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. ❤️

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.

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.

Insalata di Frutti di Mare

Instagram Post 2/1/2020

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More home cookin’. Since I shared a few photos of selections from our Thanksgiving feast recently, I offer one from our traditional Christmas table. For some reason, our celebration skews Italian with meats, cheeses, and panettone from that corner of the globe (but no photos since I didn’t actually make those – and can globes have corners anyway?) so here’s my personal rendition of Insalata di Frutti di Mare (seafood salad).

The foursome of shrimp, calamari (squid), polipetti (baby octopus), and scungilli (conch) playing equal roles (sometimes with mussels fifth wheeling) plus various veggies for crunch and zest is augmented by a harmonizing dressing of EVOO, lemon juice, herbs, and more.

PS: Hopefully, photos from Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Russian Orthodox Christmas festivities next year! 😉

Homemade Pumpkin Pie – 2019

Instagram Post 1/16/2020

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One more from my holiday home cookin’ collection. Believe it or not, it took years to get this Pumpkin Pie recipe right – years, because I only make it biannually so the upgrade opportunities are few and far between. First trick is to use only fresh pumpkin, and the small sugar pumpkins at that – none of that canned stuff. (Yes, I’ve read the propaganda from some who claim that it’s all the same – IMO they know not whereof they speak.) My recipe includes three milks (inspired by tres leches cake): sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream along with brown sugar, eggs, spices, and such. Here, it’s topped with homemade Pecan Brittle and whipped cream.

The view before slicing and adorning. (Yes, I add the pecan brittle at serving time so it doesn’t get icky.) The crust has been another labor of love, intended to evoke the taste of a cinnamon sugar cookie. (Perfect with pumpkin, right?) The flavor is spot-on, but the texture needs a bit more finessing. Ah well, back to the groaning board. 😉

Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks and Bacon

Instagram Post 1/15/2020

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Okay, you asked for it – and thank you so much for your input! Here’s another home cooked holiday dish (my own recipe once again), Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks and Bacon: layers of Yukon Gold potatoes, crumbled bacon, leeks sautéed in bacon fat 😲, plus heavy cream and seasonings. For some reason everyone tears into this baby first until they finally get around to noticing that there’s turkey on the table. (I suspect their attention is redirected birdward because of the cornbread chestnut stuffing with dried cranberries, currants, aromatics, all the herbs in the Simon & Garfunkel song, and then some. Just not photogenic though, so no photo.)

How it looked fresh out of the oven and before it met its demise at the table.

Corn Pudding

Instagram Post 1/14/2020

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Never quite got around to posting any home cookin’ from the holidays so here’s one of my favorites. It’s my own recipe (of course) for Corn Pudding, a savory side dish, not a dessert pudding (but there’s a thought there 🤔). Two kinds of corn, fresh off the cob and Cope’s Dried Sweet Corn from Pennsylvania Dutch country plus eggs, cream, butter and other homey ingredients unite to produce this traditional family favorite. Love how some of the fresh snipped chives rise to the top to enhance the golden brown crispy crust.

How it looked in the baking dish pre-ravage.

Serious question: do you want to see more like this?