I’ve been staring at my screen all weekend, struggling to find the words to meet this moment. Mostly, of course, I hope you are all doing your best to stay healthy and, however possible, check in on the people in your lives and communities who are most at-risk.
So far, the hardest part on our end has been convincing the teenagers in my house to stay home and minimize exposure to the virus. They’re grasping it, but slowly, and we’re trying to be patient. Of course, in the absence of any clear direction from our leaders, I don’t know how to behave myself. I’m still going to the supermarket, and over the weekend we had dinner at a friend’s house, but today both of those activities seem reckless. I’m sure you are all feeling similarly confused.
I don’t have any answers — my instinct always is to set weird goals or overlay some sort of structure on my day so I don’t feel like I’m going off the rails. I’m trying to hit a specific number of steps every day; I’m forbidding myself from sitting in my favorite corner couch spot, where I can just get sucked down the twitter hole for hours. I’ve scribbled loose schedules that include family hikes, and banana bread baking and dog walking. I’ve seen a bunch of you do that, too. This morning, Andy (working from home) read an email from a coworker who is at home with two small kids, outlining the day’s schedule down to the minute (8:00-8:30 Morning meeting; 10:30-11:00 “Lego challenge!”)
To that end, I’m going to do my best to overlay a simple structure here: a few times a week, I’ll post one pantry recipe, one baking-time project for kids, and one “purpose,” which can be translated many ways, but will serve mostly to connect our quaranatined selves to the larger world. I hope this offers a small measure of distraction and connectedness — It’s all I can think of to do right now, so here we go…
Pantry: Tomato-Pea Risotto
We made this on Friday night and it gave us old-school 90s vibes. Why has risotto gone the way of the Sony Discman? It’s so damn delicious and comforting. And also the best way to stretch odds and ends from the fridge and freezer. On the night we made this, we had a half container of grape tomatoes and peas in the freezer so that’s the direction we headed. The best thing about risotto is that you can pretty much throw anything in the pot at the end: cooked crumbled Italian sausage, cooked chicken pieces, cooked mushrooms (cut into small bites), fresh basil, kale, spinach, any kind of cheese. Memorize the basic idea, then riff.
Tomato & Pea Risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for finishing
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
red pepper flakes
4 to 5 cups liquid (any combination of chicken or vegetable broth, water, even wine; we didn’t have broth so whisked two tablespoons of tomato paste with water to create a “tomato stock”), heated in a small saucepan on low heat
1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped (you could also use 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes)
1/2 cup frozen peas (they don’t have to be thawed)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parm
In a medium saucepan set to medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.
Add onion, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and stir about 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir until every grain of rice is glistening. If you have white wine, you can add about 1/3 cup and stir until the rice absorbs all the liquid. (If you don’t have wine, just skip to next step.)
Start adding warm liquid about 1/2 cup at a time and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this step for about 20 minutes, then start tasting the risotto. It should be tender with a little firmness. (You may end up not using all your liquid.) At this point, stir in tomatoes and peas (or whatever else you’ve got) and cook until heated through.
Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and a little more butter.
Project: M&M Cookies
This recipe below is from my first book, published when the girls were still little enough to take up as much room on my counter as a sack of flour. If you don’t have M&Ms, use chocolate chips. P.S. Think ahead for tomorrow’s project: If you have the energy (I know you have the time!) start the recipe for “Shockingly Easy” Foccacia from Bon Appétit. The dough takes a day to rise in the fridge (it really rises, which is really fun for a kid to see), so get it going today. It will also be a nice accompaniment for tomorrow’s pantry meal, some kind of bean soup or lentil number. Haven’t decided beyond the fact that it will be cozy and comforting.
Reprinted from Dinner: Love Story
Makes 24 cookies
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup good-quality chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
2 1.69-ounce bags M&Ms
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (It was somewhat life-changing when I found out whisking was just as effective as sifting, so that’s what I usually do.) In a separate bowl and using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Using a handheld mixer, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture gradually until all the dry mixture has been worked into the batter.
Fold in the chocolate chips, and using two spoons, scoop small rounds of dough onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Pour the M&Ms into as many bowls as you have kids (it’s important for each helper to have his or her own bowl) and ask them to stick the candies into the dough rounds until they are all gone. (Sometimes I use my fingers to make the balls rounder on top—it makes for prettier cookies.)
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack.
Millions of children in this country depend on school meals to eat every day — donate to No Kid Hungry or follow Steph Curry’s lead and donate money or supplies to your local food bank. To find a food bank in your community, type in your zip code here.
How are you all doing? How are you getting through this? How can I help? Please share your own projects, pantry recipes, family movies, binge-worthy TV shows, recipes, distractions, projects, stories, anything (!) below. Let’s continue this counting-on-each-other thing as long as we can.
P.S. Pantry shown above belongs to my friend Robin. (Can you tell she’s an art director?)