Homemade Pasta, Almond-y French Toast, Small Gestures

Happy Friday Everyone. As of today, we’ve made it exactly four weeks in quarantine, which I will choose to view as a small victory. Yesterday we placed a food order through Baldor, the restaurant wholesale supplier that has pivoted to residential delivery (it looks like they are in the DC, NY, and Boston metropolitan areas), which means hopefully we won’t have to go to the supermarket for a while. When I told my friend Sonya about it, she replied with this helpful link to other wholesalers doing the same thing. (For those of you outside of the Northeast who have found similar services, please let us know in the comments.) In home entertainment news: Two nights ago we finished Season 1 of The Wire and wow, it’s every bit as amazing as I remembered, and the girls are starting to understand our evangelical obsession with it. (BTW had no idea that Wallace was played by a young Michael Jordan.) Instead of plowing ahead to season 2, last night we watched Unforgiven. (Best scene.) Here are some weekend ideas for my favorite stay-at-homers…

Project: Homemade Pasta

People are talking about possible silver linings to this nightmare when it’s all over — we’ll be kinder, we’ll be more appreciative of the simple things, etc — but I’ll be content if it just translates to my house making more pasta from scratch. I mean, homemade pasta is a huge pain in the ass: Once you knead the dough to the exact right consistency, everyone in the whole family has to be around helping (one feeding the dough through the pasta machine, one cranking, one guiding, one snipping the strands), but then again, everyone in the whole family has to be around helping! It’s sort of a beautiful thing, right? We turned it into a cacio e pepe — the fresher the pasta, the simpler the prep — and couldn’t believe how nourishing it was. Even if you don’t have fresh noodles, that recipe (traditionally made with spaghetti not fettuccine) is still something to have in your back-pocket…

Homemade Pasta (book owners, see page 228 Dinner: A Love Story; or this version would work, too)

Cacio e Pepe 

Boil one package of spaghetti in salted water. In a large bowl, put 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, a few pinches of salt, and lots and lots of freshly ground pepper (thus, the pepepart of cacio e pepe). I usually do about 15 or so grinds. When the pasta is done, reserve 1/3 cup of the water, and drain the rest. Take the reserved pasta water and pour into the bowl, whisking it into the ingredients as you do, until it is emulsified. Add pasta to bowl, and toss thoroughly. When you plate it, top with more ground pepper and Parm.

Pantry: Almond-y French Toast

You guys are probably all like, Jenny, it’s Friday, how come no carby breakfast recipe yet this week? Herewith, the answer: French Toast, aka your how-to-make-a-weekend-feel-like-a-weekend recipe. We ran out of vanilla extract a few days ago, which was the best thing to happen to our old stand-by French toast. This batch tasted like marzipan.

2 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed
4 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla extract)
6-8 slices bread (challah is the best, but for this batch we used regular white sandwich slices)
suggested toppings: butter, syrup, sliced strawberries, powdered sugar

Add butter to a medium skillet (preferably cast iron or nonstick) set over medium heat.

In a small wide bowl or a 9×9 square baking dish, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, and extract. Add bread, flipping a few times to make sure it’s absorbing the egg mixture through and through without getting soggy. Lift bread carefully with your fingers or a fork and scrape off as much extra egg mixture as you can. Fry in skillet for about 2-3 minutes a side, until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with remaining slices.

Purpose: Small Gestures

Are you guys suddenly so appreciative of the smallest gestures? I find myself so touched even only when an old friend sends a five-word check-in text (How are you? Holding up?) and I’ve been trying as much as possible to do the same, cooking for people who are sick, sharing ingredients with neighbors who are out of baking powder/eggs/vodka. I am so lucky to be on the receiving ends of your kindness stories, too. Just a few from this week: Jill in Iowa offered to send me yeast when I mentioned on the blog that I was running low; Susan in Alabama sent me her favorite music videos to watch on YouTube; Renee in South Bend sent me pics of her kids making my playdate cookies; newly unemployed Elizabeth wanted to let me know she made a batch of my meatballs for an old coworker in a similar plight and I’m so glad she did! I really crave these kindness stories. They are my lifeblood now, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

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 jenny@dinneralovestory.com.

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12 Comments

Colleen

My boyfriend and I made your beloved meatballs and sauce recipe over the weekend with some no-knead French bread. We had to hold out until Saturday when our grocery delivery came in with ground beef and canned tomatoes. It was worth the wait. So very soul-nourishing and comforting. We made it for Christmas this past year, thinking it would be our new tradition. But I guess pandemics count 🙂 I went ahead and put our colorful holiday lights back up in the window too. Any little bit of joy helps!

In Houston, Brothers Produce is now setup for pick-up and home deliveries. I ordered my produce box last night, got it around noon today. So ready for a fresh, crisp salad!

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EB

We were contemplating ordering from Baldor as well, but got a bit intimidated when adding some of the bulk items to the cart. It would be great to know the types of things you ordered for a family of four for some inspiration 🙂

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Marilyn Carr

I think the word quarantine is being overused. You are not in quarantine if you are not sick or have been contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with Covid 19. You are in voluntary self-isolation. As I am too.

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Cynthia

Seeing this elicited a much needed chuckle:
Actually, it’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarantine region of France. Otherwise it’s just Sparkling Isolation.

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Melinda Lewis

Your elevation of the small gestures that carry so much meaning motivated me to finally comment, as I’ve intended to for probably five years. Your approach to mothering–the simultaneous embrace of joy and acknowledgement of struggle–has always inspired and encouraged me. When we had newborn twins and a 2-year-old, our own rituals of parent dinner and debrief paralleled yours, and now with four children (all growing up rapidly), we’ve incorporated them into the cooking and found new ways to catalyze connection, including around food. We’ve made several of your recipes part of our own celebration moments and are appreciating your guidance as we also transition to primarily vegetarianism. Thank you for all you have added to our journey as a family and, in this time of trial, thank you for sharing your strategies for coping with our corner of the world.

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Allie Alperovich

I also ordered from Baldor and from Pierless Fish – Baldor order coming tomorrow and my plan is to order a fair bit of frozen fish so we have a well stocked freezer with fish. Baldor has been excellent in adding an item or two by email if I forgot to add something. Looking forward to being well stocked.

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Kelcey

My husband and I saw Unforgiven in the theater on our first date (laughing-crying emoji). Your pickled red onions (7/14/2015 post) have been an absolute life-saver on meatless dinner nights lately with my carnivore family, thank you!!!

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Jen

My husband and I, with our 1-year-old underfoot, made homemade pasta for the first time on Sunday. I actually thought it was relatively easy (though time consuming) for the payoff. It’s soooo, good. And was by far my favorite quarantine meal. Enjoying the series; thanks for writing.

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