March 18, 2020

Dear friends,
Panic buying set in the day I arrived home from Florida. I bought milk, coffee cream, yogurt and a few vegetables before elbowing my way to the cashier, wondering why everyone in the Montrose area had decided to shop at the same time. What was going on?

The next day, staring at empty shelves where toilet paper used to be, it sunk in. The world had gone mad. The toilet paper I needed was in someone’s basement, awaiting the apocalypse.

How are you doing? Are you sitting on a stash of Charmin? Or did you stock up on siege foods such as lentils and beans? In those first moments of panic, what did you rush out and buy to see you through these scary times?

I bought fresh vegetables. Then Tony and I drove to the Asian Market in Cuyahoga Falls for tofu and one of the last bags of rice in the store. I also bought a jar of gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste I’ve been meaning to try. Now I would have plenty of time to explore this popular condiment.

Cooking is comforting at a time like this. The cozy rhythms of chopping and stirring are a refuge. What did you cook or bake last week?

Feeding family or even yourself every meal of every day can get old, though. The way I did it was to cook all of those vegetables and the tofu and store them in individual dishes in the fridge. Then at each meal I pulled some out and briefly stir fried them with a sauce, or heated them in a bowl and ladled on broth for an Asian-ish soup.

What tied each dishes together was that gochujang sauce. It is spectacular — spicy-hot but not incendiary, with a complex flavor that goes on for days. At the beginning of the week I made a big jar of a stir fry sauce whose backbone is the Korean chili paste. It’s a gorgeous red sauce studded with sesame seeds. It is the kind of hot that stings but not too much, and the heat disappears quickly. This is Tony’s new favorite hot sauce, and that’s saying something.

I stirred my sauce into the cooked vegetables and tofu I had warmed in a frying pan. I added a glop to our bowls of soup. The jar is half gone, so I suspect Tony has found even more uses for it.

As for the vegetables, I roasted the cubes of butternut squash, wilted the fresh spinach with olive oil and garlic, and sautéed the mushrooms and finished them with sherry. I also had daikon radish simmered until tender, fried green pepper strips and sliced green onions. I seasoned each vegetable as it cooked. The tofu was cut into cubes, dusted with flour and fried in shallow oil.

Use whatever vegetables and protein you like, but don’t substitute for the gochujang. This sauce is worth a trip to an Asian grocery store for the ingredients.

SPICY GOCHUJANG STIR FRY SAUCE

1/2 cup Korean gochujang sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
4 tsp. rice vinegar
4 tsp. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar. Stir to break up the gochujang. Cover and shake until smooth. May be stored in the refrigerator for weeks.

Based on a recipe from mykoreankitchen.com.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Chicken and sauerkraut simmered with sherry; fried sweet plantains; Peruvian alfajores cookies; roasted and stir fried vegetables and tofu; gochujang stir fry sauce; stir frys and soups.

What I ate in restaurants, etc.:
Pot roast, mashed potatoes and a biscuit at Cracker Barrel in Parkersburg, W.Va.; a Sausage McMuffin and coffee from McDonald’s; a grilled chicken salad from Vasili’s Greek Cuisine in Akron; a pepperoni pizza from Rizzi’s Pizza in Copley.

THE MAILBAG
From Dennis A.:
While I do not have the recipe from The French Coffee Shoppe, Hudson’s Restaurant in downtown Hudson has the best French onion soup around! They also serve a French chicken sandwich that is as good as The French Coffee Shoppe.

Dear Dennis:
Good to know. Tony is crazy about French onion soup. We will go when the restaurant reopens.

From Monica, Hudson:
My new year’s resolution was to add more plant-based eating to my diet. I don’t eat loads of meat but cheese is my weakness and I probably eat more cheese than meat!
Anyway, I’m starting slow by doing one plant-based day a week. This week I made Chana Masala and Coconut Rice from Ella Mills’ Natural Feasts. The recipe is easy to find online. It was delicious and easy. Lots of spices for great flavor. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, there are a million plant-based cookbooks and recipes online but so many are just OK when I make them. I wonder if you or any of your readers have favorite tried and true recipes they like. I would love to try some really good, tested plant-based recipes!

Dear Monica:
Excellent question! Many people are slowly moving to plant-based eating because it is better for the planet. Let’s share! Send your favorite recipes to me and I’ll post them.

One thought on “March 18, 2020

  1. My last few “at home” days have been pretty nutritious… Quinoa tabouli (my riff on the wonderful stuff I used to dish up at West Point Market) Puy lentil soup with lots of onion, garlic and carrots and an abundance of esplette. Fresh home baked bread made with half #45 and half #110 semi-complet flour (baked over three days…good the first day, better the second day and tomorrow will be the best) And today (St.Patrick’s day) green split pea soup with lardons, lotsa carrots, potatoes (because I got a bit overzealous with the salt…it worked too!) onions and garlic…enough for a couple of days. Comfort food. Miss you.

    Author of the new novel “The Bicycle Messenger” Find it on Amazon – http://mybook.to/Bicyclemessenger

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