It is just amazing what is available on the web during this enforced “Stay Home” period. We’re in Week 5 and the sun is shining. I’ve been drawn into short films that the Miami Jewish Film Festival has been generously posting. Movies I’ve watched are varied – many are Holocaust-oriented as we’ve just remembering Yom HaShoah. There was also a very well done reading of Soap, a dramatization of a heartrending struggle between a Holocaust survivor and The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Sunday morning I watched The Rape of Europa, an early film about the Nazi efforts to denude Europe of the world’s patrimony of art, and the Allied efforts to recover at least some of the stolen treasures. This story was retold a few years ago in the feature film, The Monument Men.
I am also enjoying the weekly Some Good News from John Krasinski, formerly of The Office. He brings some needed recognition and levity to our situation of isolation in the midst of an unpredictable pandemic. I imagine you can google some of these if your interest is piqued.
Some non-blog writing gets squeezed in between my time spent glued to my computer screen. First was a review article about recent works on the Jews of Ioannina for the on-line journal Sephardic Horizons and an abstract for a paper on folk art which just might be accepted and delivered at a conference in Greece in the fall (something to look forward to). I have two more immediate writing assignments (assigned by myself) to complete. Something to keep my mind busy and engaged.
And, I’ve been having fun keeping my family (Constant Companion and Daughter) fed. I thought I’d share some of the dishes we’ve enjoyed … though I keep hinting to Constant Companion about certain inexpensive meal delivery options. Like everyone else, we’re keeping our eyes on our bank accounts and taking care since we have no idea when a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel might appear!
I’ve already written one installment about cooking in isolation, especially using old, old recipes and making use of long ingredients buried in the pantry with seasonal vegetables (see March 21 post). OMG, that’s already a month ago! How time flies … Here’s some of the most recent meals …
Beef pot pie (an attempted variation). I keep boneless beef ribs in the freezer and had some potatoes that were starting to sprout. Why not try something different? This dish was ad hoc, with no recipe. First, I tossed the beef in some flour and braised it to be nicely browned. Into the same pan I must have thrown some chopped onions and mushrooms. Simmer for about an hour.
When they were also nicely cooked, I returned the beef with some (leftover) red wine, and some mushroom bouillon – to cover. I had also boiled and sliced the potatoes. These went on the top to form the “crust.” It tasted good. Perhaps I should have put it under the broiler to crisp the potatoes.
Burgers – turkey with bison. Ground bison is a staple I buy whenever Aldi features it, a reminder of our Oklahoma years. This was another adventure with no recipe. I mixed the two meats together adding some sort of herbs – probably garlic powder, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Then I formed them into patties and put them into a lightly oiled, heated pan. When browned on one side and I turned them. It does not take long, with bison you should not overcook; it can get very dry. I like to serve burgers on a bed of greens (arugula this time) on a lovely Russell Wright platter.
Baked shrimp risotto (a Food & Wine recipe). Again, lots of Arborio rice in the pantry and one last bag of shrimp in the freezer. I was part of a small community of regulars at the free Sunday morning technique classes at our local Williams Sonoma. Unfortunately, the company no longer offers these classes (their loss). I learned from two amazing teachers, Gina and Claire, to make risotto with olive oil in place of butter and also to leave out the cheese (remember Constant Companion is dairy intolerant). Now, several times a year Constant Companion and I enjoy several versions of risotto.
This is the recipe with a few additions. I think this is how I’ll cook risotto now – Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook a chopped onion in oil til soft, add chopped garlic. Add 1 cup of rice and stir to coat with the oil. Stir in about ½ – 1 cup of nice white wine, stir til absorbed. Stir in 3 ½ cups of chicken broth (no need to heat it as in most risotto recipes). Cover and bake for about 20 minutes. Place cleaned shrimp (about a pound) on top of the rice with 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Cover and leave in the oven for about 7 minutes (til shrimp is nicely pink). Sprinkle with some chopped parsley.
Roasting grape/cherry tomatoes. I’ve been fortunate these days to be able to share the proceeds of a food bank with several friends. Last week, we had an abundance of these little tomatoes. I knew they’d not get eaten quickly enough – why not roast them?
To slow roast, preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the tomatoes in half and put on a roasting pan. Lightly spray or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with thyme. Roast for 3 hours … Another recipe calls for a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. I did the long, slow roast. The tomatoes keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, to be used in lots of stuff.
I used these tomatoes in the next two recipes!
Baked meatballs with eggplant – again, no real recipe. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Start with the eggplant. Peel it and cut into about 1” cubes. Salt it and place in colander for about 30 minutes. This is a step to remove the bitterness. Next, mix a pound of ground meat (I use turkey) with about ½ cup of panko (you could use other breadcrumbs or matzah meal left over from Pesach!) with parsley and other herbs. Form into walnut-sized meatballs. Place them into an ovenproof pan, add the rinse eggplant, and about a cup of the roasted tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add about 1 cup of red and top with water to just cover. Bake for an hour. Check in after about a ½ hour to make sure everything is in the sauce, stir if necessary.
Chicken with Eggplant and Pomegranate Molasses. The vegetables were from the food bank. These times draw upon our creativity and memory for clipped recipes. I’d actually made this before, but with fish. Daughter was delighted with it – it’s a keeper recipe in her book. It’s from The Jewish Food Experience, https://jewishfoodexperience.com/.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Start with the eggplant, like in the meatballs dish – peel, cut into 1″ cubes, salt, and leave in a colander for about 20 minutes. Mix together 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses, 1/2 cup date syrup (silan), 1/3 cup of olive oil, and some salt. Mix the marinade with cut chicken (I had 4 thighs and 4 or 5 legs and the eggplant. Place chicken and eggplant and about a cup of the roasted tomatoes into a lightly oiled baking pan, cover with the marinade. Bake for 45-50 minutes, basting a few times. You can also put some cut up potatoes in the pan with the meat.
I served this tasty chicken with a baked zucchini dish (a Thomas Keller dish I saw in tv, looked interesting). Wash the zucchini, cut in half lengthwise. Score the cut side of each half in nice cross hatches. Put cut-side down in a lightly oiled pan and cook til browned (about 10 minutes), then pop into 350 oven for about 10 minutes. With the spaghetti and baked meatballs, we had another nice dinner.
And in these days of limbo – it’s really Tuesday. Yesterday felt like Tuesday! Our daughter is interested in what it was like to grow up in the late 60s, early 70s. My husband and I share our memories and laughter. The Nothing song by The Fugs, an amazing underground rock group, speaks to our situation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UskDupcLM0M.