Cooking during a pandemic is about as weird as it sounds.
Some ingredients are hard to come by. Perhaps the meat cooler was empty when you ventured out. Or there was a run on milk — both of the cow and nut variety.
Making matters worse: Running out to the supermarket feels, well, iffy. Maintaining at least 6 feet can be tough, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you need.
Like it or not, it’s time to get resourceful and, if necessary, to try something different.
So let’s compare notes. What are the recipes you keep coming back to during your extended stay at home? Or do you have a cool cooking tip that’s particularly helpful now?
Share yours at firstname.lastname@example.org and use the subject RECIPE.
Note: Basic, obvious submissions like “bacon and eggs” will be ignored. But something like “pasta sauce” will be welcomed and reviewed carefully. Bring some game here, people.
In the meantime, here are a few from The DC Media Bunker Commissary (aka the home kitchen). These might require an order to some place like Amazon. But if you spend a few extra bucks and order in bulk, it’ll be easier to stay home in the months to come.
- Top chefs save the day with recipes for quarantine comfort foods
- DC-area chefs offer online cooking lessons during coronavirus outbreak
- Have to cook from home for the first time? Here’s what you need to know
Seitan: It chews like chicken
Perhaps you couldn’t find any chicken at the supermarket. It’s time to consider a popular plant-based alternative.
Seitan is the exact opposite of gluten-free, because it is almost all gluten, which is the stretchy protein found in wheat. That texture makes it a good high-protein substitute for bird.
The downside here is that it can be hard for your body to break down. Portion control and some added considerations (see below) might be necessary.
We start with the dough itself.
- 2 cups vital wheat gluten
- 1 cup nutritional yeast. (Whether it’s in flakes or powder form doesn’t matter. As long as it’s nutritional yeast, you’re good.)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons liquid aminos or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- About 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock/broth
- Water (if necessary; rarely is)
- Mix up the dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl.
- Add the liquid aminos and olive oil. Clumps will appear!
- Splash in a little broth.
- Mix it up a little with your hands to ensure it clumps. Splash in a little more broth. Repeat as the broth and dry mix combine to become one big clump of dough. You might have a little broth left over. That’s OK — and in my experience, normal. If all the broth is absorbed and you still have dry mix to soak up, that’s where the water comes in.
- Knead the dough for up to 10 minutes. We’re aiming for elasticity here. This is what activates the proteins and makes them chewy. You will have forearms like Popeye after this.
From here, two of your options include …
- Rub down the loaf with olive oil.
- Wrap loaf in foil and bake at 325 degrees for 80 minutes or so.
The result is ready to eat and can be cut up for tacos, sandwiches etc.
Air frying it for buffalo-wing-style seitan
- Cut it into chicken-wing-size wedges of various shapes.
- Cook for 7 minutes at 370 degrees or so. Flip them over about 3-4 minutes in. (You might have to do it in batches.)
- Melt down some vegan butter in a saucepan on medium heat and mix in Frank’s RedHot sauce until it hits that familiar orange color; reduce to low heat.
- Once the seitan is done in the air fryer, put it in the saucepan for a few minutes so they can soak up all the good stuff.
Seitan is also fantastic when it’s battered and deep-fried, but we’ll get into that some other time.
For the sake of [REDACTED] it’s suggested you pop a few of these before you take that first bite.
Oat milk is hard to find again, in part because the store-bought variety lasts longer in the fridge than dairy milk.
If you’re not one of the lucky ones who were able to spend $5 for a half-gallon, good news: You can make this stuff at home. It works great in coffee and on cereal, and can be substituted for recipes that use milk (in theory).
- 2 cups rolled oats
- Maple syrup to taste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 cups of water
- Soak 2 cups of rolled oats in water for an hour or so. (Some soak them overnight, which seems like overkill. If you have the time, go for it.)
- Dump it all in a colander, and rinse it off well.
- Dump the strained oats in a blender.
- Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and about a quarter-cup of maple syrup. Adjust this amount to your preference. Other sweeteners will probably be fine, too. You’ll just have to experiment until you hit the “sweet spot,” so to speak.
- Add the water. Add less for a thicker consistency; add more for a thinner consistency.
- Liquefy it all for about a minute.
- Put a nut milk filter bag inside a mixing bowl. Pour the blended contents into the nut milk filter bag, which will hold in the oat pulp as the liquid goes through it, into the bowl.
- Close the bag and gently knead it with your clean hands to get the rest of the liquid out. You can save the remaining oat pulp for eating or cooking experiments (e.g., waffle batter) later.
- Pour the liquid into sealable bottles — perhaps these. It lasts about a week or so. But because you’ll get less than 2 quarts per batch, you’ll probably go through it all by then. Note that it will separate in the fridge. Just shake it up good before you pour it.
Here’s a delicious snack.
Archaeologists, religious scholars and astronomers debate the myth of Secret Sandwich. This Writer cannot confirm its existence. Nor can he confirm that its supposed origins were in a kitchen, late at night, when the inventor got inexplicably hungry and wanted to experiment without waking up anyone.
What you’ll need: Cookie butter, white bread and regular butter. (Vegan options like Smart Balance are fine.)
- 2 slices of white bread.
- 1 metric boatload of cookie butter.
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of dairy or nondairy butter.
- Warm up a skillet at medium heat. Spread regular butter generously on both sides of both slices.
- Once the skillet is heated, throw on the bread slices and brown both sides. Remove from heat when adequately browned and throw ‘em on a plate.
- Generously spread the cookie butter. Substituting peanut butter and/or jam is another option, but fundamentalists insist on cookie butter only.
If anyone asks you about Secret Sandwich, play dumb. You have never heard of Secret Sandwich.
Reader recipe No. 1: Lori’s Fried Rice
One reader, Lori, passed this one along. She says it’s a “super versatile” dish good for stretching a food budget. It also works well with proteins not generally associated with fried rice, such as sausage.
- Cold cooked rice, ideally chilled for a day or more. (Otherwise, it turns into a sticky mush.)
- Onion or shallots. Can substitute green onion
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, plus a 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Can substitute any oil that has a high smoke point (i.e., NOT olive oil)
- Vegetables, preferably frozen peas and carrots
- At least one egg. It does not have to be scrambled
- Soy sauce, tamari or salt
- Any leftover cooked meat cut into small chunks (optional)
- Garlic (optional)
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of mirin, but can substitute rice wine, regular wine or even a little vodka mixed with 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Heat half of the oil in a large skillet at medium high.
- Cook a scrambled egg as if it were a small omelet, in one layer, so no egg sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- Chop and set aside on a plate. If any egg is stuck to the pan, clean the pan.
- Add the rest of the oil, and saute the onion, veggies and garlic. (Give the onion a small head start.)
- Add the meat to the skillet and cook just long enough to heat. Lower to medium low heat.
- Add rice and pour the liquids over the rice with a little water if the rice is very dry.
- Cook just long enough to heat the rice. Add cooked egg and adjust salt/soy to taste.
- If using it, add the green onion last.
All right. Your turn. What’s working for you in the kitchen during this pandemic?
Share them with us at email@example.com.
And if you can, stay the heck at home ya turkeys.