Austin360Cooks: What you’ve been cooking in quarantine
We’re all cooking at home a lot more, and it shows on Instagram. And on Facebook. And in my inbox.
This coronavirus situation has inspired millions of cooks to start swapping food advice (and photos and recipes) wherever they can. I’m seeing new cooking groups on Facebook, videos on Twitter, hashtags and livestreams on Instagram and requests to join email chains in my inbox. I haven’t jumped on the email recipe exchanges, but I am newly interested in #Austin360Cooks, a social media project we started years ago that connects Austin cooks with one another. We ran reader food photos and recipes for a number of years and then decided to take a break.
Well, there’s no better time than a never-before-seen resurgence of home cooking to peek into the worldwide web to see what y’all are making for yourselves and your families. Thank you so much to everyone who is already using #Austin360Cooks on your posts on social media or sharing food ideas on the Relish Austin Facebook page.
We’ll keep an eye on those places in coming weeks to feature even more reader recipes and food ideas. Here are some recent highlights:
Earlier this month, Alyssa Anthony (@alyanthony_) finally re-created an avocado chicken salad arepa she first tried last year when a friend visited during the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Thanks to the coronavirus shutdown, she finally had the time to try making it at home. "Thanks to his help via (direct message), we have a very very very delicious dinner, but missing their company,“ she wrote.
Mackenzie Smith Kelley (@mackannecheese) says she found herself with a pot of over-salted but “otherwise perfect, luscious Instant Pot lima beans” a few weeks ago. At a loss for how to fix them, she drained the salty water and put the beans in the fridge so she could sleep on it.
Brilliance struck in the morning: “I found an almost forgotten bunch of beets with their stems and greens still intact and started chopping and cleaning the greens immediately. I cut the stems into 1-inch batons and separated them from the leaves and then soaked everything in water to remove grit.”
She sauteed the stems with a diced onion, added about 4 cups of low-sodium chicken stock and brought to a boil. Kelley then threw in about 3 cups of dried elbow macaroni and the “salty, salty beans.” Once the macaroni was cooked, she stirred in the chopped beet greens and added a few hunks of French feta, beet pickled onions, cracked black pepper and a generous pour of olive oil. The extra salt in the beans seasoned the entire soup.
“My proudest kitchen moments involve me screwing up and then turning it around into something delicious,” she wrote.
Homemade potato chips are a favorite at Elizabeth Lindemann’s (@bowlofdelicious) house in Dripping Springs. She leaves the skin on just about any kind of potato and uses a mandoline to thinly (and evenly) slice them. Using only 1 tablespoon of olive oil, she drizzles the potato slices and uses her hands to make sure they are all coated. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and arrange the potato slices on a parchment-covered baking sheet, making sure they aren’t overlapping. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Then, her secret move: Turn the oven off and let the chips sit in the cooling oven for 15 to 30 minutes. “This will help them crisp up a bit more, as they continue to dehydrate with the oven’s warmth without burning, but keep an eye on them. If they are already very golden brown, the residual heat of the oven and baking sheet may put them over the edge and burn them.”
Nelly Ramirez (@thereal_aneelee) was running low on honey and maple syrup when she made a batch of homemade granola a few weeks ago. She used a tip she’d heard from Marisa McClellan (@foodinjars). “I turned to my homemade pantry, and now I don’t think I'll ever not use our jams and fruit butters to sweeten our granola!” she wrote. For this batch, she used 1/2 cup (about 1/4 pint) of pear butter.
Hector Gonzalez (@mexicanity) gets a community-supported agriculture box each week from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, where he works helping the farm with social media, and plenty of boxes have had beets lately. Instead of throwing away the tops, he chopped them up with rainbow chard and dandelion greens to make a variation on beans and greens. For garnish, he used roasted peanuts and lime juice.
Dried pasta is an excellent base for all kinds of meals. Krystal Mullins (@homemadeaustin) sauteed Italian sausage with onion, peppers, asparagus and kale to make a hearty pasta dinner a few weeks ago. She topped off the bowl with ricotta and lemon zest.
Peter Tsai (@supertsai) has been on many culinary adventures this month, including homemade pasta, a culinary skill he learned from a Nicolai McCrary (@thenicolai) demo at the beginning of the shutdown. Tsai didn’t have a pasta machine, so he used an old bottle of wine to roll out the “rustic” noodles, which were served in a brown butter and sage sauce. “It took a couple of hours, but it turned out great,” he wrote.
Deana Evans (@deana_evans) makes gluten-free fried chicken from chicken breasts and tenders. She mixes Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour with seasoned salt, but some of the seasoning also comes from brining the poultry in salt water for a few hours before dinner. After drying and then dredging the chicken in the flour mixture, she fries it in a pan of vegetable oil and uses the chicken in salads with a homemade yogurt ranch dressing.
Diem Korsgaard (@wanderingepicure) has been making a dessert called a blueberry boy bait that Deb Perelman (@smittenkitchen) originally posted about in 2009, after Cook’s Country magazine ran an article on this cousin of the crumble/slump/buckle. “Like any recipe with a great name, this also has a great story, which was that in 1954, a 15-year-old girl stole the show (but only won second prize) in the junior division of an early Pillsbury Bake-Off with a variation of this recipe, named, she said, after the effect it had on boys,” Perelman wrote.
When Korsgaard found herself with a 5-pound bag of frozen blueberries (because it was the only one left), she started looking for blueberry recipes, including this family favorite she’s been making for nearly a decade. She’s used all kinds of flours and milks, but this time, she used gluten-free flour, frozen blueberries and coconut milk. “If you’re looking for something easy and sure to please, make this now,” Korsgaard writes.
Kelly Larson (@kellyskitchencreation) writes a food blog full of from-scratch meals, but, like many of us, when grocery stores don’t have what she needs, she adjusts. When Larson’s Shipt shopper texted a photo of bare shelves, the Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sauce she bought at the beginning of the pandemic finally became dinner recently. Good thing she had buns and plenty of pickles on hand.
Some of the 17,000+ members of the In the Weeds Facebook group, many of whom have been laid off or furloughed in recent weeks, have been swapping cooking tips, some of which they’ve picked up during their time in the restaurant industry.
Shane Schautteet uses chickpea water, also known as aquafaba, when he makes gluten-free brownies. Cauliflower rice or roasted vegetables are often on the menu when Catie Steele is cooking. She’ll add different spice combinations to mix up the side dishes each night. Another favorite: broccolini sauteed on the stove-top with garlic, lemon and Parmesan cheese. For Valerie Sparks, it’s quinoa salad with cold cooked quinoa, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, mint, feta and either Italian dressing or a homemade citrus vinaigrette.
Dareck Atwood sears steaks in a pan so they can cook in their own fat, and once the fat is rendered and the steaks are resting he’ll add fresh or canned (and drained) corn to the hot oil. The liquid in the corn will help deglaze the pan and pick up all the leftover flavor from the steak. At the very end, he’ll add a little bit of honey for a sweet-and-savory side dish.
Karen Fuller uses the cook-several-things-in-one-pan method: “Cook some bacon, move to the side of the pan and chop it up. Put some spinach, diced red onion and garlic in the bacon grease (and cook) until the spinach is cooked. Add the bacon back in with a little balsamic vinegar.”
Simple and Easy Meatballs
Marie Saba (@mariesaba) has a new YouTube channel called Marie's Kitchen, where she recently explained how to make “the best meatballs in the whole world,” according to her daughter. She used crushed up Trader Joe’s saltines mixed in with the beef, minced onion and garlic. She also adds chopped arugula or parsley into the meat mixture and then rolls them into balls. She prefers to cook them on a sheet pan in the oven so there aren’t any splatters on the stove-top.
— Addie Broyles
1 pound ground beef (or other ground meat of choice)
1/2 cup chopped arugula (or parsley)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (or shallot)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Form into 20 to 24 golf ball-size meatballs. Arrange on a baking sheet.
Place a rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven. Set oven to broil. Broil meatballs 5 to 6 minutes or until browned on top. Use tongs to flip meatballs and broil 5 to 6 minutes more. Remove from the pan and serve with Greek yogurt. Makes 20 to 24 small meatballs.
— Marie Saba
Spinach and Potato Samosas
Nitya Jain, the founder of Beyond Curry, first made spiced aloo (potato) samosas with spinach dough a few years ago as a way to add more greens into her son’s diet. Since then these portable pockets have become a family favorite in her home. After she taught me how to make samosas in her kitchen last April, Nitya sent me home with an entire sheet pan full of them. Life was extra delicious that week — I ate spinach and potato samosas heated in the toaster oven and dipped in ketchup every day for breakfast until they were all gone.
Potato-filled pockets are generally not my favorite, because I tend to find the potato and dough situation extra on the carbs and often lacking in flavor, but Nitya’s samosas are far from the potato-dough situation I would like to avoid. Here, mild potatoes serve as a perfect canvas for some of the spices that make Indian food so delicious, all wrapped up into a beautiful emerald-hued dough with a little extra nutritional oomph from the spinach. Cumin and bay leaf are fried in ghee with onion, shallot and garlic, then spiced with ginger, chili and chaat masala, and finished with a big squeeze of lime juice. Nitya recommends serving these with chutney, ketchup or both.
— Mackenzie Smith Kelley
For the dough:
8 ounces frozen spinach
2 tablespoons ghee, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup fine semolina
5 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
4 medium-size potatoes, boiled
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chaat masala (optional)
For the dough: In a skillet, add half a cup of boiling water to frozen spinach and 1 tablespoon of ghee. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain all the water. Pulse in blender and set aside to cool.
In a bowl, sift flour, semolina, salt, and sugar. Add the remaining ghee, canola oil and crumble till the dough looks like loosely bound bread crumbs.
Add spinach mixture to the dough and knead together lightly. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to bring the dough together, soft to touch. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 20 minutes.
To make the filling: In a skillet, heat oil and add the cumin seeds and bay leaf. When the seeds start to splutter, add the onion, shallot and garlic. Saute until the mixture is golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add remaining spices except chaat masala and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add boiled potatoes, mashing them with the back of a spoon to thoroughly mix with the spices. Cook for 2 minutes on medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low and add lime juice and 1/4 cup water.
Bring to a boil so that the water is absorbed and the mixture comes together. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Turn off heat. Mix in chaat masala, taste and add salt if needed. Set aside.
To make the samosas: Divide dough into 12 to 15 portions and roll out the dough in 4-inch circles. Take a spoonful of the filling and place it in the center. Wet the edges of the circle and fold into crescent shapes.
Make sure the edges are sealed well. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil for frying. Once oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium-high and fry the samosas. Serve hot, or warm slightly in the oven for ten minutes at 300 degrees. Makes 10 to 12 samosas.
Mac and Cheese
Lauren Wolf is one of thousands of Austin restaurant industry workers who was laid off during the coronavirus-related closures, but one way she’s been staying busy at home is cooking. She shared her recipe for macaroni and cheese.
— Addie Broyles
8 to 10 ounces dried macaroni or penne pasta
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 to 2 handfuls of shredded cheese, such as sharp cheddar or a mix of other cheeses that melt
1 1/2 cup milk, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Melt half stick of butter in large pot. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add about 1/4 cup flour, stirring often. Slowly whisk in warmed milk and simmer over low heat until thickened slightly. Add the cheese and stir. Add the pasta back in the pot and stir. Season with dried parsley, cracked pepper and sea salt. (You can add cayenne if you like spicy.) Serves 4 to 6.
— Lauren Wolf