Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Covid Cafe: The Chocolate Cure

Good day from Covid Cafe. Have we been driven to chocolatey distraction on this, the 97th day of a virus-filled March?

Katharine Hepburn's brownies

  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt 
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts and salt. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. Stir until just combined.
  4. Pour into a greased 8 x 8-inch-square pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overbake; the brownies should be gooey. Let cool, then cut into bars.
The lucky recipient is postman Jimmy, with Rob's thanks for staying on the job

Our friend Barb made these brownie cupcakes 
Her sister Phyllis says: Along with a nice glass of white wine, they're so much better than all those healthy meals we've been eating. (Salut!)

 Keto lava cakes
Don't ever bake like this, with your keyboard half and inch from the ingredients. (I must have been crazed by a chocolate impulse.)

This recipe speaks to my need to occasionally have something chocolate in 75 seconds. Here's the recipe. I'm not a huge fan of the microwave, but in this case...

Crunchy Chip Cookies
Holly has three kinds of cookies in the house, mixed and frozen but not baked, including this recipe, which has chow mein noodles as a secret ingredient. Pre-Covid-19, Holly's plan was to bake and serve all these cookies at two nights of mah jongg, as a thank you gift, and as a new neighbor welcome plate. "When it became clear I would not be using them, I broke down and baked a dozen. Far too easy to devour, so today...baking eight."

The original recipe came from a neighbor in Worthington, Ohio, decades ago.

Free-form Peanut Butter Cups
90% chocolate with a PB topper and a light sugar sprinkle. Faster even than mug cakes.

Sometimes when I’m lonely,
Don’t know why,
Keep thinkin’ I won’t be lonely
By and by.

1000 words

Gimme Shelter
Playing for change

Monday, March 30, 2020

Covid Cafe Presents: Pandemic Potluck

Covid Cafe's sideboard is groaning under the weight of all your contributions so we're moving the party out to the street, where we can do some serious distancing and also...
Dance break!
It's an invitation across the nation
a chance for folks to meet

Please set your dish on the long table, grab a plate, and we'll dance through the line together. Look at all this beautiful food...

Sister Holly (not a nun, my actual sister) from Grayslake brought stuffed peppers. Woo!

Here's the recipe...

Kathy from Seattle is ladling out lasagna soup, from a recipe her sister-in-law sent from Quincy, Illinois. Oh my goodness does that smell good.  It has broken lasagna noodles in the mix.
1 pound organic ground chuck
1 onion chopped
1 green pepper (I used a red one) chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 Tbs firmly packed brown sugar
32-ounces chicken broth
2 (14.5 oz cans) Italian style diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce 
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups broken lasagna noodles
1 (5 oz) pkg Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 

In a large Dutch oven, combine ground chuck, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook over medium high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until beef is browned and crumbles. Drain well.
   Stir in thyme, brown sugar, broth, diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add noodles and simmer until noodles are tender. Stir in Parmesan cheese.  In bowls, top with mozzarella cheese.

Nancy from Chicago's stir-fried shrimp.  She sautes red and green pepper with sliced carrots, adds sesame seed oil and some chicken bouillon, and then adds the rice, whole kernel corn, peas, and scallions. Finally, the shrimp, with salt and pepper. Nancy is serving this right out of the fry pan so please save some room on your plate.

I've brought curried vegetables with a big scoop of peanut butter stirred in.

Also spare ribs straight from the oven. With Lillie's Q sauces...

Make mine Carolina Gold

Maybe we should have a pandemic potluck every week? Keep those pictures coming!

Phyllis is slicing her honey/garlic/dijon pork roast, which she says should have been surrounded by a bed of glazed veggies, but she didn't have any. Needs must, Phyllita.

 Holly's shrimp salad

Happy birthday Lisa! Brother Chris is making cinnamon rolls to celebrate and he's brought some to the potluck.
If you sent me pictures and you don't see them here, it's because we need to think about food for the future. Expect them in the coming days.

We know!

Finally, Cousin David sent this along...

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Covid Cafe Welcomes The Nephews: Grilled Octopus + Morels

Welcome, chefs of Covid Cafe. It seems we're all foraging and eating extraordinarily well, a reassuring note in the midst of chaos. Today's cafe meal is presented by two of our cool nephews: Trevor and Cody, who know a thing or three about food...and music.

Trevor (from the same family making pie and bread) lives just outside Chicago and sent us this dazzler. He takes his raw materials and simmers them in wine for an hour...

...before moving them onto a hot grill (I feel like I'm in Greektown). The results are conspicuously fabulous. Thanks, Trev. We'll get to your fermented french fries soon.

More octopus, please!

Meantime, out mowing his parent's yard in Nashville, Cody stumbled on a true delicacy and started foraging. Morels! Look at these beauties. He'll be taking them to a chef friend who promised to cook a steak dinner with the shared morels.

Cody says: the beauty of nature. I know you appreciate it as much as I do.

Indeed we do.

Today's garden note...
...comes from Debbie, who is mom to Kara the tik tok origami queen and a skilled grower of food.

"There's always something to observe in the garden. The purple Asian garlic is peeking out earlier than most of the varieties I planted."

Music...produced by Cody

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Covid Cafe Special: Rob's Beef Stew

Rob's guest post comes to us today from his warm and welcoming Chicago quarantine kitchen...

If you add up the cooking time in the recipe, it comes out at two hours, but I think of this as an all-day endeavor.  The tasks don’t require it, but it is the best dish to just. . . go . . . slow. 

First off, brown the meat.  In this case wonderful, organic, beef stew meat delivered to our door from Mint Creek Farm.  I live by Julia’s advice, “Don’t crowd the meat!”  The recipe calls for browning in two batches but I do it in eight.  What you spend in time, you make up for in solid browning and a kick-ass fond.

BTW, Carly, your Dutch oven will not look as pristine after a few stews.

Next step is to add the onions and carrots, deglaze with red wine, sprinkle some flour (or arrowroot) over the top and let it simmer.  Then add the bay leaves, thyme, salt pork – slow steps build a stew, flavor upon flavor. After a simmer, into the 300-degree oven for a slow, low braising. 

Next is aromatherapy as the stew permeates the air for 1 ½ hours.  I think this is my favorite part, the scent a hint of the meal to come.  After that time, out comes the pot, and out come the bay leaves and salt pork.

Time to add the potatoes

Back in the oven it goes for another 45 minutes of aromatherapy. Then out of the oven for the last time and onto the stove top. Add the pearl onions and simmer.

Then, my favorite, THE PEAS, green, the color of spring.

After a day of pleasure, it's ready. Food for a week!

Let's get out the bowls and spoons and dig in. For a chuckle while you eat, check out cousin David's diverse bag of necessities from a local store last week. 

That leads us to today's musical selection...

And a poem
By Barbara Kingsolver

O misery. Imperfect
universe of days stretched out
ahead, the string of pearls
and drops of venom on the web,
losses of heart, of life
and limb, news of the worst:
Remind me again
the day will come
when I look back amazed
at the waste of sorry salt
when I had no more than this
to cry about.
Now I lay me down.
I’m not there yet.

Testing: Salmon Salad

I'm having trouble putting up Rob's beef stew post. This is a test, this is only a test. 

Salmon salad makings

Friday, March 27, 2020

Covid Cafe: Kia Kaha With Pie

In NZ they say Kia Kaha, a Maori phrase that means stay strong

Readers, we trust you know that the sight of dedicated US nurses wearing garbage bags as protective clothing (and dying because of it) is emblematic of our soul being ripped into tiny little shreds. It's nearly impossible for us NOT to write about the psychopath in charge, but I sense Covid Cafe needs to be an anxiety-free zone.

Pie is anxiety-free

Hoosier Jared Yates Sexton perhaps said it best:
Thousands upon thousands of people are going to die an agonizing death, alone, frightened, their loved ones kept at a distance, because the President of the United States is a broken person who hasn’t a shred of humanity.

If you in any way support the man in charge you may be excused. No pie for you.

Let's raise a flat white instead to good science and Anthony Fauci, MD.

Now let's pretend we're all sitting side-by-side at the counter of Covid Cafe, crowding in to watch brother Chris slice into his freshly made rhubarb pie. I'm pretty sure there's enough for everyone and we have whipped cream. Mmm. Just a sliv for me...

Chris used homegrown rhubarb frozen from last spring to make today's pie, but he sent us a picture of this spring's crop. The tender leaves are already pushing up through the ground clutter and can that please be a metaphor for something good?

Our friend Kara's back today with an inspirational six-part musical interpretation of Girl Like You.
(click here to view in browser)

@thelilasianthatcould I may or may not have messed up the words...do with this audio as you will.
♬ original sound  - Kara

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Covid Cafe: Collette's Stir Fry and The Indignity of Frozen Brussels Sprouts

Good day, all. Looks like Covid Cafe is going to need a menu column devoted solely to stir fries, and with good reason. They're maybe the most nimble way to bring together everything edible in your house. And they're fast.

Though emergency mashed potatoes with salted butter are too

My dear friend Collette goes back to university days and it would take a lot for me to confess to some of the shenanigans we got up to. We cooked back then too, all the time since nobody had money to eat out.

Collette's melange starts with ginger, garlic, and habanero. Woop. Spice it up. Mix leftover beef or turkey with organic brown basmati and add butter (you heard the woman--add butter). Hot sauce and soy sauce come into play as well. Served today over a vegetable selection.

I wish this were waiting for me right now in the kitchen

Yesterday I pulled a giant bag of organic Brussels sprouts from the freezer. I only bought them in the wake of the pandemic and thought we should start using them. I poured some out and they literally looked blue and shivery and otherworldly in the bowl.

Remember that Sex In The City epi when the taxi drivers go on strike and Carrie doesn't know how to use public transportation? That's me with frozen vegetables. I can make anything out of fresh, but these stymied me.

Later after they thawed I quartered them (eew--they were mushy and wet) and roasted them with oil and salt at 450F. They were disgusting. It's clear to me now why so many people dislike this vegetable. They've probably never eaten the fresh version.

Speaking of fresh, we have ramps coming up everywhere

Their onion-y/garlicky flavor is a spring gift. I sliced them and tossed with the Brussels sprouts to roast and the ramps were the best part. Here's more on ramps.

Seeding some arugula in a plastic spinach box. It's a perfect little greenhouse. Try it!

Idle hands are the devil's playground 
Our friend Kara teaches origami on TikTok. She can show you a few cool moves. Here's how to make a paper slinky (click here to view in browser).

More food in process at our self-quarantine. What are you eating? Reading? Watching? Get in touch and tell us. (Click here for a list of Chicago area emergency food programs.)

Toasted pecans

Blue cheese romaine salad

Duck eggs, chicken eggs

Grassfed chuck roast

Fresh vegetables are everything


Dance break