Saturday, March 28, 2020

Day 15

If I didn’t think it was possible to focus more on food than I already do, living in quarantine-lite has taught me differently. Starting with panic buying, which hit my part of Northern Virginia just as we started this episode, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and watching as other people have too:
  • Wondering how people are going to use up all those canned goods they bought (I suspect they are too, judging by articles I’ve been seeing)
  • Seeing lots of jokes about “the Covid 19” (this year’s variation on the Freshman 15)
  • Getting really annoyed when I realized that my local grocery store had run out of flour, which normally I seem to be the only person buying
  • Mentally mulling over the contents of my fridge regularly to make sure there’s enough for every meal (now that everyone's here for every. single. meal), and that everything’s getting used
  • Meeting a higher-than-usual demand for goodies, from me as much as anyone else (more on that later)
I’ve written so much about my interest in creatively repurposing leftovers that they have their own tag here. And I wrote a very long time ago about the Soup Spec that I developed to accommodate pretty much any soup-making situation.

Back of the Fridge Soup
This is Miss B’s accurate, if unflattering, name for the meal that is a regular leftover-transformation mechanism in our house. I have learned that if you puree it, mix in a good-sized dollop of sour cream at the end, and serve it with cheese and homemade bread alongside, it is likely to get consumed with gusto. This week’s iteration went as follows:
  1. Heat up a good-sized lump (maybe a heaping teaspoon?) of bacon fat and butter (or whatever other fat you’ve got on hand).
  2. Throw in a couple of anchovies, if you’ve got them and you eat them. (This is all to add some umami to a mostly veggie soup.)
  3. Add a soffrito of carrot, celery, and red onion (probably half a carrot, half an onion and 2 small celery sticks, chopped impatiently in my mini processor, not lovingly by hand) and cook gently for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Dump in the leftovers of a large batch (2+ cups) of broccoli that you had steamed for Monday night’s dinner, then mixed with salt, garlic, and olive oil.
  5. Add in a few odds and ends that need to be used up: the last of a batch of roasted asparagus, 4 oven fries also left over from Monday night’s dinner, the last tablespoons of a recent batch of rice, a couple of lettuce leaves that were too unstable for lettuce wraps, the hard end of a piece gruyere. (I have mentioned how much I hate to waste food, right?)
  6. Ladle in chicken stock made from a recent roast chicken carcass (this makes five meals from one chicken!) until all of the solids are just submerged.
  7. Bring everything just to a boil, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes (everything in here is already cooked, so you’re just making sure it’s all hot enough).
  8. Puree with your stick blender (or other mechanism of choice), then check to see if the soup is the right consistency for you. If too thick, you can thin with a little more chicken stock (or milk or water). If too thin, you can simmer it a little longer, or up the amount of sour cream that you’re about to add.
  9. Stir a hearty dollop (bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a volleyball) of sour cream until fully dissolved.
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings - this usually means add a bit more salt. (I also have been known to add things like sriracha, tomato paste, or pesto at this point, both for taste and to adjust the color of the soup if I felt it was looking a little on the sludgy side. This soup, as the photo up top may not show, was just green enough on its own to achieve aesthetic presentability.)
Serve with accompaniments - in my house, this is always homemade rolls and wedges of cheese, as well as homemade croutons if I've got the wherewithal. 

This produced about 6 servings of soup - so, one dinner and a couple of random lunches for this household of 3. (Our fourth member isn't much of a soup eater.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Day 12

Since we’ve officially been in social isolation mode, that is. Here’s the update from our version of this strange new world where most of us find ourselves these days.
Family & home We were already more than a week into a 4-week school closure for Miss B when the announcement came on Monday that the governor of Virginia had closed the schools for the remainder of the year. That hit me hard - I already knew it was serious, but that magnitude of serious was a little overwhelming to process. In terms of day to day life, it doesn’t change things dramatically; we had already figured out a schoolwork schedule, and we’ll adjust that as input from the school becomes more consistent. And all of our international moves have helped us build our skills as a self-sufficient unit. Being able to get outside is key, though - Miss B and I both joke about how usually we’d never leave the house if we didn’t have to, but now if I don’t get outside once every day, things start to get on top of me.
Work Since I already work from home and have for more than a decade, I’m pretty much carrying on as normal. Many of the people I work with don’t, of course, so I’ve been watching their adjustment from afar - and anear too, since DP has now shifted from going into DC most days to running online seminars and meetings from the basement. And even as a veteran telecommuter, it’s challenging to carry on as normal when a) there are so many people in your house, and in all the other houses, taking up internet bandwidth; and b) all everyone can think about most of the time is this situation. Sometimes work is a welcome distraction, and sometimes it pushes me around the bend. It’s important to pay attention to the distinction, and adjust accordingly.
Food Yesterday made me realize this forcefully. Still processing the news about schools closing for the year (and acknowledging the attending grief), I was struggling to focus, to keep my patience, to accomplish anything useful. At 4pm I took a break as planned, and went for a walk with DP. We made a familiar circuit on the college campus near our house, including a stop to admire some cherry blossoms (see above). When I came home, I went straight into the kitchen and made a batch of bread dough, another of salsa, and finished off with a batch of Cheesy Potato Gnocchi from Love Your Leftovers that uses up leftover mashed potatoes. And for the moment, anyway, my equilibrium is restored.

Action I’m trying to take some responsible productive action every day; today’s is continuing my effort to repurpose food waste into food production - new lettuce growing from the stump of a head of romaine:

Hope you’re staying well, staying safe, and staying home.
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