Well as the world seems to be on pause and we all try to quarantine and stay safe we have more time on our hands and going out is just not an option for eating. I can't say that I am not very anxious about the state of events of the world, but I can't tell you that I have been bored being home either. I have gone back to my passion for cooking. I think not "working" being in the kitchen has kept my creative juices flowing. One of my daughters is living with us in quarantine so we may not get dressed in real clothes all day, but we all convene together at the dinner table each night. I DO try to set the table nicely too, just to have something to look forward to and make us feel we are "out" for dinner. For those that don't know I started in the hospitality business as a caterer. I have been cookign since I was a teenager. I am self taught. One thing led to another and I started a catering company 20 years ago. It morphed into event planning about a dozen years ago. Well there are certainly no parties in the horizon for quite a while so I have gone back to my cooking roots to keep busy. I have never been much of a reader of books or a TV watcher, but I have always love reading cookbooks and listening to music. That turned into cooking with great music playing. While cookbooks are not always handy fr everyone these days, the internet basically allows us a recipe for everything these days. when I was a caterer along with reading my cookbooks i would scour the pages of Bon Appetite Magazine, now the recipes can be found at Epicurious.com. There are so many great online outlets for finding great recipes. In between reading all the news alerts at The New York Times I started to follow NY Times Cooking. They have fantastic and easy to follow recipes ( one below is on my plan for tonight!) I also routinely get ideas from Martha Stewart, I have many of her cookbooks but she has an entire library online! Food 52 is another great sources for recipes and it is organized well you can search by recipe or ingredients easily. Food and Wine is a great source and they have lots of info on pairing spirits as well. I am told that liquor stores are considered "essential" stores that remain open and almost all of them are delivering or have curbside pick up. ( if you live in burbs and have a car they put it in your trunk- no contact between people!!
PRO TIP; just take (disposable) gloves open the box in your driveway and leave the box outside for 2 days before discarding..who cares if it sits in the driveway??!@#$%
SOOO here we are 2020 starts with a bang and before you know it the country is in quarantine. My life has always revolved around food, fashion and decor. Fashion is the last thing on my mind these days as I live in yoga clothes these days. ( although I am making it a point every Friday night to put on "real clothes" and actually do my hair.) I have no pretty decor to take pictures of for a while- except the dinner table I make a point of setting each night. I am cooking each and every day. When panic started to set in I stocked our pantry with dry goods and I think we will be OK for a while. I realize not everyone has the luxury to get more food and or the space to store it so I have been thinking of items to make that last a while, can have multiple purposes or work well with pantry staples. I have also had numerous request for recipes...so while we are in quarantine I am focusing on cooking and just that...parties will happen when we are well and safe again.
If you are NOT a cook, here is my other PRO TIP;
I have many friends and colleagues who are providing meals TO GO and they deliver them to your doorstop. I posted about this in my Instagram account a few days ago, but if you missed it and do not want to cook or WANT TO ORDER FOR Passover or Easter. Check out all these great caterers.
Normally these companies are providing food to the best of the best parties.
One GOOD thing that quarantine has brought us is their delicious food delivered to you at HOME, when normally they provide upscale, larger parties.
I have worked with all of them and can't speak highly enough about them all.
Check them out!!
Now on to some easy recipes and items you can make that last and come from your pantry.
Tomato, Tomaato....one ingredients that makes many tasty & delicious dishes.
You can do so many things with this one ingredient. Let's start with a soup. Unfortunately today feels cold, rainy and dreary in New York and this was the perfect Sunday SOUP. I had some fresh tomatoes going bad so I actually mixed those in with the canned tomatoes.
This was the perfect lunch. Makes a great dinner with a side salad and can last quite a few days in the fridge. Freezes for at least a month. I sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top with herbed oregano crumble.
Started with these pantry ingredients and a small white onion. I always prefer sweet onions, but you can use any kind. Onions are a must to keep on hand for many uses.
To start saute the onions in olive oil and if using fresh tomatoes add those in soon.
Creamy Tomato Soup
3 tsp olive oil
small white onion chopped
1 LB fresh tomatoes chopped or can of chopped or whole tomatoes in their juice and then chop them roughly
small can of tomato paste
28 oz of vegetable broth
1/2 cup cream or 2 scoops of F Factor unflavored powder
Heat the olive oil, saute the onions. Add the fresh tomatoes now if using, otherwise wait until onion is soft before adding the canned tomatoes. cook about 4 minutes and then add in the tomato paste and cook a few minutes until blended well into the soup base. add all the stock and simmer 20 minutes. This recipe originally called for cream which is delicious and the usual way that tomato soup is made. Add the cream now and cook for 10 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender or use an immersion blender. Sprinkle with parmesan if you like and crumbled topping. ( crumble recipe below)
Herbed Bread Crumble
I make mine from scratch with old bread but these can totally be store bought whole or the crushed kind in the can
To make from scratch, cut bread into cubes and toss with olive oil
bake at 350 until dark approx 20 minutes
2 Tbl oregano, fresh is bets but dried works just fine
2Tbl Parmesan cheese
Mix all ingredients together in food processor. Store air tight for 5-7 days.
PRO TIP; In the interest of health I discovered products by F FACTOR. They have various items that correspond to their diet plan and their unflavored protein powder filled with fiber is a nice dietary supplement for the cream in this soup. It thickens the soup without adding dairy or calories if you are interested. They are still shipping products under the quarantine mode.
Now for a great dinner item and a sauce that keeps for a while in the fridge as well as can be frozen for at least a month. I have another use for tomatoes with another flavor. Years ago I used to eat at Mesa Grill in NYC often. I always ordered their BBQ Salmon. When Bobby Flay came out with the Mesa Grill Cookbook I used it all the time in my catering years. I tweaked the recipe over the years as I might not have had all the ingredients when cooking and I still make it often. It is great on salmon. ( see below) we had that for dinner the other night.
The recipe makes a nice portion and I froze some and I have more in the fridge. I have used it on chicken and shrimp as well. When I was a caterer we routinely made BBQ Chicken Quesadillas using this sauce. You can easily take a store bought roast chicken ( or leftovers) shred the chicken on a quesadilla, add sauce some cheese. I like to add sauteed mushrooms. Another great meal with leftovers.
I hope you love this BBQ sauce as much as I do!
BBQ Sauce for Grilled Salmon
adapted from the Mesa Grill Recipe
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced 3 garlic cloves, minced 6 plum tomatoes, coarsely diced
( or you can use tomatoes in the can and drain most of the liquid) 1/4 cup ketchup 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon cayenne 2tbl tablespoon chile powder 1 tablespoon paprika
1 lb. salmon fillet In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the onion and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor, pour into a bowl, and let cool at room temperature. May be refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen.
I marinate my salmon overnight...try to do it for at least a few hours to really flavor the salmon. add salt and pepper to salmon. You want to coat the salmon but not saturate it. Most of the sauce will burn off. Grill or bake at 400 degrees. A 1lb piece of salmon usually takes 8-10 minutes depending on thickness for medium. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
For another pantry dinner this recipe from NY Times cooking below is on my list.
Doesn't it look delicious?!
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, 2 sliced, 1 minced
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
½ cup green or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped 2 ounces
freshly ground pepper
¾ pound spaghetti, preferably a good whole-wheat brand
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
I plan on adding some chopped anchovies as well. Just a small bit, I think it will add a nice little crunch and flavor.
Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sliced garlic over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, about two minutes. Do not let it take on any more color than this. Remove the garlic slices with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the bread crumbs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are crisp. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
Return the pan to medium heat, and add the remaining olive oil, the red pepper flakes and the minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic smells fragrant, and add the tomatoes, capers and olives. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the spaghetti. Cook al dente, following the cooking recommendations on the package but checking about a minute before the suggested time. Drain, and toss with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and parsley on top, toss again briefly and serve, passing the Parmesan at the table.
Another quick meal with canned tomatoes.
While this does require some fresh ingredients, it doesn't take a lot and I find I always have that extra carrot and celery stalk leftover so this was an ideal Sunday Supper meal we plan to have tonight. I had ground beef in the freezer. This Bolognese sauce was so quick and easy.
Well. quick to prepare, it does need time to simmer , but that doesn't seem to be a problem. I'm not exactly going anywhere today!
With all this cooking and eating I am trying to level things up:)!
The easiest and tastiest Bolognese Sauce
2 tbl olive oil
2 tbl butter
1/2 white onion chopped
2 celery sticks chopped small
1-2 carrots chopped small
2 tsp chopped garlic
4 lbs tomatoes- this can be half fresh half canned or all canned. ( I use both)
2 cups red wine
1 cup milk
whole milk is ideal but I don't use it at home so substituted skim and it was fine
1 tsp red pepper flakes ( or more if you like spicy)
salt and pepper to taste ( I use regular black pepper on top of the flaked red pepper)
couple tablespoons Chopped Parsely ( optional)
Parmesan cheese for serving
Heat the butter and oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sweat a few minutes until soft. I use high heat here but watch closely so you don't burn. Add the tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes until soft. Add the wine and lower heat to medium. Cook until evaporated until about 3/4 is gone. Add the milk and stir well. add the red pepper and salt and pepper. Lower your heat to very low and simmer for another hour. Add to your favorite cooked pasta. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.
All of these dishes are hearty enough to enjoy on their own or just add a nice but very flavorful salad.
I actually used more staple pantry items to make a delicious sundried tomato dressing. Sundried tomatoes can be found in the jar or dried and save for a very long time. I happen to always have olives on hand and Parmesan cheese last for a really long time. You can use any kind of lettuce but I recommend this over a tri color blend like radicchio, endive and arugula,
Sundried Tomato Dressing
1 shallot chopped
1tsp garlic, chopped
( shallots keep for a long time like onions - I use them often to flavor things when an onion is too strong)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8-10 sundried tomatoes
1 cup olive oil
This can easily be whisked by hand. ( you must chop the sundried tomatoes very small) If you have a food processor, it take just a minute and the consistency is better. Mix all the ingredients together.
Tri Colore Salad
Pine Nuts ( optional)
Well, I may not be a cookbook writer like the experts below, but hoping you find some great ideas for your quarantine cooking and entertaining needs in the days to come. Let me know how your cooking comes out and send any request my way. With n parties to highlight these days I will be sending lots more cooking ideas your way!
Wishing you all easy days in quarantine. Stay safe and well!!