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 – 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. ❤️
 
 

Cheese Board

Instagram Post 5/6/2020

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Moliterno al Tartufo (a sheep’s milk cheese with truffles), Tomme de Savoie, Brie de Meaux, Rembrandt (a remarkable gouda even if you don’t like gouda).

Albanska sudzuka (Albanian soujouk, this one was outstanding), membrillo (quince paste), white baguette from Tom Cat Bakery.

Red grapes, almonds, sweet dried green mangoes.

J. Lohr Seven Oaks Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.
 
 
I took this photo exactly two weeks ago. There must have been a reason, but now I’m too old to remember why.
 
 

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

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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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. ❤️