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.
 
 

Ensalada Arcoiris

Instagram Post 4/28/2020

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Archival photo of a recipe I developed many years ago, Ensalada Arcoiris (Rainbow Salad), so named because of its Mexican/Southwestern US character and the fact that it comprises almost every color of the rainbow plus black and white. “Almost” is the operative word because it lacks anything blue. Yes, I tried huitlacoche (😋) which can be sort of bluish, but I didn’t like what it brought to the dish; same for butterfly pea flower rice; blueberries are more purple than blue once pierced, but I’ll keep thinking. This particular combination of fruits and vegetables is not uncommon, but the dressing is its pot of gold: juice from sour oranges and limes, chipotles in adobo sauce, and a few secrets of course.

I realize that it doesn’t fall under the banner of Cooking in the Time of COVID, but I thought we all could use a rainbow about now. 🌈
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Cornbread

Instagram Post 4/27/2020

 
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Continuing my freezer excavation, I unearthed some coarse stone ground yellow cornmeal which inspired me to whomp up a batch of my tried and true cornbread. It calls for finely chopped jalapeño peppers, cilantro leaves, and scallions (the green bits you see in the top chunk), whole corn kernels, grated cheddar cheese, buttermilk, eggs, butter and more, of course. The first photo represents an attempt to show all three facets of the calorific comestible: the top chunk displays its fluffy, super moist interior, the bottom flaunts a crispy edge and a peek at the golden top.


The cast iron skillet (which has been in my family for years) just out of the oven.


A perfect release. Upside-down orientation shows the crispy bottom: GBD, golden brown and delicious!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Real Usha Sweets & Snacks Cafe 2

Instagram Post 4/26/2020

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Mithai are Indian sweets; this little one (and the broken heart some time ago for those of you who wrote requesting just the facts, ma’am) comes from Real Usha Sweets and Snacks Café, 259-15 Hillside Ave, Floral Park.

It has the form, but not the flavor, of watermelon.

Because outward appearances often belie what’s going on inside.
 
 
#mithais #tellastory.
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Chicken Livers Peri Peri

Instagram Post 4/24/2020

 
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Chicken livers in the freezer. Sure, I could just fry ’em up with some onions but there’s not a lot to write about that, is there? So I perused the Interwebs for ideas and found a few recipes for South African Chicken Livers Peri Peri, a spicy treatment brought by the Portuguese in colonial times. I spliced together a number of recipes and came up with a dish I might actually make again.

I had most of what I would need on hand including (but not limited to) onions, garlic, and canned tomatoes; bay leaves, cumin, coriander seed, hot chilies and smoked paprika; and Worcestershire sauce and brandy. Since I’m pretty much out of dairy and produce, however, cream and fresh red peppers were scarce commodities. BUT – since most of the recipes called for both fresh lemon juice and cream, I substituted buttermilk (yes, it can be, and was, frozen), and jarred Peppadews took the place of the sweet red peppers, vinegar and sugar. Lekker!

Now, for a South African side dish that didn’t involve fresh produce, I leaned on rice again. This one was easy: there was a profusion of recipes for yellow rice that called for turmeric, sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Wait – rice, sugar, cinnamon and raisins? Why, that would be a first cousin to rice pudding, the ultimate comfort dessert (okay, maybe that’s just me) – sans milk, of course.

Et voilà, the combination succeeded! The sweetness of the rice dish played off the spiciness plus the inherent intensity of the liver and the creaminess of the liver worked with the fluffy rice. Too bad I didn’t write down the quantities of the ingredients as I tossed them in with my customary reckless abandon; these two were worth keeping. But isn’t that always the way?
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Feijoada

Instagram Post 4/22/2020

 
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The fifth and final sausage from Seabra’s in Newark’s Ironbound District was morcela, a blood sausage, which was relegated to the freezer without a second glance when I realized how much I had overbought. Now, some months later, the idea of making feijoada, the rich Portuguese/Brazilian stew, as a means of using it up along with the black beans and other ingredients I had on hand seemed appropriate.

I prepped the beans, cooked the rice, chopped the onions, chunked up a few hunks of ham and smoky, fatty, porky charcuterie I had left over from the amazing Muncan, and freed the morcela from its icy prison. My mise was en place. But slicing into the unlabeled link, I realized it was actually morcela de arroz, a blood and rice sausage, and not what one would expect in a proper feijoada. Okay, fine. So it wouldn’t be the real deal. I would make fake-joada.

But it wasn’t just the star of the show that was understudied. Even the supporting cast had stand-ins. The dish should be served with sautéed greens, collards specifically, but lacking any (and since going out shopping was against the rules), I stripped the thickest leaves from some leftover uncooked bok choy, julienned them, and sautéed them with some onions.

And of course, the crumbly bits you see sprinkled on top of the feijoada is its traditional accompaniment, farofa, ground dried manioc.

The hell it is. You think I have ground dried manioc in my pantry? I had some cornbread in the freezer, so I knocked off some crumbs and toasted ’em up.

So there you have it: fake-joada with faux-rofa. (Just don’t ask about the orange slices, okay?)
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Bean Curd Sheet Rolls

Instagram Post 4/20/2020

 
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Still working on spending down the freezer and the pantry before venturing out to go shopping; I’m trying for three weeks between shopping trips and even then only to replenish perishables. This time, the freezer yielded bean curd sheets, aka tofu skins, aka yuba, and enough other aliases to give a Most Wanted felon an inferiority complex. They can be found dried (to be reconstituted) or refrigerated/frozen, and their size and thickness dictate their use, sometimes for wrapping dim sum, sometimes for shredding into “noodles” either supple or crispy, sometimes as an ingredient in a stir-fry; they have myriad uses throughout Asian cuisine.

In addition, the freezer furnished lap cheong (Chinese sausages, 臘腸) and the pantry provided dried shiitake mushrooms and sticky rice, pretty straightforward. These specimens were steamed first, then fried, and napped with lightly thickened, seasoned chicken broth.

More experiments in the name of desperation to come!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Sticky Rice with Mango

Instagram Post 4/19/2020

 
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The only fresh fruit remaining from my supermarket trip a couple of weeks ago was a solitary mango. My shopping rubric these days is to raid the pantry and freezer and try to buy only enough to supplement whatever I have on hand, but I admit to purchasing this juicy plumper with no particular consummation in mind.

I always have at least a dozen kinds of rice in the pantry (yeah, yeah, I know…) and I’ve been breaking into my stash of sticky rice lately. That, coupled with the can of Russian sweetened condensed caramel milk that’s been waiting expectantly long past its expiration date, joined forces with the mango to produce this simple but yummy dessert.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Chana Masala

Instagram Post 4/17/2020

 
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Rifling through the pantry to avoid going out shopping, I unearthed a long forgotten bag of dried chickpeas. I decided to use some of them to make Indian Chana Masala because it’s really easy to prepare, I had most of the spices and aromatics on hand, and I needed a break from spending so much time on the elaborate culinary experiments I’d been attempting while sheltering in place. A proper sidekick would be basmati rice, a neighbor to the chickpeas on the shelf (and ultimately on this plate) – also really easy to prepare.


But then I hit upon the misguided idea that parathas would be a perfect accompaniment and “really easy to prepare” went right out the window. Kneading and resting and rolling and ghee-ing and coiling and resting and rolling some more…and a day and a skillet later it was ready for its closeup.


Actually, they turned out pretty well – check out this somewhat bungled attempt to demonstrate pulled-apart steaming-hot flaky layers. (Licking ghee-covered fingers helped.)

Well, at least that jar of tamarind-date chutney that’s been hiding in the back of the fridge since forever won’t suck up any more of my time.

Assuming I can get the lid off…. 😬