood ears, dried lily buds, and peanuts that’s served cold and is so good that it’s something I make at home. Now, although the kao fu I buy in Chinese markets looks a little like whole wheat bread, this product was different. But I thought it might be fun to experiment with using it in place of my usual kao fu – even though it’s not an orthodox usage – so I modified my recipe and here’s how it turned out. It’s rather different from the original but pretty tasty if I say so myself. And yes, my vegetarian friends, it’s perfect for you too.

This is NKM’s “Stewed Gluten Kao-Fu 5 Spices” in slices, straight out of its container, before I started messing around with it. Since we’re very much in the throes of coping with COVID-19, you’ll be seeing more “Cooking in the Time of COVID” posts from me. Hope that’s okay. 😉

And a reminder: you can stay current with which Manhattan Chinatown restaurants are doing take out and deliveries during the COVID-19 crisis here. Please give them your support.

🥡 #keepcalmandcarryout #supportchinatown #supportsmallbusinesses

Stay safe and be well. It’ll be a long row to hoe, but we’ll get through this together.

New Kam Man – Bean Curd Skin

Instagram Post 3/19/2020

Continuing my posts about Chinatown favorites:

In addition to all the great restaurants that are open for takeout and delivery in Manhattan’s Chinatown during the COVID-19 crisis (see a detailed list updated daily here), please remember to patronize the markets that are eager to serve you too.

The venerable New Kam Man at 200 Canal St has everything you’d expect in a celebrated marketplace including a complete line of Asian ingredients and kitchenware along with all the necessary cookies and sweets to help us all get through this together. Of course, the sidewalk window displays tempting siu mei (燒味) – barbecue/roast meats like roast pork, roast pig, soy sauce chicken, and ducks galore, but since I’ve posted a lot of duck photos recently, here are two treats from the prepared food section worthy of your attention, especially if you’re a vegetarian.

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Both are made from bean curd skin. When soymilk is boiled to make tofu, a skin forms on top, it’s skimmed off and dried and when it’s reconstituted, it has dozens of delicious uses from dumpling wrappers to “mock” meats. These two examples are unassuming but tasty. The first simply consists of layers of bean curd sheets, rehydrated with water, soy sauce, and sugar, then pressed together and sliced; it’s as much about the texture as it is about the flavor. The label reads “NKM Stewed Bean Curd Pastry”. It’s a little saltier than

these rollups which are similar but a bit sweeter. The package was identified as “NKM Braised Gluten Stick” although I don’t think gluten figures into it and I see rolls rather than sticks, mislabeled perhaps. Either way, yum!

I bought a bunch of stuff from New Kam Man for some COVID-19 cooking. Will post photos ASAP. So grateful that they’re there and open for us; please help them continue to thrive!