Pantry and Freezer Cooking during COVID
★ My weekly Food Diaries are a way of tracking what I cook, buy, and eat every day. They provide insight into my eating preferences, allow me to analyze patterns in my spending, and help improve my cooking. And I always share my recipes! ★
Spicy Rice Noodles with Sole Fillet
Last week, I made a spicy peanut butter noodles recipe, and it turned out pretty good. Today I wanted to try it again, but switch up the protein.
I remembered a bag of sole fillets I had in the freezer that had been in there for a while, so I threw in maybe 100 g of that. Then I threw in 120 g of frozen vegetable medley.
I also left out the peanut butter because I wanted to see if it would still taste good without the extra calories. As you would expect, it felt like it was missing just a little something. The taste was still good, but this meal wasn’t quite as satisfying maybe because it lacked the fat, or maybe because it lacked some toasty nuttiness. I’m planning to try this recipe again with powdered peanut butter, and see if that does it; otherwise, I’ll have to conclude that the fat from the peanut butter is necessary for the dish.
One-Pot Lentil Pasta
In these times of not-going-to-the-grocery-store-unless-you-have-to, I’m rediscovering a lot of foods I’ve neglected in the back of the pantry. I’ve been meaning to use up this bag of red lentil radiatore pasta I bought at St Jacob’s Market over a year ago.
This bag of red lentil pasta was my introduction to “alternative” pastas and I love it. For me, the taste is almost indistinguishable from regular durum wheat pasta (actually, probably a little better, since I love the taste of lentils).
The texture, though, is a little more delicate which means it’s easier to overcook and turn gummy. That was probably the downfall of this dish for me. The recipe, from Food with Feeling, calls specifically for red lentil pasta and is a one-pot meal. One-pot recipes usually let me down in some way because, well, I guess there aren’t many dishes where all the ingredients can cook at the same temperature and for the same time. However, this time it was probably on me for waiting too long to take it off the heat. A lot of water actually evaporates / gets absorbed between taking it off the heat and cooling it down enough to eat.
Seafood Fettuccine Alfredo
I just can’t get enough of pasta today, so dinner was a big pot of fettuccine alfredo. I dug up a pack of Knorr Sidekicks Fettuccine Alfredo which I’ve been holding onto for a day when I’m craving some unhealthy, too-rich noodles.
There were a few remaining pieces of fish fillet in the freezer, which I added together with the pasta to cook together. Honestly, this was a disappointment. The alfredo mix was waaay too rich, even for me, and it just didn’t taste good. For some reason, cooking the fish in the milk made it taste extra fishy, which I didn’t mind at first, but it got harder to eat as I continued through the meal. It reminded me of the haddock florentine pie I made back in December, where I also felt that the richness of the milk and butter made the fish taste too fishy. Maybe I just don’t like milk-poached fish.
Homemade Potato Gnocchi with Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce
I had a couple of potato odds-and-ends left from making homemade potato chips last weekend, which I resolved this week to make into gnocchi.
I was inspired by this basic recipe from Pasta Social Club, but simplified it even further. My version ended up being accidentally vegan because I forgot both the parmesan cheese and the egg. (I also left out the nutmeg due to some nutmeg-related trauma from a previous attempt at gnocchi.) Hence, these gnocchi used only three ingredients: potato, flour, and salt… and they were delicious!
Although it’s not the first time I’ve made gnocchi from scratch (see: gluten-free cauliflower gnocchi and the aforementioned nutmeg incident), this is the first time I’ve made traditional potato gnocchi. And now I’m like, why didn’t I start with that? This was by far the easiest gnocchi dough I’ve made: it’s wonderfully soft and comes together so fast. I simply mashed the potatoes with a fork since I don’t have a ricer. I also confess I didn’t do a good job of peeling them well. These were a few pieces of potato skin here and there, but they didn’t impact the cooking process at all and I enjoyed the interesting bit of taste and texture they added. I’m going to say they give the gnocchi a rustic flair.
As I was making the gnocchi, I was also working on a tomato sauce. This is Marcella Hazan’s famously simple tomato sauce, with four ingredients: tomato, butter, onion, and salt. I’ve heard great things about this recipe (usually something about the magic simplicity brings to a dish, etc etc) and it was so pantry-ingredient friendly that I had to try.
I served it together with the gnocchi. Overall thoughts? First, I over-boiled the gnocchi (should’ve taken them out as soon as they floated to the surface of the water, rather than wait another minute), but they were still delicious.
Second, the tomato sauce was okay. I’m not a fan of tomatoes or acid-based sauces to begin with and I don’t think this one was anything special. The sheer easiness means I’ll make it again, though, and I plan to try it with high-quality San Marzano tomatoes next time.
Mushroom Hot Pot
Every time I make one of Isa Chandra’s recipes, I know it’s going to be good… This mushroom hot pot was no exception!
On one of my last grocery trips before this social distancing thing started, I impulse-bought a tube of minced lemongrass. I was starting to regret this a bit because although it was one of those ingredients that I sometimes see in a recipe and think, dang if only I had some of that on hand, I didn’t actually have any solid recipes in mind when I bought it. Especially when cooking during COVID, when I don’t go out for groceries at much. The shelf life of this tubed-lemongrass tube stuff is shorter than you’d think, just a couple of months, so I didn’t have much time to use it.
Enter the Isa’s Mushroom Hot Pot. I had all the ingredients at the ready—most of it is pantry stuff, aside from the red bell pepper and the tomatoes (but I used canned diced tomatoes)—and I grabbed the bell pepper on a quick trip to T&T. I’m not sure if this dish is a soup or a curry—I went in expecting a soup, but it ended up reducing to the point where it was pretty thick. I ate it over rice noodles, so I suppose at this point it’s more of a curry sauce.
Get this, the recipe was so delicious that even Kevin tried some and liked it! Even though it has mushrooms!! (He didn’t eat any of the mushrooms, and I admit there were a lot of competing flavours in there, but still. I consider it pretty amazing he would even touch something that’s been “contaminated” with the stuff.)
Fried Rice with Soy Sauce Marinated Eggs and Thai Curry
I bought a big slab of pork belly from T&T and made one of Kevin’s favourite dishes, braised pork belly, for dinner (didn’t get a good picture of it yesterday, sorry). Kevin suggested we could use the same cooking stock as a marinade for hard boiled eggs! Culinary genius! Not sarcastic. Anyway, the eggs could’ve been a little more flavourful, after only sitting in the marinade overnight. I’ll let the rest sit in stock for another day and see.
Meanwhile, the fried rice was totally delicious. We added some Lao Gan Ma chili oil sauce and I fried the rice for a bit longer to add extra crisp. Kevin ate his with pork belly, and I ate it with leftover Thai curry / hot pot from yesterday.
Eastern European Easter Bread (Paska)
Happy Good Friday! We don’t really celebrate Easter but I wanted to bake a holiday-specific bread for today. God I haven’t made bread in so long. I thought about kulich, those breads baked in cans, but I ended up going with paska which is what kulich are derived from. I based my bake on this recipe, but made some modifications and added clarifications.
Check out my version here! The bread is slightly sweet, and the little bits of orange rind add a lot of flavour. Paska is traditionally eaten with a sweet creamy cottage cheese and egg yolk spread, but I liked eating it just by itself. Kevin said it could be better with some raisins, so I added that option to the recipe as well.
Tomato Fried Rice with Pork Belly and Soy Sauce Eggs
I had some tomato sauce leftover from my Wednesday gnocchi meal, which I added to this evening’s fried rice. It was an experiment and I wasn’t sure how Kevin would like it, but he loved it beyond my expectations! Personally, I preferred the Lao Gan Ma rice from yesterday, but it makes sense Kevin likes this more since he likes tomatoes.
Simple dinner for Kevin tonight! Pan-fried some of the frozen lamb dumplings we bought at T&T. They smelled sooo good. Also the package looks super fancy and says “New Zealand spring lamb” on it which just makes it seem tastier.
One of these days I swear I’m going to master homemade dumplings. The only thing is they take so long between the filling and the folding and the steaming, I feel like they are a weekend project that involves like, all of your family members. But I swear! I will make delicious dumplings from scratch one day.
Sauteed Peppers with Fried Egg over Steamed Rice
Ending the week on a simple note, I cooked a new batch of calrose rice for our upcoming week’s dinners. I added several tbsp of the pork belly braising stock to add some flavour to the rice! It did enhance the flavour but Kevin and I both agreed it could be stronger.