Home cooking is more important than ever right now—and that’s what this column is about. But we mustn’t forget our local restaurants who need us now, more than ever, to order takeout. Some deliver, some are pick-up only, but all are going out of their way to make this easier for us to support them right now.
Pantry dishes, pandemic cooking, quarantine cuisine, stay-at-home fare—whatever you choose to call it, that’s what most of us are doing. I checked in with some local cooks I know to see what they have been making, or are planning to make in the near future.
My neighbor on Redbrook Road in Waquoit, Ellen Albanese, said she is turning to slow cooker pulled pork, “a super-simple comfort food that feeds a family.”
“I use Boston butt, bone-in or boneless (bone-in will take a little longer),” she instructed. “Put it whole into the slow cooker, then pour half a bottle of barbecue sauce over the meat (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s original). Cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. During the last few hours, open the cooker three or four times and use two forks to shred the meat so it becomes soft and stringy—add more barbecue sauce if it seems to need it. Serve the pork on ciabatta rolls, which don’t get soggy (like bulkie rolls), with extra barbecue sauce on the side and fresh coleslaw.”
In West Falmouth, Rita Pacheco is making (what a surprise!) soup. “This is a lovely impromptu soup,” Rita explained. “Make a chicken or vegetable stock with celery, onion, carrots and fennel, and season that with granulated garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Then fine dice some onion, leeks, and fennel and sweat them in a little butter, add a little flour and stir to cook the flour. Add your stock and bring to a simmer, then I like to add a can of cannellini beans, and a little milk. I guess you could call it White Bean Soup with Fennel,” she added. Knowing Rita and her passion for soup, whatever the name, I suspect it’s delicious!
Laura Gross-Higgins, who works at The Enterprise, told me she was making hummus and an olive and caramelized onion quiche from The Vegetarian Epicure. “A friend has given us some fresh crab meat—my husband is making omelets with that for dinner. I found a recipe online from Taste of Home for crab meat stuffed portobello mushrooms—it looks pretty good.” After making that, Laura sent me the recipe that she adapted slightly.
Crab Stuffed Portobellos
6 large portobello mushrooms
¾ cup chopped sweet onion
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 large egg
One half cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup plus 1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
12 to 13 oz lump crabmeat, drained
¼ tsp paprika
Remove the stems from the mushrooms, discarding them or saving them for another use; set the caps aside. In a small skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil and sauté the onions until tender; in a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, egg, bread crumbs, half cup Parmesan, and seafood seasoning. Gently stir in the crab and onion; spoon one half cup crab mixture into each mushroom cap and drizzle with the remaining oil. Sprinkle with paprika and remaining cheese; place on a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender.
Laura added that these are very good. “With a salad, one of these makes a meal. I didn’t have cream cheese, so I substituted Cabot’s whole milk Greek yogurt (the same amount), and they came out great. My husband, Bob, loved them too.”
Pamela Rothstein is the director of Lifelong Learning at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation. She sometimes cooks with me at Highfield Hall, so I knew she would be doing something wonderful in her kitchen. “I am working from home today and found myself drawn to the kitchen, to the idea of 4 PM teatime, and to the comfort of preparing, smelling, and eating my longtime standard, a ginger refrigerator cookie that comes from a small cookie cookbook entitled The Art of the Cookie, by Jann Johnson.”
She had referenced this book a few years ago, and I was able to locate a used copy on the internet. The book is a gem—I have found all the recipes to be worth repeating. “I don’t think I’ve ever prepared another recipe from it, but this recipe has proved to be winner, and I return to it time and again,” Pamela told me. “The cookie is easy, unusual, pretty and exceedingly tasty, as it has both powdered and crystallized ginger in it. The ginger is not overwhelming and the result is a tender butter cookie with ginger tones. In fact, my dough is in the refrigerator awaiting its bake later this afternoon, after some more work time!”
Crystallized Ginger Logs
1¾ cups AP flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp each: ground ginger and salt
½ cup butter, softened
2⁄3 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla
2⁄3 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
Whisk the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale in color; mix in the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix well; stir in the crystallized ginger and flatten the dough into a round about one and a half inches thick. Wrap in plastic and chill for one hour, or until firm. To bake, cut the round of dough (as if slicing a round loaf of bread) into one quarter-inch slices (they will all be different lengths) and place them 2-inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet, flat sides down. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden brown at the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely; store in an airtight container.
And here is a contribution from me: a recipe I came across on the internet. They’re called Life Changing Vegan Thumbprint Cookies. Life changing and the very best always scare me, but these cookies are pretty good. You can have them for breakfast or serve them a cup of tea. The recipe can easily be cut in half should this make too many for you, but the extras are nice to give away during these difficult times. Be well, and stay tuned for more quarantine cooking next week.
Changing Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
2 cups whole almonds or other nuts such as walnuts, pecans, or pistachios
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ tsp salt
1½ cups AP flour
1 cup each: canola oil or melted coconut oil, and maple syrup
Jam(s) of your choice
Preheat to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until they are chopped into small pieces—it’s okay if you have a variety of sizes, just don’t grind them to a flour. Transfer the chopped nuts to a large bowl and place the oats and salt in the food processor (no need to wash first), then process into a coarse meal, leaving a little texture. Transfer the oats to the bowl with the nuts and add one and a quarter cups of the flour, oil, and maple syrup. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined--if the dough seems runny, add the additional flour but don’t worry if it is too soft, as it will stiffen up a bit as it sits. Set aside for 15 minutes; form the dough into rough balls about the size of a whole walnut. The dough will be slightly wet but surprisingly not too sticky. Place on the baking sheets, spacing them evenly apart. Using the bottom of a round half teaspoon measure, make an indentation in the top of each cookie. Wipe the spoon clean and use it to fill the indentation with your jam of choice. Bake until the cookies begin to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely; let the baking sheets cool completely before baking the remaining batches. Makes 4 dozen. Note: if you have different colored jams, this is the time to use them!