Coping with COVID-19: Daily Tip #33

Food in the time of Coronavirus…

I posted recently about my friend, the multi-talented, Silu Sao, who is offering her Pantry Whisperer services for free to those who are a bit at sea in the kitchen (ahem, Jac).

In this guest post, Silu shares a bit more about her method as well as some recipes… 

During normal times, I was an avid fan of meal planning and coordinating the calendar to ensure that a fast, healthy meal could be put on the table with little luck or guesswork. Then came lockdown.  Groceries became harder to procure, posing a daily challenge for me to feed my hungry family. 

Navigating this has led to some interesting insights:

  1. Right now, when every scrap matters, the amount of food I waste has become substantially lower.
  2. The food we do have can be stretched and repurposed with some ingenuity.

I’ve always cooked within substantial constraints (a pescatarian and a gluten, sugar, and dairy-free carnivore to name a few) but COVID-19 has added at least one more layer of complexity. One thing to note is that I typically cook every other day, and repurpose the leftovers on the off days. 

My cooking mornings start by triaging the refrigerator and taking stock of what’s in it and mainly noting what is on the fringe. On the day I cooked the Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili and Chickpea Vegetable Fritters with Parsley Sauce (recipes below), I had noticed several wilting herbs and a half used butternut squash. This combined with my stockpile of canned black beans and chickpeas, boxed diced tomatoes led to the dishes mentioned here.

Recipe #1: Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili

In a large stock pot, sauté some garlic and onions in olive oil, add ground cumin, oregano, and adobo sauce from canned chipotles. (Tip 1: Flavor bombs such as miso paste, chipotles in canned adobo sauce, and sriracha are all great to have on hand.) Then add some boxed diced tomatoes, and some broth or water to create the consistency you like. Remember you can always add more liquid. Add the butternut squash and cook under for about 10 minutes Finally, add black beans and simmer for another 10 minutes. Adjust salt, pepper and liquids to your taste. Serve with rice and top with cilantro, sour cream, tomatoes, avocado, scallions, or whatever you have on hand. My two teenagers repurposed the chili for lunch the following day: one in the form of nachos and one in a quesadilla with some avocado on the side. 

Recipe #2: Chickpea Vegetable Fritters with Parsley Sauce

Vegetable fritters are a great catch all for utilizing limp produce that can’t stand on its own. I grated a small zucchini, half a carrot and a not-yet-but-almost-sprouting sweet potato. In a food processor with a S-blade, I pulsed some garlic, cilantro, one can of drained chickpeas, an egg, some spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt), and a tiny bit of chickpea flour to make the dough all come together. Scoop the dough, form into balls, flatten, and pan-fry in a bit of avocado oil, about 2 minutes per side. In a small blender, blitz the parsley into a sauce with some tahini, water, and lemon juice. (Tip 2: Sauce makes anything taste better!) I served the fritters on some Bibb lettuce (image below), but having them solo will work too. 

While my new system is far from perfect, we’ve all had to make readjustments in life, small and large. Staring into my refrigerator and pushing my creative muscles is on the smaller scale for sure and something I hope to incorporate into my “new normal” when we are past living in quarantine.
– Silu Sao

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P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.