Cooking in the Time of COVID – National Hamburger Day

Instagram Post 5/28/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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It’s National Hamburger Day and you know what that means: if I don’t post a photo of a home cooked burger, I can’t be one of the cool kids. So, succumbing to peer pressure and not wanting to disappoint, here ya go.

Of course, I kicked it up with herbs and spices native to the cuisine of the country whose flag bedecks the bun; obviously, that says it all so I won’t bore you with ingredient details.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Groundnut Stew

Instagram Post 5/27/2020

 
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My fondness for West African food remains unabated even though I’m relegated to my own humble kitchen, so accessing a couple of chicken thighs I had frozen, I summoned whatever I could press into service from the pantry and conjured up some inauthentic groundnut soup.

Also known as peanut stew, maafe, sauce d’arachide, and other handles depending upon its country of origin, this version started with a base of onions, canned tomatoes, and chilies, garlic and fresh ginger, then some chicken stock and spices including sumbala (ground néré seeds), with the addition of creamy natural peanut butter and ground peanuts, sweet potatoes and leafy greens. Dried stockfish often finds its way into this dish but since I didn’t have any on hand, I used some dried crayfish powder purchased from a local African market some time ago which worked out pretty well.

The dish is sometimes served with rice as in Senegal, or with couscous further to the north, or with fufu as in Ghana or in my kitchen; the one you see here is pounded cocoyam (aka malanga). Tasty, but now I’m craving the real deal!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Homemade Hummus

Instagram Post 5/25/2020

 
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Partially homemade, so I guess it counts: the hummus is my own recipe that starts with dried then reconstituted chickpeas rather than their canned kin because I think I get a creamier result. (Anyone out there either concur or disagree?) Keeping the hummus humming are a rainbow of teeny tomatoes and some particularly rich Greek feta cheese.

The layered, griddled flatbread to the left is a signature North African work of culinary art found throughout Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Called msmen (you might see m’semen), it’s square in shape and commonly served for breakfast with butter, honey, jam or cheese but can also be found as a snack stuffed with ground meat or vegetables. If you see it anywhere, you should definitely check it out.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Pandan Rice Pudding

Instagram Post 5/23/2020

 
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I often insist that rice pudding is the ultimate comfort food, and we can all use a little – no, make that a lot – of comfort right now. But since I’m invariably compelled to put some kind of ethnic spin on something that was perfectly fine to begin with, here’s my pandan rice pudding.

The bright green color comes from the leaves of the pandan plant, aka screwpine, a popular flavoring and coloring agent in Southeast Asian cuisine. It has exceptional compatibility with coconut much the same way that chocolate has with nuts, baked goods, or depression, so this version uses coconut milk along with rice as its foundation.

The cherry on top is the cherry on top.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Indonesian Fried Chicken

Instagram Post 5/19/2020

 
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The seasoning packet shouted “Kentucky” in eye-catching, bright red, bold, decorative brush script underscored by a tiny legend that whispered “Fried Chicken Seasoned Flour” as if to subtly continue the thought. Beneath that, however, it was the “Tepung Bumbu Ayam Goreng” that caught my eye; I was in a Southeast Asian market in Queens (where else?) so I was hooked. Since then, it’s been perched on a pantry shelf along with so many other this’ll-keep-forever-so-there’s-no-hurry-to-use-it-right-away items, but if ever there was a time to frolic in the kitchen, it’s now.

Let’s get the first question out of the way: “Does it taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken?” Hell, Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn’t taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken anymore since they changed the recipe. The seasoning blend was modest, but not objectionable. I prepared it using dark meat chicken in a familiar nugget configuration and resisted the urge to tweak the seasoning (until the second batch).


To their credit, they got the wheat flour/tapioca flour/rice flour balance just right: the chix was crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. And since I had everything I needed to make it, that’s my own Indonesian nasi goreng (fried rice) on the side.

Which international cuisine should I fiddle with next?
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – IKEA Food

Instagram Post 5/17/2020

 
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When you ponder the inventory of a typical IKEA, prepared food probably doesn’t leap to the forefront of your mind, but they do offer some Swedish comestibles that are tasty, novel, and, most important, seem to keep indefinitely if unopened in the refrigerator. Two such products were vulnerable to my raid on their bottom-shelf lair: Pastej Lax, a salmon spread, and Tångkorn, a vegan seaweed caviar. They had been slated as ingredients for party food, but I’m thinking we’re unlikely to see one of those in the near future. 😢

Here, then, are boiled potato rounds supporting a squeeze of pastej lax crowned with sour cream topped with a dollop of tångkorn and a sprinkle of dill, resting on a bed of baby arugula in a balsamic vinaigrette – just to suggest that this erstwhile jazz pianist can go classical from time to time.


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

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Mie Goreng

Instagram Post 5/15/2020

 
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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 – Thai Pumpkin Soup

Instagram Post 5/13/2020

 
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At this point I think it’s pretty clear that Cooking 🍳 in the Time of COVID must have something to do with being stir 🥄 crazy.

In keeping with that characterization, I raided the freezer again and discovered leftover puréed roasted sugar pumpkin from last Thanksgiving’s pies, a container of spicy soup I had concocted many months ago using the remnants of Thai takeout stewed pork spine, and Panang curry paste.

Adhering to my current excursion avoidant practice of using up whatever I have on hand, I grabbed a can of coconut milk from the pantry plus a few other ingredients and proceeded to whip up a pot of completely inauthentic Thai Pumpkin Soup. Tasted pretty good, especially on a snowy day in May here in New York City.

If you’re curious about the garnishes (aside from the cilantro and spibbles of coconut milk), the little spherical bits are crispy dried peas (technically Chinese) for some crunch, and the gossamer threads are dried shredded red pepper (technically Korean) for some pretty.
 
 
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. ❤️