As I scrolled through hundreds of photos of the food I ate and made over the past year, I was amazed at the number of photos on my table and on the tables of friends and family. Eating at home, which became so important during the height of the pandemic, has now become a permanent part of my diet.
I still love eating at restaurants. And I feel it’s very important to support them, big and small, especially after the devastation of COVID. I feel most comfortable enjoying restaurant meals in an outdoor parklet or as a takeout order. Even when I’m cooking, I’m constantly reminded of the skyrocketing cost of food.
But cost alone cannot explain why cooking and dining at home has proved more appealing than ever. Have you gotten used to relying on the kitchen for most meals in the turmoil of the year? Not relying on the restaurant during the pandemic has made me a better cook. I taught myself new skills. If I wanted croissants, pho, tacos, dumplings, chocolate soufflé or carrot cake, I had to learn to make my own. These skills remain with me even when I return to eating at restaurants.
My best dining memories from the last year are home cooking and restaurant specialties. Here’s a look back at some culinary memories that still put a smile on my face:
I was making marmalade in Los Angeles with my daughter, her boyfriend, and his mother. Winter in Southern California is a citrus lover’s dream come true with oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, kumquats, pomelos and Meyer lemons. One afternoon in January, we chopped local citrus and stewed the peel and fruit with sugar and fresh citrus juice. Needless to say) it was worth all the work involved.
Jenna Rozelle is a professional forager in Southern Maine. Last fall, I spent an afternoon with her, walking through the woods and learning about all the edible and medicinal fruits, nuts, stems, and plants I didn’t know existed. Cherries, wild grapes, and the greatest gift of all, 20 pounds of maitake (also known as the Hen of the Woods), were found growing at the base of a magnificent old oak tree. Rozelle snipped the giant mushroom with her knife in her pocket, carefully placed it in the woven basket she wore over her back to collect the treasure she found, and we headed back to my kitchen. So she set to work, a few pounds of mushrooms, which she chopped into pieces about her size an inch, olives she drizzled with oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot oven. (I gave the rest of the mushrooms to a friend of hers who kept them in a vegetable dryer.) We devoured the roasted mushrooms right off the hot skillet, dipping the torn crusty bread into the pan and Absorbed all the juice. It was wild, delicious, autumnal heaven.
Farmers markets continue to draw me in more than any other type of grocery shopping. Buying fresh, seasonal produce directly from the farmer (or someone who works directly with the farmer) excites me. Whether I am at home or traveling, I always look for farmers markets. Here’s what’s really in season, from tiny tender artichokes, buttery avocados and plump Meyer lemons at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Farmers Market, to tangy arugula, fatty raspberries, heirloom tomatoes and market winter squash. Up to find local specialties.Maine and New Hampshire in Summer and Fall
I taught a food writing class in southern Italy last spring (one of the most amazing trips/classes I’ve ever had) and we had so many memorable meals: Neapolitan pizza (fried, stuffed, tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella classic Neapolitan style) to small briny clams stewed in pasta mixed with garlic and olive oil. Spaghetti alle vongole, or spaghetti with clam sauce, is one of my favorite dishes he always draws me back to fine Italian dining. Here is the recipe for linguine with seafood sauce.
Another bite I won’t soon forget was the oysters from Izakaya Minato, a Japanese restaurant in Portland, Maine. Local grilled oysters lightly grilled with miso custard and citrus ponzu sauce. The combination of salty, sweet and fresh seafood creates the perfect bite. Try eating just one.
One of my great luxuries this year was our anniversary meal at the iconic Brooklyn restaurant Gage and Tollner., opened in 1829. I was born in New York and lived there for years as an adult but had never dined at this culinary landmark.This year her husband and I went to see itMore I was. From the original antique gas lanterns adorning the dining room to the knowledgeable waitstaff in crisp uniforms, it was everything I could have hoped for. Our meal started with a special appetizer of tender clams grilled in miso butter and topped with crunchy buttered breadcrumbs. The bone-in ribeye steak was perfectly aged and grilled, with butter roasted hash browns and creamed spinach just right. The coconut layer cake with lime curd, cashew pink peppercorn crumbs and cherries by executive pastry chef Caroline Schiff was fantastic. Light, fluffy and airy is not enough.
Another memorable New York meal was easy, a small Japanese restaurant that specializes in udon. After all, I was worried about the appetizer grilled Nasu. Fried eggplant topped with spicy miso pork and raw quail egg. We were instructed to use a spoon to dig deep into the eggplant, crack the egg yolk, and chew the buttery, almost silky eggplant, the spicy miso marinated pork, and the raw egg.
The last few years have seen two seemingly contradictory trends in alcohol consumption. On the one hand, there has been a troublesome increase in binge drinking during COVID lockdowns. However, the variety and popularity of non-alcoholic beers has also increased dramatically. Many grocery stores now carry excellent non-alcoholic beers from top beer makers and microbreweries, and non-alcoholic beers are easier to find on bar and restaurant menus. Non-alcoholic beer pubs are popping up all over the country. Mocktails have become prominent in bars, restaurants and even dinner parties. Being creative without alcohol used to be a big challenge (if you don’t drink, ginger ale was usually recommended). But more and more bartenders and mixologists are grappling with the challenge of creating delicious drinks without the alcohol. right. Julia Bainbridge’s book Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Any Reason is a great place to start.
winter citrus marmalade
You can make really good marmalade with just one fruit (such as an orange), but combining multiple types of citrus makes it even more interesting. For this marmalade I used oranges, Meyer lemons, grapefruit, tangerines and a few kumquats. Find something fresh and use it. It is important to wash the fruit well before making marmalade. Because the peel and fruit are used to make this thick, sweet (and slightly bitter) jelly.
The cut fruit and peel should be soaked in cold water for at least an hour and a half and up to 24 hours, so plan your time accordingly.
This recipe makes about 3 cups. If you have access to an abundance of citrus, you can easily double or triple the recipe.
Invite a few friends and family to help with the chops and host a winter marmalade party. play music. Ring in the new year and celebrate the best winter foods.
Makes about 3 cups.
- Approximately 2 ½ to 3 pounds of citrus, a single citrus variety is fine, but any combination of the following will give you the best results: oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, lemons, Meyer lemons, limes, kumquats, grapefruits, wash well and dry
- about 5 cups of water
- about 3 cups white sugar
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Use a small, sharp knife to cut off the ends of the citrus so that the fruit stands upright on the counter. ) and a little bit of the pith (the bitter white part just inside the skin). Cut the skin and pith into very thin slices (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) and place in a large bowl.
- Cut the citrus into segments and remove the membrane (white connective tissue). Cut the fruit into small 1/2-inch pieces and add to the bowl along with the zest. Cover with 5 cups of cold water and soak for at least 1 1/2 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Pour the zest, fruit and water into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The skin should be soft.
- Place a small plate in the freezer.
- Add sugar, mix and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to medium, add vanilla if desired, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. To test if the marmalade is done: it should be thick and when you dip a kitchen spoon into it, it should drip slowly instead of a thin quick stream. If you have a candy thermometer, the marmalade will be done when it hits the 220 degree set point. Trace with your finger. Properly gelled, the finger marks will hold and won’t fade or fade. Simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes, if necessary.
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