The Pandemic Palate 4

Tags

, , , , , ,

In early May, I wrote, “In the US, the pandemic has reached a new stage called F*** It. In this stage, everyone irresponsibly flocks to get haircuts, sunbathe on the beaches, and restock the liquor cabinet.” Sadly, we have moved beyond the irresponsible to the irredeemable. Stupidity and the politicizing of science have claimed a shocking and unutterably sad toll in American lives.

Meanwhile, the Long Suffering Husband and I stay in as much as we can. We are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. I have cooked every night this summer, trying to craft cheerful and comforting meals while avoiding the dreaded “Covid Nineteen” of added pounds from pasta and sourdough bread.

The LSH gets a “salad box” from our curbside produce vendor every week, and one of my jobs is to figure out how to use the avocados. I made these rice bowls with tofu, red bell peppers, avocado, cilantro and peanut sauce.

Rice bowls with tofu and veggies.

Another warm rice bowl has a mixture of flavors and textures: stir-fried bell pepper, soft-boiled egg from a happy chicken, crispy kale leaves, scallions and pickles. 

Rice bowl with crispy kale leaves and soft-boiled egg, garnished with sesame seeds.

Here is a hearty meal: oat burgers smothered in mushrooms with sides of lemon broccoli and coconut-tempeh rice.

Oat burgers smothered in mushrooms.

As consolation for being unable to travel to New York City, The LSH got me the Superiority Burger Cookbook. I haven’t made their burger yet (I’m not that crazy about quinoa), I tried their lovely burnt broccoli salad and it was a big hit.

Burnt broccoli salad, my way. Grilling the broccoli is actually a great technique, unless your kitchen is already 90 degrees Fahrenheit because there is a giant heat dome over the Midwest.

Don’t let all these veggies fool you. I’ve surely done more baking in the past three months than in the whole previous year. I still have my sourdough starter in the fridge, but I use it mostly for pancakes and granola, or to add flavor to other breads.

Sourdough discard is a great, flavorful binder for granola. This one has oats with pecans, coconut and blueberries.

After I tried Melissa Clark’s olive-cheese quick bread recipe, I went a bit crazy because it’s so easy compared to sourdough.

Olive cheese bread. This is fantastic.

I love it that this is so much like poundcake, but with a quarter cup of oil instead of a stick of butter. The moisture comes from yogurt. Of course, there’s also fat in the added sharp cheese. I decided to adapt this as a sweet tea bread, and came up with a delicious almond version by subbing in a cup of cottage cheese for the hard grated cheese and adding some sugar, almond extract and sliced almonds. Instead of using salt, I tossed in a scant handful of hard grated cheese. The middle has a layer of “marzipan” (almonds and sugar processed together), and the same mixture is sprinkled on top.

My almond-cheese loaf with crunchy sugar-almond crust. Diet food, right?

In the following weeks, I used the same basic recipe to make banana chocolate-chip bread, and regular banana bread. It’s a very forgiving recipe. You just have to make sure the dough stays about as thick as the original, and bake it long enough to account for any extra volume or moisture. My loaves can take up to an hour.

Banana bread! I always bake it in my bundt pan.

Owing to a medical condition, I had to lay off alcohol for a couple of months. It hasn’t been easy. Without wine, I found myself craving sweets, which is probably the reason I keep baking these sweet breads. And I found a way to satisfy my cravings even more quickly…

Two pounds of licorice, non-gelatin gummies and wrapped candies from Sockerbit in New York.