What I’m cooking: Pandemic edition

What I cooked so far while working remotely and self-isolating:

  • Buttery leek rice with mizuna (a kind of mustard-like green)
  • Red curry with sweet potatoes and red lentils
  • Lots of avocado toast, with and without fried eggs
  • Black beans (with hot sauce and canned tomatoes) and rice
  • Soba noodles in peanut sauce with carrots and kohlrabi
  • Roast chicken (courtesy of home delivery from my beloved CSA) and potatoes
  • This delightfully crunchy sesame salad with the white meat leftovers
  • French lentils with celeriac, carrots, baby greens and the dark meat leftovers, and rice
  • Sweet potatoes and collard greens simmered in coconut milk, and rice
  • Oatmeal or homemade granola with yogurt and various stewed fruits
  • Potato bread, multiple batches: one with turnips and parsnips and red potatoes, one with sweet potatoes
  • Radish pickles
  • Blondies (twice–they are very good!)
  • Almond flour cookies (simple, but meh)
  • Coconut flour cookies (also meh)
  • Tamarind candies (I did a terrible job candying them, but I love the earthy tartness of tamarind so I didn’t care)
  • Chocolate buckwheat cookies (stickiest, most recalcitrant dough ever but decent cookies. 100% forgot to salt them.)
  • Every kind of tea in my pantry, hot (chocolate chai, rooibos chai, russian blend) and iced (orange blossom green, raspberry, rose)
  • Coffee, but make it fancy
  • Various boozes on ice with a splash of lemonade: some home-infused (strawberry vodka, ginger vodka, nectarine tequila) and some not (earl grey gin).
  • Various syrups to help with the copious amounts of leftover party gin: bay leaf honey syrup, black lime simple syrup.

I have been isolating since March 13, when my department’s director allowed us to work from home independently of our home institution, which did not make that call until the following Monday.

It does and does not help to have an established cooking routine. On one hand, although I am rarely in the mood to prepare food, I can remind myself from experience that I would likely feel better during the routine actions of chopping, measuring, and stirring (and I do!). On the other hand, the foods I am preparing differ somewhat from what I would normally make myself–in a good way, I think. I normally give myself more variety of flavor and texture for my work lunches; I would never pack myself a two-ingredient rice dish, for example, but I find that I wanted things to be simpler for meals at home. The red curry with lentils doesn’t microwave well, so I don’t make it often, but its leftovers taste pretty great oven-warmed. Also, I have never baked so much in my life, but I reorganized my pantry early on in the isolation period and felt motivated to clear out some little-used flours and other goods.

I am lucky. I am able to isolate and continue working. There is a small grocery and several drugstores that sell food and other essentials within walking distance of my house; I have nitrile gloves (from cleaning peppers last summer!) to wear while shopping. My beloved CSA makes home deliveries. It is easy to stay home, so I stay home.

But I cannot wait to go to the Reading Terminal Market and choose my own produce one day. I am so excited to go to a farmer’s market in warm weather. I am going to do a classic bar crawl in my neighborhood one day, perhaps for a belated birthday celebration. One day I am going to pack a cooler with vodka lemonade and get drunk on the beach with as many as my friends as are willing to take the train to Atlantic City.

What I’m looking forward to cooking

As above.

It’s spring now. As long as my CSA comes, there will be new greens, rhubarb, asparagus. I’m desperate for fresh fruit. My CSA partners with some organic farms out of state and supplies non-local fruits, which is fortunate; I ordered kiwis and oranges but I look forward to local fruits like strawberries eventually.

Out of a desire to support my local CSA, I added some pantry items to my regular biweekly order–including black lime powder. I’ve never cooked with it, but its tangy earthy flavor seemed right up my alley. The first thing I made was black lime simple syrup and put it in some cocktails; not bad. Per Ottolenghi, I put some in the endless rice I make to accompany my lentil and bean dishes; not bad. I am interested in using it to season something more substantial, though.

What I’m writing

Like many people, I found it difficult to get into the right headspace (and physical space) for writing when I am already working from home all day. In the last month or so, most of my writing outside of work has been for my online classes: I wrote a paper on what will happen in New Orleans in the year 2050; I wrote a report about the Thwaites Glacier and a slideshow about packrat middens as a climate proxy. I started posting roundups of some of my climate-related links on my other blog, along with the reading roundups I do monthly. 

If you’re writing, when and where are you doing it? What inspires you? What inspires your cooking? What are some of the best things you are doing for your physical, emotional, mental, and creative needs during this time of disrupted routines?

3 responses to “What I’m cooking: Pandemic edition

  1. I’ve been trying to write about what we’re making right now more frequently, erring on writing shorter posts so I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed. Some days are definitely easier to do than others, though, and unfortunately I’ve had more than one day not much of anything makes it to digital paper. Cooking is definitely helping, and like you we’re mixing things up on that front partly out of a desire for something constructive and partly because I’m trying to cook at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks in my main collection before adding any others to it. I’m fortunate in that my husband and I both have spaces to work during the day, and that I’ve slowly built up a pretty sweet home gym over the last nine years that we can now both use.

    One nice thing is that we are connecting with our friends who we haven’t seen in ages on Zoom and the like, and while I miss our family I’m a little excited at the prospect of the two of us cooking a holiday meal for just the two of us on the actual holiday itself.

    • Cooking at least one recipe from every cookbook sounds like an ambitious but rewarding project to me! I should give that a whirl–I have a handful of gifted cookbooks but my preferred method is a little more aleatory (let’s google two or three ingredients and see what comes up!) so I rarely crack them open. I look forward to seeing your results! Your photos are always gorgeous.

  2. Pingback: What I’m cooking: Eff It Edition | Scenes of Eating·

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