NOT Cooking in the Time of COVID – Frozen Chinese Dumplings

Instagram Post 6/3/2020

 
👨‍🍳 NOT Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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You know what? I think I’ve had it with all this cooking. Like, if I were to opt for prepared food, I’d have so much more free time. I mean, I could kick back, munch a hashtag brownie, and binge watch every episode of Bob Ross rendering a happy little cloud, right?

So although I do make Chinese dumplings, I didn’t make these. Bought ’em frozen, steamed and fried ’em up, sauced ’em, and garnished ’em. Does that even count as cooking?
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Puff Pastry

Instagram Post 6/1/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

This is it! The last post of the purge-the-pantry-flush-the-freezer-of-elderly-edibles exorcism! Aside from items that are mandated to reside there on a long term basis, all that remained in the freezer was some puff pastry; the pantry had been home to a can of Russian caramel fudge cream (sort of like dulce de leche) that was well past its expiration date; and apropos of expiry, those bananas on the counter were hurtling to their demise as well, so I let the weird experiments commence. <Cue ominous pipe organ music.>

For the sweet batch, I combined the mushy bananas with the dense caramel fudge cream and made some, um, what you see here…

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…and tried a different shape as well. I don’t have a clue as to what I made but they were crispy and sweet straight out of the oven.

On the savory side, this is a melty, creamy, Greek feta, er, thing…

…and I added slices of a remaining Polish sausage (remember those from a previous freezer rant?) to the mix in a final fling.

All were yummy and frankly, if I knew they were going to taste this good, I might have taken more time shaping the dough – not my strong suit though. But it’ll be a long time before I buy more frozen puff pastry unless I have a goal in mind beforehand. 😉
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Thai Pumpkin Soup

Instagram Post 5/13/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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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 – A Mediterranean Melange

Instagram Post 5/30/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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A Mediterranean mélange in the service of using up the last bits of saladworthy candidates from the pantry and fridge. Of primary significance, I’ve finally finished off the last of the dried chickpeas! 🙌

The slightly smaller spheres are Lebanese moghrabieh which are similar to their more diminutive Israeli couscous cousins. These wonderful starchy pearls deserve far better than the short shrift I’ve given them here – I almost wish I had left them in the pantry to star in some future culinary legerdemain. There’ll be a next time. In this case, I toasted them first to bring out their latent nuttiness; toasted almonds and currants made a considerable contribution as well.

From the refrigerator, I exhumed some jarred red pepper strips, Italian fried green peppers and agrodolce sun dried red peppers along with Moroccan pickled eggplant, Greek black olives and creamy feta cheese. Plated the medley over baby arugula and dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, za’atar and sumac.

Tasted so much better than it looked!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

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

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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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

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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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

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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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. ❤️
 
 

Ramadan 2020

Instagram Post 5/20-22/2020

 
Three posts from last year’s celebration of Ramadan which concludes this year on May 23.

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This is sellou (سلّو, aka sfouf or zmita), a unique unbaked Moroccan sweet made from toasted flour and ground almonds, sesame seeds, sugar or honey, cinnamon, and anise; as you’d expect, recipes vary from family to family. At Nablus Sweets, 6812 5th Ave, Brooklyn, I spotted a huge brown mountain of it and purchased a small knoll, broken here into two little hillocks. It’s soft in texture, somewhere along the cookie<–>brownie continuum but drier, crumbly but crunchy from nuts. Simply break off a chunk and enjoy, perhaps with a cup of tea.

If your knowledge of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean sweets is informed primarily by honey drenched baklava and kanafeh, give this one a try (available particularly around Ramadan); I highly recommend it.


Little Egypt Restaurant, 66-28 Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood, featured a special dessert coinciding with Mother’s Day last year: Om Ali (you might see umm ali), أم على. The phrase translates as “Ali’s mother” and of course, fables abound as to its name. Essentially Egypt’s answer to bread pudding (only better if you ask me), it’s made with phyllo dough, milk (and occasionally, richer dairy considerations) and sugar, sometimes elevated with raisins, nuts, and cinnamon. There are legions of recipes for this traditional Ramadan treat; that day, our delightful version came with sour cream and ground nuts on the side for garnish, ad libitum.


On a visit last year to Tashkent Market at 713 Brighton Beach Ave in Brooklyn, I picked up some nishallo (aka nisholda), an exceedingly sweet dessert that’s native to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and prepared exclusively during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Made primarily from sugar, whipped egg whites, and water, it’s a dead-on ringer for Marshmallow Fluff (as you’d expect from the ingredients) if perhaps a bit classier because of a touch of star anise and/or licorice root. It makes its appearance as part of iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast. Frequently used as a dip for the flatbread naan, it’s particularly appropriate after 17 hours of abstention from eating because its high sugar content jumpstarts the metabolism.

Ramadan Mubarak!
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Indonesian Fried Chicken

Instagram Post 5/19/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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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. ❤️