Cooking In The Time of the Coronavirus

At a local grocery store yesterday, I discovered that shoppers had completely emptied the trays for pork and chicken at the meat counter. When I asked if there were any of these products in reserve, the young butcher politely replied, “No, maybe tomorrow morning.” Then I glanced over at the fresh seafood section adjacent to the meat department, and saw that it was surprisingly well stocked.  I ordered some cod fillets, and then made a quick tour of the store, adding to my cart a large bag of pre-washed spinach, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a couple of lemons, and a can of chickpeas.  I had a recipe in mind for dinner.

Roasted cod on a bed of spinach, tomatoes, and chickpeas, a delicious all-in-one main course, is a recipe I have shared several times on this blog. It checks off several boxes for me—it calls for easily found ingredients, takes less than an hour from start to finish (20 minutes to prep and 20 or more minutes in the oven), and perhaps most important right now, it’s healthy.

Although cod fillets are delicious, halibut, hake, or other firm fish fillets also work. The fillets are arranged atop a bed of baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, and chick- peas, all layered on a large rimmed baking sheet. A touch of minced garlic and chopped black olives (both of which I had in my fridge), add extra flavor.Line  

When roasted, the fish, scented generously with lemon, is moist, while the spinach and tomatoes wilt and meld into a vibrant mélange. Here’s hoping everyone is keeping safe, staying well, and eating healthily!

 

 

What to Buy and Cook During the Coronavirus

 

Although I had chosen a nice appetizer to feature on my blog this week, I realized that what most of my friends and colleagues were talking about was what to stock up on for cooking during these challenging times when the Covid19 seems to be advancing  across our country. I’ve made multiple trips to grocery stores in my small New England town, each time picking up additional items.  So, this week, I’d  thought I share my list as well a couple of recipes for dishes made with pantry staples.

Here are two simple recipes to assemble from easy-to-have on hand ingredients. Emergency Red Beans and Rice is my go to dish not just for emergencies (like New England snowstorm weather), but through much of the year as well. And, Broccoli Soup with Curried Creme Fraiche takes less than 45 minutes to prepare and when paired with crusty bread and a salad is hearty enough to be a main course.  Oh, and here are some of the items I’ve been packing into my shopping bags.

FOR THE FREEZER

Risotto, Pasta, and Savory Tarts- Trader Joe’s prepared risottos-either their asparagus risotto or their mushroom risotto (the small bags  will feed two modestly)– are easy to use straight from the freezer. I top each serving with 2 or 3 sautéed sea scallops for some protein, and sprinkle everything with Parmesan cheese.  Trader’s Joe’s Alsatian tart Continue reading

Delicious Apple Napoleons Are A Hit at  Book Club

When February rolled around this winter, I knew it was my time to host my book club.I just didn’t know what I was going to serve for our afternoon gathering. Besides loving to read, our members are all foodies, so naturally  I wanted the spread to be special.  I finally decided on making a bowl of broccoli soup with curried crème fraiche that I offered in small portions ladled into ramekins.  A quartet of cheeses filled a cheese board along with grapes, apples, and crispy date-studded crackers.  On the sweet side, I arranged a bowl of blueberries and raspberries next to a basket of almond and orange tuiles. But, the winning dish turned out to be Apple Napoleons, my twist on traditional French pastries known as Napoleons or mille feuilles that usually include a custard filling.

I used purchased puff pastry, cutting a sheet of the dough into rectangles and then baking them until they had risen and were golden and flaky. The pastries were halved, and the bottom layers spread with lemon- and ginger-scented crème fraiche. Next they were topped with spiced sautéed apple Continue reading

Dark Chocolate and Orange Pots de Crème for Valentine’s Day

For New Year’s Eve this past year, I prepared a hearty soup supper and ended it with luscious little dark chocolate and orange pots de crème. After posting photos of the evening’s menu on Facebook, many of my FB friends commented enthusiastically about this simple dessert.  So, as Valentine neared this month, I thought why not make them again for Cupid’s Day!

 Pots de crème, French for little pots of cream, are one of the easiest confections for home cooks to prepare. They take only minutes to assemble, and then typically need less than half an hour of unattended time in the oven. After chilling, they can easily rest in the fridge overnight for serving the next day. Oh, and most of the  ingredients called for are easy to find in a Continue reading

Warming Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout for Cold Winter Nights

The French have a long tradition of preparing slow-cooked stews, dishes that require a little extra time, but reward with their fork-tender meat and vegetables. Ragouts, as they are often called, are meals in themselves, and can be served alone or ladled over pasta, potatoes, polenta, or other grains of choice. Oh, and did I mention that these all-in-one dishes can be prepared ahead, and actually improve in flavor after resting in the fridge for a couple of days? Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout with Fennell, Tomatoes, and Garlic has all  these qualities, and is perfect to stave off the cold of winter, especially here in New England where I live.

I’ve made this ragout several times this month for cooking classes and for friends. On each occasion people have commented on the tenderness of the braised lamb and vegetables and appreciated the lightness yet hearty accent of the sauce. To prepare it, lamb stew meat is Continue reading

A Delicious Salad for Eating Well in the New Year

Like most of our friends, my husband and I have resolved to eat well but healthier in the new year—plenty of vegetables, smaller portions of meats, more fish, and definitely more salads. The latter is a challenge in our house since my spouse is not enthusiastic about mounds of greens tossed in dressing. However, one salad has recently scored high points with him–baby spinach and sliced Belgian endives dressed in a sherry vinaigrette, topped with a sauté of mixed mushrooms and a trio of pan-seared scallops.

This salad is a study in contrasts. Warm mushrooms and scallops are arranged over room-temperature salad greens. The natural sweetness of Continue reading

Warming Potato and Leek Soup with an Array of Garnishes for Winter Nights

Winter came early to New England this year. It was barely December when we had our first snow fall! The new season has given us plenty of days with temperatures in the teens as well as enough snow to keep the ground covered in white.  For me, this weather signals that it’s time for soup cooking so my soup pot has been out more than it’s been  in the cupboard this past month. One of my favorites is a creamy potato and leek soup made even more tempting by being served with a selection of simple, tempting garnishes. The idea came from Kirsten Bell, a fellow New Englander, who prepared a potato soup with a smorgasbord of trimmings for her own family. 

Once I heard about her soup “buffet,” I couldn’t wait to try my own version!  The potato and leek soup which follows is a traditional French classic to which I’ve added a little crème fraiche plus half and half for a richer Continue reading

Easy Cranberry Orange Cake Makes a Perfect Dessert for the Holidays

While culling my files for a dessert to use up the cranberries remaining in my fridge, something fortuitous happened. I was tagged on Instagram by a person whose handle is #bakerynerd. The writer posted that they had recently baked a cranberry orange upside down cake created by me! It took a few minutes to locate the recipe that had originally appeared in 1999 in my former syndicated column, “That’s Entertaining.” I was thrilled that this mystery baker had enjoyed the cake, and pulled out the recipe to try it 20 years later.

Nothing could have be simpler. Cranberries, quickly simmered with sugar and orange juice along with a pat of butter, were spooned into a cake pan Continue reading

Delicious Appetizers for the Holidays–Sliders with Shaved Beef Tenderloin and Artichoke Red Pepper Relish

At a holiday cooking class this week, the most popular dish I prepared was sliders filled with extra thin slices of beef tenderloin, then mounded with homemade artichoke, red pepper, and olive relish.

For the rolls, top-cut hot dog buns (often used for lobster rolls) worked perfectly. They were quickly sautéed in butter and oil until golden, then spread with goat cheese before the meat and relish were added. Cut in half, they made irresistible holiday appetizers–the 24 students in the class managed to down four dozen of these showstopper savories that evening!

This recipe involves three steps: preparing the relish, pan-searing the beef, Continue reading

Three Favorite Thanksgiving Trimmings!

 

Roast turkey with herb butter and shallot pan gravy served with Southern cornbread dressing–those are the two mainstays of our family’s Thanksgiving menu. If I changed either of them, no one would come to the table! (Several years ago I offered up a fine cider- basted turkey along with cornbread dressing studded with root vegetables, and faced a near rebellion from my clan.) On the other hand, our group of hearty eaters is open to trying new trimmings be they appetizers, side dishes, or desserts.

So, this year, I thought I’d share with readers some of my favorite dishes that have accompanied our steadfast bird and dressing over the years. Happy Thanksgiving from my table to yours!

 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Turnips with Apple Date Relish

For a colorful vegetable side, consider these root vegetables which are blanched, smashed, then, seasoned with butter. A sauté of diced apples and dates in brown sugar makes a beautiful garnish. I first made this dish for a magazine Thanksgiving story twenty years ago, but for the new version, I added extra butter to the vegetables and increased the scrumptious sautéed apple date relish. The recipe follows here on this page.

 

Roasted Grape, Goat Cheese, and Walnut Toasts

For appetizers, this seasonal starter is simple to assemble and can be prepared several hours in advance. It’s also easy to transport if you’re a guest contributing to a Thanksgiving dinner. Just click on the recipe title for the recipe.

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Bars

For dessert try these bars, a delectable departure from traditional pumpkin pie. They are prepared with a buttery crust that is pressed into a baking pan, then baked until golden. A creamy, spiced pumpkin mixture is added next, followed by a sprinkle of pecan toffee streusel. Cut into squares and served with dollops of whipped cream, these bars could definitely rival a classic pumpkin pie.  Just click on the recipe title for the recipe