Cooking in the time of the coronavirus is about the spirit as much as the body. In the best of times, making and enjoying good food is one of the joys and comforts of life. In the worst of times, the pleasure, diversion, and comfort it brings are more important than ever.
It’s not surprising then, that people everywhere are spending more time in the kitchen since Covid-19 has transformed our world and “stay at home, save lives” measures have gone into effect.
In this post, I’ll share some of the food we’ve been making at My Eclectic Café.
A Baking Renaissance?
Let’s start with that loaf of whole wheat bread above, which I baked earlier this week.
It appears that Covid-19 may have given rise to a home-bread-baking renaissance. Flour has disappeared from market shelves in many places, per reports we’ve heard, and we’ve seen scant supplies in our own area. When we decided to bake bread a week ago, all of our local stores were out of yeast.
Fortunately, the cafe always has a stash of flour, and kind friends in Washington state mailed us yeast from their own pantry and local market to keep bread in our oven as the pandemic continues.
I made the bread above from a simple King Arthur Flour (KAF) recipe, easy to follow for even novice bakers. You can find it on the KAF website here.
While I’ve baked bread before, I was trying this recipe for the first time and would use it again. I had the KAF white whole wheat flour specified, chose the molasses option for a darker loaf, and left out the dried milk.
The bread was moist and flavorful, with a chewy, well-browned crust, made great toast, and stayed fresh for days. It was great with the vegetable soup below.
I’ve baked with several types of KAF flour for years and recommend it. Their website is a valuable source of tips, recipes, and informative articles and reviews for beginning to experienced bakers.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Central
Healthy eating is always a priority at My Eclectic Café, with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at the center of our cooking. Since the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve been amplifying that focus. It’s a good time to be vegetarian: When other foods have been swept off the shelves, we’ve found the produce section of our stores well-stocked.
Before our Southern California weather hit 90 degrees this week, we enjoyed this spicy, colorful mixed vegetable soup: cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, Napa cabbage and corn with brown rice and Penzey’s southwest seasoning (a mix of spices and herbs with the heat of ancho, cayenne and chipotle peppers).
Such fresh, homemade soups have been a lunchtime staple — comfort food with the benefit of numerous vitamins and nutrients for staying well and keeping the immune system strong.
Salads, made with diverse vegetables or fruits, nuts, and selected proteins, have also been on our daily menu.
If you’re shopping much less often, as we are, to limit potential exposure to the virus, heads of radicchio and Napa (Chinese) cabbage are both versatile, long-lasting salad ingredients. They also go well together in a salad. Napa cabbage leaves are much more tender than those of red or green cabbage. They also have a mild, slightly sweet flavor that contrasts nicely with the bitey radicchio.
Open the cafe refrigerator, and you’ll find it brimming with citrus fruit. We’ve eaten tons of it in the past few months, as I fought to get over a mean bout of bronchitis and the Covid-19 pandemic burgeoned.
Grapefruit, tangerines, oranges, lemons. Rich in Vitamin C and other nutrients, they’re a constant ingredient in our fruit bowls, salads and other dishes, as well as a favorite refreshing snack. I use the juice and zest to add “oomph” to my cooking and baking, especially lemon juice, which brightens any dish. The cafe is blessed to have a prolific and treasured Meyer lemon tree in the backyard.
What’s for Dessert?
While we love dessert at the cafe, we usually keep it light and simple: fresh fruit and a piece of very dark chocolate, or that chocolate with a cup of green tea or breakfast coffee. (Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to have dessert at breakfast — especially now, when we all need some uplifting treats to sweeten the day.)
Endangered Species’ wonderfully smooth bittersweet chocolate (low sugar, 88% percent cocoa) is a favorite, always on our menu. In addition to making excellent chocolate, the company supports conservation efforts for endangered species and habitats.
I’ve been baking mostly breakfast muffins lately and dreaming of making other pastry, but I did try a new cookie recipe that’s definitely a keeper: cardamom-walnut crescents from The New York Times. My co-confiné agrees.
I love nut cookies, and these are delicious: light and not too sweet, with a great texture. The recipe is adaptable and doesn’t take long to make. My adaptations: raw pecans in the absence of walnuts, olive oil in place of some of the butter, cinnamon instead of cardamom, and a light dusting of powdered sugar when completely cooled. I look forward to trying them with walnuts and cardamom too.
More baking to come at the cafe. I’m craving those anise-almond biscotti above, remembering happy pan meino and coffee breakfasts in Milan, pondering a fruit galette …
It’s a good time to try new recipes, enjoy comforting old favorites, and set a cheering table. What have you been making?
Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2020.
Licensable, high-resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other My Eclectic Café posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click here to view my Vince360 Shutterstock photo portfolio.