It has been two weeks since The Kitchen Scout popped into your Friday email. Since that time, we’ve celebrated Easter and another quarantine birthday in our home. The days do run into each other, although the structure of the work week for my husband and our girls provides some framework for our at-home lives. We’ve fallen into somewhat of a routine, dinner predictably at 6:30 pm which brings everyone to the table often lingering afterwards for conversations about issues large and small. Numerous puzzles have been completed and returned to their boxes. Netflix has been helpful for filling in some gaps. My husband has become an expert coffee maker and I couldn’t be happier.
Because I have always enjoyed cataloguing, I am keeping a diary of the meals we are making at home during this time. I am religious about writing down meals (and other activities) when we travel so why not make meaning out of this unique time as well. I hope someday we all have the chance to look back and say, “remember when we were stuck in the house and all we thought about was what we were having for dinner?”. As an Armenian, this is nothing different – we are always thinking about our next meal. But during quarantine, the predictability of the evening sit-down has taken on even greater meaning. It’s a routine among chaos, a momentary disruption of shaky ground. While the fatigue of constant meal prep has set in at times, I am always grateful for day’s end.
But there have been times over the past couple of weeks when I have felt great sadness, for the people who are losing the battle to this virus, but also for the way our lives have become so separated from each other. As I was getting ready to play online bridge the other day, it struck me in a fantastical way, what if our friends only existed online? Has Facebook given us a taste of that already – having relationships that are easy because we don’t have to see each other face-to-face, put in that kind of diligent work to establish and maintain a friendship? Does it almost make it easier, during this time, to flush out who we want to see and who we don’t? And going forward, what do our friendships look like, at least as long as the social distancing is required or more likely, suggested, to keep us as healthy as possible. These are the questions that I wonder about, along with the concern for the everyday lives of small business owners who need to open their shops and welcome the world back.
One more thought. It seems natural that we are all accepting this new normal at our own pace and personal preferences. I’m not personally viewing this quarantine as my chance to learn a new skill or make significant dents in home improvement or otherwise “accomplish” something. Nobody is going to ask me to write an essay on what I did during my home quarantine, thankfully. Nowhere will I have to admit (other than right here) that there have been days when I haven’t changed out of my bathrobe until after lunch. I can’t put that added pressure onto myself – and that’s coming from someone who is a pressure cooker! My hopes are to remain connected to my friends and family, eat reasonably well (see below), exercise, support my family members who are continuing to work and frankly, not allow worry about the future to overcome me. Oh, and no harm to come to my phone, computer or appliances, although that would still be a good problem to have. Is that asking too much?
So, what have you been cooking? I have to say that we have definitely been living by the “no carb left behind” on certain nights. It’s strange because we are welcoming spring and yet I am still maintaining a “comfort food” kitchen, more reminiscent of winter cooking. I listened to a podcast with a restaurateur from upstate New York that my culinary school friend, Bobbi sent to me. This restaurateur continues to serve take-out to clients and says that food right now is more about nourishment than it is about being impressive. I agree as you will see below.
We did light the grill for the first time last weekend, and will likely continue with that on occasion. I’m hoping for a good pasta primavera in our future, even if I make it with frozen vegetables. Maybe I’ll find some rhubarb in a few weeks time for a delicious crisp. Fiddleheads to saute for my husband and daughter who adore the curly fern. And oh boy I can’t wait to indulge in some gorgeous radishes for my salads. Time will tell what’s in store.
Among the dishes I have cooked have been these cinnamon rolls for my daughter’s birthday breakfast which were an indulgence but made everyone happy…
Zucchini Pasta that I learned by watching this video was simple and delicious. I used this pasta that I purchased at Eataly back in February that may have been the key to making this 4 ingredient dish as delicious as it was. I can try to write this recipe up for you if you’re interested…
Continuing with our comfort food/no-carb left behind theme, I made our favorite mac and cheese from Martha Stewart which I have been making forever. I threw in some cauliflower florets with the pasta so I got a vegetable into the mix without a lot of work because, quarantine. You can cut back on the cheese and use store bought bread crumbs like I did…
Do you follow Michael Scelfo on Instagram? If you love food, you need to be inspired by what he is cooking “at home”. Michael is the chef owner of Alden & Harlow, Waypoint and The Longfellow Bar which we have been to and loved. The food he creates at home is enviable and I want to step through my Instagram with all of his posts and dig right in. He has saved what he has been making in his highlights so you too can be inspired. I made a riff on a fish dish he created that he usual serves to his family on Christmas Eve. I used cod that was marinated for just 45 minutes in a mix of lemon juice, zest, white wine, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and evoo. The fish was then placed in the pan, with the liquid and topped with a coating of panko, pecorino, parsley, scallion, hot red pepper, salt and pepper that was moistened with some more evoo. Baked at 450 (I might do 400-425 next time) for 30 minutes and garnished with some cherry tomatoes. Easy, delish. Thank you, Michael…
We did healthy bowls one night with lots of roasted veggies and chicken over rice or greens…
And I had a pound of stew meat that needed to be used so I made a slow cooker Goulash. I used this recipe (but not to the word) as my framework and it came out great. I added some mushrooms that needed to be used up and thickened the sauce with a beurre manie at the end. And Spinach-Artichoke Quesadillas that I made in the oven were an easy meatless Monday for the weary cook.
Our vegetarian daughter loves Fried Rice so when I saw this recipe for Sheet Pan Fried Rice on the Food Network site, I knew I had to try it. When you are exhausted, it’s perfect because you really have to do almost no work, other than cook the rice ahead so it can cool completely and dry out. I cooked mine the day before. We did not add the shrimp, but I added some water chestnuts which my husband loves and chili paste because we wanted some heat. I will make this again for sure…
I asked a few weeks ago if anyone would be interested in Grandma’s Queenie’s meatloaf recipe and turns out a few of you are, so I am including it in this post. Meatloaf may not be “impressive” but it certainly serves as nourishment combined with a little bit of comfort. And leftovers are terrific. My good friend, Dale tested the recipe for me and she and her husband said it was moist and tangy, a more gourmet version of a family favorite. Thank you, Dale! You can make this with ground turkey (not turkey breast!) if you prefer. PS – my grandmother’s given name was the Armenian, Takouhi means Queen 🙂
And mine which was a half-recipe that I made in a 8 by 5 Le Creuset that I think I found at Home Goods…
Which reminds me, what I perhaps miss the most is the spontaneity of life. Missing an ingredient or feel like something specific for dinner, run to the store. Have a half hour to kill, pop into Home Goods or T.J. Maxx for a browse. Want a new book, visit your favorite independent or go to the library. Meet a friend for coffee, the list goes on indefinitely. We will get to the other side and I look forward to seeing you all there.
Until next time…
One Year Ago: Blackberry and Brie Pizzette
Two Years Ago: Mexican Street Corn Salad
Five Years Ago: Armenian Rice Pilaf
This is a slightly updated version of maternal grandmother's recipe for a traditional meatloaf that has a hint of spice from prepared horseradish and umami from a touch of soy sauce which was an ingredient listed, but likely not used in her version. I made some other changes like cutting way back on the breadcrumbs to make a meatier, lighter loaf. You can make this with ground turkey (not turkey breast) if you prefer. Note - when I recently made half the recipe, I used an XL egg because I was saving my large eggs for baking and it turned out just fine, if not a little moister. Grandma Queenie always served this with double stuffed potatoes and a green salad that she garnished with chopped parsley, an fresh herb that she absolutely loved. Enjoy.
- 2 pounds ground beef (85% fat is preferable for best flavor)
- 2 large eggs, beaten (see note above)
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (use more if you want a stiffer, denser loaf)
- 3/4 cups minced onion
- 1/2 small red pepper, diced (optional)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix the eggs, ketchup, bread crumbs, onion, pepper if using, milk, horseradish, soy sauce, dry mustard, granulated garlic, salt pepper and parsley until combined. Add the beef (or ground turkey) to the bowl and gently mix together until everything is incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Place meatloaf mixture into a prepared loaf pan, making sure to press down gently so there are no air pockets.
- Spread a little ketchup over the top.
- Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes. Add some additional ketchup to the top and bake an additional 15 minutes. Drain off any extra liquid and let the meatloaf sit, covered for about 15 minutes before slicing.
So many inspiring ideas here, Val! Thank you! That zucchini pasta was crazy delicious for such simple ingredients. You and I are definitely living parallel lives! Your comment about someday looking back on this time reminded me of something I’d just read about a thought experiment: “Let yourself go forward into the future 10 years, and sit with a loved one looking back on this window in your history. How would you like to be describing how you managed yourself…your heart, your relationships, your vision for the life you wanted? And now, what would help you today to move you closer to that description in 10 years?” Right now I feel like I’m on the right track but it’s definitely tricky! Sending a big hug! XOXO
Such perfect timing, Val!! Tomorrow is Madeleine’s bday, and I”m going to attempt the cinnamon rolls for her bday breakfast and the sheet pan fried rice for dinner tonight!! Thanks for the inspiration!!!
Thanks for keeping this going Val. It provides consistency of days past to my Friday morning. I will definitely be trying some of these recipes, especially the mac and cheese for the boys and the fried rice! I also love that you include past years recipes-I’m adding them into next weeks rotation too. I have been making the No Knead bread from Pinch of Yum every other day. I prefer that recipe to Mark Bittman’s. I made a big pot of soup using lots of leftover veggies yesterday and made a yummy frittata. And apparently along with everyone else, I have been making lots of banana bread before I knew it was a quarantine “thing”! Finn and I have also been making lots of açaí bowls!
As always, beautifully written and summing up many of our thoughts. I love to cook but daily lunch and dinner are getting to be a bit much, especially because of the need to reverse engineer by what I have on hand. However, we are eating well so no complaints! Thanks for the new ideas! Love to you all. Allyson