Cooking in the Time of COVID – Mie Goreng

Instagram Post 5/15/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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I’ve been craving Indonesian food of late (I miss those weekend bazaars!), so when I remembered that there were fresh Chinese noodles in my freezer, I knew what I would make: mie goreng. My Indonesian friends might point out that this recipe traditionally calls for spaghetti-shaped egg noodles or even ramen rather than linguini-shaped wheat noodles, but today’s impulse came from a longing for that unique flavor profile and since I had almost everything on hand except for the proper noodz, the result was what you see here.

Chicken was the sidekick to the fried noodles. The non-noodle component consisted of shredded carrots, cabbage, red pepper, celery, baby bok choy, scallions, onions and garlic, a bit of reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and tiny dried shrimp, and the all-important ribbons of fried egg. The sauce combined ketjap manis (sweet), soy sauce (salty), oyster sauce (umami), sambal oelek (spicy), a bit of sesame oil (aromatic), and ground peanuts (yum). The garnish was a spicy coconut bumbu condiment that I had in the freezer, acquired at one of the aforementioned bazaars.

The marvelous white crisps on the right are shrimp flavored Indonesian krupuk (you might see kerupuk) and they’re positively addictive. In the package, they appear to be hard little chips, but they miraculously puff up almost instantly when subjected to hot oil; actually, they’re almost as much fun to prepare as they are to eat. Since I had already dragged out the deep fryer, I grabbed a few other examples of these crispy delights (yes, I have way too many in the pantry), some Indonesian and some Indian, in assorted colors and with varying flavors from garlic to potato to just plain salt. They come in so many varieties, I could do a post on those alone.

I still have a little of that sauce left and some terasi (shrimp paste) as well, so I see nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) in my future. 😉
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Pizza-ish

Instagram Post 5/11/2020

 
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Today’s adventure in Polish sausage swap-ins (see my last post) was this:

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Looks a lot like pizza, doesn’t it? I already had mozzarella, mushrooms, and homemade tomato sauce, but I wasn’t about to invest energy in making pizza dough (quarantining is frustrating enough), so I resorted to my package of trusty, versatile flour tortillas.

I sprinkled some corn meal onto a jelly roll pan and laid in a tortilla, topped it with the thinnest possible layer of mozzarella, and sandwiched that with another tortilla. The idea behind this experiment was that the mozz would act like a laminating glue to yield a base with enough heft to support the toppings. Stuck it into a hot oven to melt the cheese – essentially to see if the theory would work.

Added sauce…

…mozzarella…

…and mushrooms.

Sautéed some country style kielbasa wiejska, tossed in a little fennel seed to trick it into thinking it was Italian sausage and topped this doppelganger with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of trompe l’olive oeil. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

To give you an idea of the thickness of the “crust”:

In its native habitat.

 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Sausage & Peppiz!

Instagram Post 5/9/2020

 
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When I was researching adding a Greenpoint, Brooklyn ethnojunket to my repertoire of neighborhood food tours, I bought too many (of course) Eastern European sausages in order to evaluate which would be best (as Melania would have it). There are still a dozen or so in the freezer. Sounds to me like another use-whatever-I-have-on-hand-without-venturing-out-to-buy-more-stuff challenge.

So we’ll start with the most obvious substitution, a sammich endemic to NYC affectionately called Sausage & Peppiz. This one was easy. I already had onions and peppers on hand so I fried them up with some swojska kielbasa adding my not so secret ingredient, fennel seed, which makes everything it comes into contact with taste like Italian sausage. A hit of Parmigiano-Reggiano and bada bing bada boom, Sausage & Peppiz! Mangia!

(All I needed was “the wine with the peaches” as they say at the San Gennaro Festival! 😉)
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Tofu Eviction

Instagram Post 5/7/2020

 
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Another one for my vegetarian friends, this time a simple stir-fry using up some long-term visitors to my freezer that had overstayed their welcome: spicy tofu, smoked tofu, and beancurd knots, adorable little Gordian wonders that would flummox even a clever Eagle Scout. Drizzled with a trustworthy garlic/ginger/multiple sauce combo, I included onion and celery and finally managed to get rid of the last of the bok choy as well.


The annotated version.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Cinco de Mayo

Instagram Post 5/5/2020

 
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Oh no! It’s Cinco de Mayo (I was sure it was still April) AND I haven’t given up trying to cook with whatever is on hand rather than running off to the supermarket for fresh supplies. I hadn’t counted on a double challenge, but there was still some Oaxacan mole in the freezer, I could shred the leftover chicken, and since sheltering in place began, flour tortillas are always within reach. Quesadillas it shall be.

Veggies 🤔. Using what’s here, esquites, the Mexican street food favorite, would be a good candidate: grilled corn with garlic, jalapeños, scallions, cilantro, crema (or mayonnaise) and lime juice topped with crumbled cotija cheese (or something akin to it 😉) and tajín.

This is actually going to be good! Would it be cheating if I just run across the street to the convenience store to grab a bag of corn chips? They’d be picture perfect alongside the quesadilla. That’s not the same order of magnitude as a supermarket expedition, right? I succumbed to the whim (not to mention a pint of Ben & Jerry’s), and placed the chips on the kitchen counter next to the lime, both slated for garnish duty.

Enthusiastic about what promised to be an Instaworthy photo, I carried the plate into the living room and set it in front of the one window in my apartment that gets any decent natural light. Rotating it and the camera (and myself), I snapped a bunch of pics and finally managed to snag one that was reasonably well lit. I rewarded myself with a couple of bites of the quesadilla and a forkful of esquites and brought it back to the kitchen where the forgotten chips and lime were still patiently waiting to be pressed into service, too late, alas, for plating.
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And here they are, still on the counter, presented as proof that since it’s on the Internet, it happened.

Sometimes I just can’t catch a break.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Barley Mushroom Salad

Instagram Post 5/3/2020

 
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The last of the corned beef (yay! 🙌) plus barley from the pantry (toasted before cooking) went into this warm salad along with sautéed onions, carrots, and yes, mushrooms (finally made it to the market!); dill, parsley, and scallions pulled it together.

BUT I still have one more use-up-whatever-there-is-in-the-freezer challenge to go. Watch this space!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Corned Beef Hash

Instagram Post 5/2/2020

 
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Another attempt to use up some of the leftover corned beef brisket. Not going to try for clever this time, just good old corned beef hash accompanied by its traditional significant other.

A corner of my freezer is dedicated to fats: goose, chicken, turkey, duck, Chinese duck, and bacon; for this application, bacon fat was the frying medium of choice. And since I always have to be at least a little unconventional, I reached into a remote region of the icebox and extracted some ‘nduja. Beyond enjoying my spellchecker’s attempts to wrestle with the word, I reckoned it would kick up the corned beef a degree or two. Like anchovies, it melts into whatever you’re cooking so depending upon how much you use it either brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish (🤔 the spellchecker didn’t flag that) or overwhelms it; in this case, discretion triumphed.

And yet, there’s still a small amount of corned beef left. Should I try for one more experiment?
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Instagram Post 5/1/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳
…wherein we make do with whatever we have and improvisation is the name of the game, in this case, leftover corned beef.

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And speaking of games, remember the “What’s Wrong with this Picture” puzzles we played when we were kids? You know, drawings of scenes where houses had lots of windows but no doors, or the calendar displayed September 31, or birds flew upside-down, or the sun and the moon were out at the same time? Oh wait, that one really does happen.

Well anyway, here’s your chance to release your inner ambitious child, this time playing with a picture of lunch that I made from whatever I had on hand in the kitchen. It’s an old fashioned deli style sandwich with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard, homemade macaroni salad and coleslaw, pickles on the side – but there’s one thing wrong with this picture.


Here’s a closeup of the food.

Reply below and be the first kid on your block to get the right answer!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Dinner Fixed

Instagram Post 4/30/2020

 
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A continuation of yesterday’s post, “Fixing Dinner”, a personal challenge to see what I could do with lackluster store-bought corned beef and cabbage.

I chunked up some of the meat, slathered it with barbecue sauce augmented with some spices and a dash or two of liquid smoke, and stuck it in a hot oven to crisp up a bit. Now, I’m not suggesting that this tasted precisely like burnt ends brisket, but it was a damn sight better than the original.

You’re probably wondering about those pointy things at the top of the plate where boiled cabbage previously held sway. Raw cabbage is relatively versatile, but once it’s sunk to the depths of drowning in a pot of boiling water, all bets are off. So I chopped and sautéed some onions along with a bit of jalapeño pepper, then chopped and added some of the cabbage (couldn’t use it all – boo 👎). Previously, I had laid in a supply of flour tortillas for quickie tuna or chicken salad wraps so I cut a few triangles out of one, patted in a small amount of the sautéed vegetables, smeared some beaten egg around the perimeter, sandwiched it with another triangle, and briefly fried them in hot oil. Unexpectedly, it worked! (My kingdom for some sour cream. 🥺)

Turning the leftover plain boiled potatoes into potato salad was a cinch compared to that isosceles extemporization, but see the bits of egg in there? Leftover beaten egg, cooked and chopped, subbing for its hardboiled cousin. Waste not, want not.

And the plain boiled carrots transformed effortlessly into buttery cinnamon maple glazed sweeties.


The photo from yesterday’s post for the sake of comparison.


The inner workings of those pointy things.

So that’s the saga of how I fixed mind-numbingly dreary corned beef and cabbage and turned it into something appetizing.

Of course, there’s still some corned beef left. So stay tuned for more fun and games. 😉
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Fixing Dinner

Instagram Post 4/29/2020

 
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Some of you who are seriously into cooking will occasionally order in or pick up takeout or purchase some kind of heat-n-eat no-muss-no-fuss dinner – and after tasting only one tiny bite realize that it falls horribly short of what you could have made yourself. With one hand tied behind your back. In the dark. You know who you are.

So we “fix” it. I’m thinking about writing a cookbook detailing guidelines for making the best of a bad culinary situation. I call it “Fixing Dinner”.

Anyway, I finally made it to the supermarket for my once-every-three-weeks-because-COVID shopping spree and I bought one of those preseasoned corned beef briskets that come sealed in plastic packaging. You know, just bring it to a boil then knock it back to a simmer, add your choice of veggies, plate it up – maybe a little horseradish cream or mustard sauce on the side – take a picture, and post it on the Instagram? Jever taste one of those?

I did. But I can fix it. Watch this space.