Banana Bread, Pasta Con Ceci, Isolation Journal

Good afternoon everybody! Today is our fourth straight gray day here in New York, and I know I’m not in the position to ask much more of the universe than continued good health, but I would really like to see the sun. Yesterday I read Love Letter by George Saunders and if you want to read possibly his best short story ever, you should follow suit; I walked into town with Andy and the dogs to mail a letter (sometimes I feel like Laura Ingalls writing these dispatches); and tested a shortcut tofu banh mi recipe for my next book. (That’s a mini one up there; left over for today’s lunch.) Still have tweaking to do on it, but here’s is a delicious Vietnamese tofu salad that should stand in just fine if those are the flavors you are craving. Here are three things that might help you get through today…

Pantry: Victoria’s Pasta Con Ceci

This recipe gained a cult-like following after appearing in Food52’s Genius Recipe series, and for good reason: It spins the humblest pantry ingredients (and so few of them!) into something really elevated. Victoria Granof, a legendary food stylist, helped me with my last book and you can read more about her special kind of genius here. This serves 2-3.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons good tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
2 cups boiling water
crushed red pepper flakes, for serving

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until it becomes lightly browned and fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and salt and fry for 30 seconds or so. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and boiling water. Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, lower the heat, and simmer until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, ladle the pasta into shallow bowls, sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, and drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil on top.

Project: Banana Bread

I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of times my daughters have made this recipe over the years. It comes from my old friend Elizabeth Mayhew, who, by the way, is doing some fun baking videos on instagram herself these days. Check her out if you have time.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream Together:
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar

Beat in:
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine in bowl:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Alternate mixing dry mixture with 4 tablespoons sour cream into butter mixture.

Fold in 2-3 mashed bananas and chocolate chips (to taste) if you have them.

Bake for 50 minutes in a lightly greased loaf pan until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Purpose: Isolation Journals

In her twenties, when writer Suleika Jaouad had leukemia and was confined to her bed for weeks, she credits her 100-Day Project (a small creative act every day for a hundred days) with keeping her grounded and connected. Now, she’s starting a reboot of that for all of us, a 30-Day creativity project called The Isolation Journals. Sign up to get prompts from her favorite artists and musicians.

Stay safe, stay home.

The goal of the Project, Pantry, Purpose series to keep us sane, distracted, and connected. Please continue to comment below with suggestions for recipes, projects (for kids and adults), good deeds, donation ideas, stories, movies, games, puzzles. Or just tell me how you’re doing, what your daily routine is, and how DALS can help you or people in your community. You can also email me directly at

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I’ve made that Pasta con ceci approximately 1000 times and no one has asked me to stop. I double it, and it comes out soupier, but we love it!!! I started swapping out little rings for the ditalini because that’s how large i like to live. Good stuff!

i ordered yarn and knitting needles yesterday. i’ve never knitted before, but now seems like a good time to learn.

Thanks for being here, Jenny. I can’t wait for your veg cookbook!


We make the Smitten Kitchen version of the pasta con ceci basically every week. Never gets old! Thanks for your daily posts. They are wonderful. 🙂

Sally M

Thank you for these. They brighten my day. Keep these post coming. They are are something I look forward to for inspiration as the uncertainty and isolation drag on. Since I think we’ll be cooped up until at least June, I figure a few new recipes are a way to bring smiles to the faces of my family.

Mom of Boys

The northwest coast is gray today as well. I’ve decided the Saunders Love Letter will be my reward for my post work zoom video chat which is happening shortly. I’ve had to shower, brush my hair!, and put on a little eye liner for the occasion. Immediately following the video, I will wash my face, remove my silk sweater so it doesn’t need to be dry cleaned, and read the piece. Thank you for that!
Las night I made arroz con pollo and it was a hit! And tonight we are having linguini and clams with Bay Harbor chopped clams and parsley from the garden.

Here’s hoping the sun comes out tomorrow!


It was a banana bread day here also. I tried a vegan recipe because I was reluctant to use my eggs. Didn’t have any flax seed, but it’s delicious anyway.

When I checked in with my mom today she told me she was making a family favorite…Pasta e fagioli!

Jenny, thank you so much for the daily posts. It’s comforting to know we’re all in this together.


Sending you sunshine from Austin. We have had a string of gray days and welcome rain. Glad to see the blue skies again today. Thanks for your posts, DALS is such a welcoming place.


Thanks for the Isolation Journal recommendation. Please remind Phoebe that we are eagerly awaiting her book list! 🙂


I have been reading your blog for many years and just wanted to say thank you so much for this uplifting series of posts. We have been in lockdown here in France for several weeks now and your posts brighten my days.


I haven’t loved tofu banh mi’s that I’ve made in the past, and I’ve realized that I don’t think I cooked the tofu enough. When it is still soft the texture is too similar to bread for me. But since I last made one I’ve gotten much more into roasting tofu, so I think if I took it a bit further to really dry out the tofu so it has more of a chew I would like it more. Wanted to share in case you’re having the same issues – best of luck developing and can’t wait for the final product!


I just wanted to say I look forward to these posts so very much! I made it to the grocery store for the first time in two weeks yesterday and was able to get some really beautiful fresh asparagus. This morning I rediscovered your “chicken and rice for beginners” recipe and I think it’ll make the perfect quarantine meal! Thank you!