It’s hard to summon humor when people are sick and dying and I’m sure my experiences don’t differ widely from anyone else’s. But, fish gotta’ swim….
Didn’t think it possible but, since shelter-in-place began I focus on food more than ever. Kitchen items like a lemon zester, unused lo these twenty years, suddenly become indespensible. Conversations with friends can sound like they’ve been lifted from an updated 50s radio commercial: “You put cumin in that?” Once I valued brains; now I seek solace in measuring cups.
I don’t order in much, although I feel I should to fuel what remains of restaurants. Sometimes I shop via Amazon– when a package arrives I behave like a five-year-old on Christmas morning, ripping gleefully through the annoying tape to reveal something thrilling like light bulbs.
I’m grateful for Google and YouTube, sources for how to do anything whether it’s a new lentil recipe, the
difference between seals and sea lions, cutting my own hair. The downside is that information-givers feel the need to begin with long intros and lead-ins: “Hi, I’m so-and-so and we’re all at home with the quarantine, right? So I thought I’d just jump on today because people from all over have been reaching out….” you get the idea.
As to noise, New York is weirdly quiet except at 7 PM when we shout from windows while beating on pots and pans to signal appreciation for our brave responders. It’s very cathartic and thrilling in a peculiar way.
Not so thrilling are people who don’t wear masks (looking at you West Wing.) Even the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park has Alice sporting a mask.
What do you miss most about life as it was? I miss travel, restaurants, and just plain humanity. I miss New York’s energy and the unending, interesting things to do and see, many free. I almost miss crowded sidewalks.
Back to food and Panzanella Salad. It was wonderful even with the awful tomatoes available–in summer it will be even better.
Panzanella Salad (serves roughly 6—depends on what else is served with it)
8 ounces crusty sourdough bread, preferably stale, cut in rough cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (i.e., Kosher salt or any coarse salt)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for garnish
2 large clove garlic (I used one put through a garlic press)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 pounds tomatoes (cherry, grape tomatoes, plum, whatever) cut into pieces
2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced into rounds
16 ounces fresh mozzarella in small pieces (I had none so omitted)
2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh basil (also omitted but good if it’s handy)
4 tablespoons (total) thinly sliced Kalamata olives and/or capers (no need to slice capers)
Croutons: Preheat the oven to 425 degree. (To speed clean up line cookie sheet with parchment or foil.) Put bread cubes on the baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, and toss until thoroughly combined. Bake until deeply golden, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Dressing: In a bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Whisk until combined.
To mellow onions, cut into small pieces, stir into the dressing and refrigerate (or not) while finishing.
The recipe suggests you layer it. I simply put it in a bowl and topped it with the picked onions, olives and capers. If you have time let salad marinate for twenty minutes to an hour; if not, just eat it. It’s good the next day although the croutons won’t be crisp.
And to drink: whatever you want ranging from rosé to club soda. Bang on those pot lids. Listen to Yo Yo Ma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDZ4gNRKdoc Send good vibes to Dr. Faucci.