Given I’ve struggled with chronic illness for more than a decade, I felt pretty confident in my ability to stay home and quarantine.
Sure, many things have remained unchanged for us. We don’t visit many folks, as I’m rarely able to leave home. I sleep a lot, we order takeout instead of eating out, and my current job has always been remote. As for long-term commitments like joining sports or clubs, we don’t make many, as I’d have to cart my kids around without wiggle room needed should my health issues flare.
I felt prepared. In a good place. I filled my pantry for the long haul and settled into staying home and staying safe.
As it turns out, quarantine during a pandemic takes all you think you’ve prepared for and throws it out the window. People I used to rely on for stability lose their minds. Everyone is having the same meltdown I tend to have monthly about not participating in life. Grocery shelves are empty of basic stapes like flour, and purchasing them online takes weeks.
My fridge now is a conglomerate of overripe fruit, too much packaged cheese and random condiments left over from reviewing cookbooks past. My pantry has petered out to consist mostly of nut butters, beans, canned tuna and bags of random gluten-free grains. And this doesn’t even touch on my biggest issue.
All I want to eat is cake.
I have to face it. As conditioned as I may be to a slower way of life, it’s no quarantine. I’m just as unprepared as the masses. We really are all in this together.
So, I offer you three books I’ve hunted down that are helping me with the excesses and shortages in my pantry and fridge while also meeting my need for well-rounded meals, cocktails and, of course, cake.
“Cool Beans” by Joe Yonan, Ten Speed Press, $30: So many beans. And I’m not referring to the book here. What was I thinking in my pre-homebound pantry run? I proudly gathered all varieties of dried and canned beans, congratulating my resourcefulness, ignorant that dinner would not become a careful pot of simmering legumes, but rather Cheetos, wine and sliced ham.
“Cool Beans” covers soup, but also much more. Catching my eye, the chocolate cake of the “Cool Beans” world — chocolate, red bean and rose brownies. Digging out a half-used bottle of rosewater — from the aforementioned random ingredient collection — I gathered cans of adzuki beans and, without questioning the odd conglomeration of ingredients, baked up one pan of brownies I felt far less guilt devouring.
“Kitchen Remix” by Charlotte Druckman, Clarkson Potter, $28: “Kitchen Remix” is the best way to handle my weekly Klesick’s produce delivery — which often has me building fridge piles of wilted greens and a surplus of yams.
Druckman’s method of taking three or so ingredients and remixing them into a trio of recipes makes use of my limited pantry. She starts each grouping offering substitutions for each recipe, making “Kitchen Remix” easily the most practical of my cookbook selections here.
“Drinking French” by David Lebovitz, Ten Speed Press, $28: Drinking and traveling — and all from my sofa? Yes, please. Beloved food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz shares a storied cookbook featuring Parisian cafe and bar libations with accompanying fare.
Grab a shaker and join Lebovitz on Instagram Live — @davidlebovitz — for his virtual Apéro Hour. This will transport you blissfully away, if for the only reason that he’s transmitting live from his own confinement in his very French apartment in Paris — or that you doubled the recipe. Brava either way.
Erin Pride-Swaney is a home cook who loves cookbooks and writes about them on her blog, Edible Shelf. For more on the specific recipes Erin tested, visit her website, www.edibleshelf.com.
Chocolate, red bean and rose brownies
If you spend any time on Pinterest, you’ve heard of black bean brownies — which I’m sure you could make here if you don’t have adzuki beans. If you’re not familiar with these Frankenstinian treats, ignore the weird combo of ingredients and try these at least once. If anything, just to use up all those canned beans. Aquafaba is the polite name for the strange liquid remaining in a can of chickpeas. In many cases, it’s a great substitute for eggs — which is useful if you’ve run out and you’re not in the mood for social-distance shopping.
3 tablespoons vegan or dairy butter or coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing the muffin tin
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon chickpea flour, plus more for dusting (may substitute all-purpose flour)
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
⅔ cup aquafaba (the liquid from a shaken can of no-salt-added chickpeas)
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon rose water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons dairy-free or traditional semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pistachios (optional)
2 teaspoons crushed dried organic rose petals (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease one 6-muffin (jumbo) tin. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, flour, adzuki beans, aquafaba, cocoa, salt, rose water, vanilla, sugar and baking powder, and process until very smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups and smooth the tops with a spoon. If using, sprinkle on the chocolate chips, nuts, and/or rose petals.
Bake until the tops are dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before using a fork to remove them from the pan. They are meant to be very fudgy inside, so don’t worry if they seem too moist.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
— Recipe reprinted from “Cool Beans” by Joe Yonan, 2020, with permission from Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Potato chip-crusted chicken with arugula pesto
Making use of that stress-eating pile of junk food, this is a very accessible version of chicken Parmigiana. For this recipe from the trio of ingredients — chicken breast, mozzarella and arugula — Druckman suggests mustard greens, watercress, chicories, spinach, kale or dandelion greens — which, in theory, you could farm from your yard, if you don’t use lawn chemicals or have a dog. Almonds could be subbed for the hazelnuts (my suggestion), provolone for the mozzarella. Turkey breast, veal, pork loin and even extra-firm tofu, eggplant or cauliflower for the chicken.
1½ cups packed fresh arugula
½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 medium clove garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated (scant ¾ cup)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup whole milk
1½ cups finely crushed kettle-style potato chips
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (8 to 10 ounces each)
8 (¼-inch-thick) slices fresh unsalted mozzarella
In a food processor, pulse together the arugula, parsley, garlic, hazelnuts, Parmesan and salt to form a paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly stream in the olive oil as you continue pulsing to form a smooth, bright sauce. Taste and adjust for salt as needed.
Place a baking rack on a parchment-lined baking sheet and coat the rack with cooking spray. Set a rack in the oven so that when your chicken is raised on the baking rack, it’s 2 or 3 inches away from the broiler. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spread ¼ cup flour on a large plate and season with a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Add the milk to a medium bowl and season with a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Fill a separate medium bowl with the potato chip crumbs, the remaining 1 tablespoon flour and the cayenne. Stir to combine.
Season each chicken breast on both sides with a pinch each of salt and black pepper. One at a time, dip each breast in the seasoned flour to coat, shaking off any excess, then dunk in the milk, letting any excess drip off, and roll through the potato-chip mixture, pressing to coat. Place on the prepared baking rack. Pat any remaining potato-chip coating on top of the breasts.
Bake the chicken breasts until their crusts are golden, they’re just cooked through, and their juices run clear, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn on the broiler.
Cover each breast with 2 pieces of mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and broil until the cheese is bubbling and just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Gently smear a few spoonfuls of the pesto over each breast and serve. Makes 4 servings.
— Recipe reprinted from “Kitchen Remix” by Charlotte Druckman, 2020, with permission from Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Given there’s much more than 2 ounces in a bottle — or magnum — of prosecco, I figure you’re good-to-go with this warm-weather cocktail. Civility can return to my household after I sip one or a few of these in the cool of my yard. The stemmed goblet makes me feel posh, and I can dream I’m sitting on a veranda overlooking the French Riviera while soaking my feet in our kiddie pool. If need be, you could sub orange juice for the tangerine, but it will lose some of its tanginess … as well as alter the name.
2 ounces freshly squeezed tangerine juice
¾ ounce red bitter aperitif, such as Dolin, Bruto Americano or Campari
About 2 ounces prosecco or another dry sparkling wine
Half an orange wheel or a tangerine wedge, for garnish
Mix the tangerine juice and red bitter apéritif in a stemmed goblet. Fill the glass three-quarters full of ice, then pour in the prosecco. Stir briefly, then garnish with the orange wheel half.
Makes 1 serving.
— Recipe reprinted from “Drinking French” by David Lebovitz, 2020, with permission from Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.