For a meat-free meal, try A One-Pot Supper of Asparagus, Potatoes and Jammy Six-Minute Eggs. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

Quarantine kitchen brings joy and wiser ways to eat and cook

It’s after midnight on a Thursday when I push the button on my Amazon Fresh delivery order — only my second ever. By 6:30 p.m., fresh lemons, avocados, bananas, cucumbers, garlic, cheese, olive oil, canned tuna and salmon have arrived at my doorstep.

In the interim, I’ve had time to pick up a CSA share outside 8Arm restaurant on Ponce de Leon AvenueIt’s a beautiful, Instagram-ready haul of strawberries, blue-oyster mushrooms, radishes, carrots, salad mix, kale, collards, chard, alliums, a half-dozen farm eggs, goat cheese, more mushrooms and a package of duck tamales crafted by 8Arm chef Maricela Vega, who has teamed up with her network of local farmers to offer the share at the restaurant-turned-market.

Meanwhile, a friend who’s been leaving offerings of food on my front porch has dropped off a bunch of beets, a bag of dried chickpeas and a potent Manhattan cocktail from a nearby restaurant.

I sip the cocktail and ponder what to cook.

Welcome to my quarantine kitchen. I haven’t been to a grocery store since March 29. Except for twice-a-day dog walks and twice-a-week takeout runs, which I write about in the AJC’s Atlanta Orders In column, I rarely leave home. But when I do take pre-dinner strolls around my neighborhood, my nose quickens.

All over Grant Park, all over America, all over the world, I’d venture, kitchen windows are open, pasta is boiling, garlic is sauteing in olive oil. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, people are cooking at home out of necessity, and discovering the joy and satisfaction it brings. We may cringe at the thought of supermarket shopping, yet we are inspired to get back to basics and make do with pantry staples and minimal contact.

As it turns out, cooking at home is an opportunity to make better, wiser, healthier choices.

While I was still shopping at grocery stores, I noticed the run on beef, pork and chicken, those rows and rows of empty cases, so I decided to do without. Sure, there’s ground turkey in my freezer and a note on my refrigerator to use it in meatballs, with a sauce I’ll stew from canned tomatoes. I’m saving that can of salmon for the inevitable day I’ll fry up some croquettes and put on a pot of grits. And as long as I can find bacon, I’ll keep it on hand for seasoning greens and beans, for breakfast, for BLTs.

But for the most part, my plague-prompted cooking, if you can even call it cooking, has pivoted to meatless, one-pot suppers of potatoes, asparagus and jammy eggs. Or ribbony noodles moistened with a so-called pistou I fashion from the abundance of cilantro and parsley in my garden. Or clean-out-the-fridge salads drizzled with Green Goddess dressing (another great use of herbs) and bowls of creamy grits paired with sauteed mushrooms and toasted sourdough.

On the sweet side, from ingredients I mostly had on hand, I’ve baked cream-cheese pound cake (and topped it with strawberries and whipped cream), chocolate-chip cookies, and pretty pink strawberry cupcakes that smell like the essence of spring.

For my next project, I’m going to fetch my CSA share straight from the farm (fewer hands). And I’ve just discovered a neighborhood wine and spirits shop with online ordering and touch-free pickup.

You know, maybe this coronavirus cooking ain’t so bad after all. For many of us, it’s opened a path to self-nurturing and greater mindfulness about how we cook and eat. When things get back to normal, supposing they ever do, we may just decide we like this new way better.

Gazpacho From a Can of Tomatoes is topped here with croutons, goat cheese, fresh herbs and red onion, but choices for toppings range from sour cream to avocados to chilled seafood. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis

RECIPES

From cold soup to pasta and cupcakes, here are some ideas for quarantine cooking.

Gazpacho From a Can of Tomatoes

You don’t need to be in the middle of a global pandemic to justify using canned tomatoes to make gazpacho. The Spanish have done so for eons. The trick is good olive oil, splashed liberally, and a variety of condiments and toppings, simple or fancy.

Gazpacho From a Can of Tomatoes
  • 1 small or medium bell pepper, any color, cored, seeded and trimmed of white pith, divided
  • 1 medium or large cucumber, peeled and seeded, divided
  • 2-3 scallions (or any kind of spring onion, green garlic or garlic scapes), divided
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced (you may use white or yellow onion), divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can or 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans of tomatoes (use whatever you have — whole, diced, etc. I used a 28-ounce can of Contadina whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 generous tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or any vinegar you have on hand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup croutons (optional)
  • Additional toppings of choice, such as sour cream, creme fraiche, labneh, crumbled goat cheese, feta, chopped herbs such as dill, cilantro, basil, parsley or chives, cubed or sliced avocado, olives, jalapenos or other chiles, hot sauce, or chilled seafood, such as shrimp, lump crab, crab claws or lobster (optional)
  • Chop half the bell pepper, half the cucumber, half the scallions and half the red onion into fine dice (or thin slices for the scallions). Dump veggies into a small bowl and set aside.
  • Place the tomatoes and the unchopped bell pepper, cucumber, scallions and red onion — plus the garlic, parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, hot sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor, and pulse until you have soup-y puree. (Notes: If your blender pitcher won’t hold all these ingredients, or if you worry that your food-processor bowl will leak, strain the tomatoes, reserve the liquid, and puree the solid bits only. If using whole tomatoes, there is no need to remove the cores.)
  • Pour the soup into a large bowl. Stir in any strained juice you’ve set aside, along with the chopped bell pepper, cucumber, scallions and onion. Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
  • When ready to eat, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with condiments of choice. If nothing else, drizzle with more olive oil. Leftovers will last for a long time in the refrigerator. Serves 4-6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (based on 4) 251 calories (percent of calories from fat, 63), 3 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 19 grams fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 985 milligrams sodium.
A One-Pot Supper of Asparagus, Potatoes and Jammy Six-Minute Eggs can be served with garlic-herb dressing, or you can let what’s in your fridge help you craft a sauce. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis

A One-Pot Supper of Asparagus, Potatoes and Jammy Six-Minute Eggs

This is as easy as it gets, and you may easily double or triple the recipe if you are feeding more than two. You could substitute the six-minute eggs with hard-boiled, poached or fried eggs, or with a simple omelet, perhaps with mushrooms and cheese. Poached salmon, chicken or shrimp would be a lovely addition to the platter, too. Serve with crusty bread and very cold white wine, if you can scrounge up such luxuries.

A One-Pot Supper of Asparagus, Potatoes and Jammy Six-Minute Eggs
  • 8-10 small Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 8-10 stalks of freshest spring asparagus
  • Salt and pepper
  • Maldon or other finishing salt (optional)
  • Butter, olive oil, or any sauce of choice, such as Duke’s mayonnaise (with or without grated garlic, chopped herbs or a squirt of lemon or lime), garlic aioli, Green Goddess, remoulade, Louie sauce or pink sauce (ketchup and mayo mixed together), with or without finely chopped shallots, capers or herbs (optional)
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • Fill a large stockpot or kettle with 4-6 inches of water and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Add potatoes, and cook for 6 minutes. Using a spoon, gently lower the eggs into the water. Now add the asparagus; boil for an additional 6 minutes. (You may want to turn down the flame slightly so as not to damage the tender asparagus tips or break the eggs.) At the 12-minute mark, make haste to remove eggs and place under running cold water or in an ice bath. Now check asparagus for doneness — it should be limp enough to bend when you pick it up with tongs, or tender enough to pierce easily with a thin sharp blade. When it’s done to your liking, remove and place on a serving platter.
  • Now the check the potatoes. You should be able to insert a thin blade all the way through. If they are not fully tender, boil for a few more minutes. There is nothing worse than an under-cooked potato. When ready, remove potatoes from water and place on the serving platter.
  • When the eggs are cold enough to handle, peel them under running water. Place on platter along with the asparagus and potatoes. Before serving, slice eggs in half; the potatoes, too, if you like. Sprinkle the dish with finishing salt (if desired) and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with butter, olive oil, or sauce, if using, either drizzled over the platter or on the side. Garnish with lemon wedges if using. Serves 2.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 443 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 22 grams protein, 64 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 424 milligrams cholesterol, 228 milligrams sodium.
For Fettuccine With Pistou of Fresh Herbs, there are plenty of options for what you can use in the pistou. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis

Fettuccine With Pistou of Fresh Herbs

My definition of pistou — the Provencal sauce of pounded basil, garlic and olive oil that’s traditionally a condiment for white bean soup — is fast and loose. It started last spring when I roasted a bunch of beets and had a bouquet of beautiful, unblemished tops left over. While you can saute beet greens, I’m generally not that crazy about the flavor, so I pulsed them in the food processor, seasoning with lemon, olive oil, garlic, salt. Thus was born my so-called pistou, a gorgeous green sauce that can be used as a dip, salad dressing or stand-in for pesto. When eating with pasta, I usually add Parmesan cheese. Any leftover cooked veggies (onions, mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, etc.) can be tossed with noodles, too.

Fettuccine With Pistou of Fresh Herbs
  • For the pistou
  • 4-6 cups roughly chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, parsley, dill, cilantro), leafy greens (spinach, turnips, kale) or plant tops (beet, carrot, radish, turnip), roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped scallions (or green garlic or garlic scapes or other allium of choice)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (zest it first)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus more as needed
  • For the pasta
  • 1 pound fettuccine or other ribbon-y noodle
  • 1 cup Parmesan or pecorino, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
  • To make pistou: In the bowl of a food processor, place the herbs, garlic, scallions, lemon zest and juice, salt and olive oil. Pulse until you have a smooth green paste. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you plan to use the sauce as a dressing or dip, you may need to add more lemon juice or olive oil. (You can figure this out later.) If you plan to use it like pesto, it’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy. Place in a lidded container and chill.
  • To make pasta: Fill a large stockpot or kettle about 2/3 full with water and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta, and cook according to package directions (about 12 minutes for fettuccine). Before draining the pasta, dip out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside. You may need this when you assemble the dish.
  • Dump the noodles back into the pot or a large mixing bowl. (I like to use the pot in case I need to heat it gently to melt the cheese and loosen up the pistou). Add Parmesan or pecorino, goat cheese if using, and about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of pistou. Toss well to combine. Add hot pasta water as needed to break up the cheese and pistou. Toss in red pepper flakes and black pepper. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add more pistou if you like. Serve with more grated cheese on the side. Serves 2-4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (based on 4, using 1 1/2 cups pistou) 558 calories (percent of calories from fat, 20), 23 grams protein, 62 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 12 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 617 milligrams sodium.
You may be surprised that you have most of the ingredients for Martha Foose’s Strawberry Cupcakes in the pantry. Just add strawberries. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Photo: Wendell Brock

Martha Foose’s Strawberry Cupcakes

Almond extract imparts a lovely perfume to these pretty pink cupcakes, but if you don’t have any, just leave it out.

Martha Foose’s Strawberry Cupcakes
  • For the cupcakes
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed fresh or frozen strawberries
  • For the frosting
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • To make the cupcakes: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, and almond and vanilla extracts. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the buttermilk mixture. Beat for 1 minute at medium speed. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture — you may want to do this in increments of three or four. Mix until just combined. Stir in strawberries.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 (12-cup) muffin tins with nonstick spray, or line with baking cups. If you only have 1 muffin tin, make in 2 batches.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling them two-thirds full. (Don’t overfill.) Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold the cupcakes and cool on racks.
  • To make the frosting: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the strawberries, jam and lemon juice. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until the jam is melted and the strawberries are soft. Press any big pieces with the back of a spoon to mash.
  • Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy. At low speed, slowly add confectioners’ sugar and mix until combined. Add strawberries and mix at low speed until blended. When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread with frosting. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 281 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 2 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 16 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 54 milligrams cholesterol, 115 milligrams sodium.

— Adapted from “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea” by Martha Hall Foose (Clarkson Potter, $35).

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