It’s hard to believe that it’s been less than 6 weeks since the lockdown began – it feels so much longer. I’ve noticed that several of my friends are using the extra time (if they aren’t working) to attempt things they haven’t done before – sourdough bread, kombucha, cinnamon buns. One of my friends is even doing a FB cooking show from her kitchen.
Much as I love to have friends and family in my home, even before the lockdown I rarely got surprise company – which is sad. I love to have people drop in. When someone arrives unexpectedly the onus is on them to take you as you come rather than the expectation I have of myself, that everything should be just right. There was a time when part of my identity was wrapped up in being a great cook. I have long since given up on the elaborate meals I used to prepare, preferring instead to focus on simple, hearty, healthy food and having the energy to enjoy my guests.
I like having the ingredients on hand for a few quickly thrown together meals – who knows when a blizzard might hit – or a lockdown. I’ll share a few of those over the next week or so.
I help homeschool 2 of my granddaughters and last year we studied Lemony Snickett’s book, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. The adventure begins as three recently orphaned siblings are forced to live under the abusive guardianship of their dastardly uncle, Count Olaf, (whose intentions alas are not at all exemplary).
One day the Count insists the children prepare dinner for his motley theatre troupe – and gives them a pittance to do so. Twelve year old Klaus does some research and the children are able to prepare Pasta Puttenesca on just such a pittance. While the provenance of this recipe is not quite kid friendly, it is as ‘colorful’ as the dish itself is robust -capers, black olives, anchovies – yowzers!
I thought it would be fun for the girls to prepare this for the family. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11583-pasta-puttanesca
I substitute a good squirt of anchovy paste, ( which I keep in my freezer) for the anchovies but everything else could be found in most home pantries. ( I prefer the capers packed in salt which I find at a local Mediterranean market.) Though capers are a bit pricey, a little goes a long way and they last a long time in the fridge. This flavorful dish can be on the table in less than 30 minutes – start to finish.
Add a quick salad, a loaf of bread and if you have it, a full bodied ‘bright’ wine to make a memorable, super easy, and thrifty meal. A good just before payday treat. The following recipe for Black Bean Brownies goes together in less than 5 minutes so if you start them before the pasta they can bake while you throw together the pasta.
Black Bean Brownies
Many of my friends are on gluten and or dairy free diets This recipe satisfies both those requirements. It’s another dish you can prepare with on hand ingedients. And because they are so healthy, you don’t have to feel guilty if you happen to over indulge just a little bit. On the other hand, the protein in the beans makes them so satisfying you are less likely to need to. These are so easy to prepare that it’s almost embarrassing to include the recipe.
Black Bean Bownies 350F
- 1 tin black beans drained (this is for the 15oz tin – if I only have 19 oz I add another egg and a bit more of everything else)
- 1/2cup cocoa powder
- 1/3 white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tp vanilla
- Blend the beans in the food processor till smooth then add the rest of the ingredients and process briefly until combined. Scrape the mixture into a 9” square pan lined with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle the surface with ½ cup chocolate chips.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes
That easy. Try not to consume the whole panful in one sitting.
I’m happy to announce no one in the family was as rude as Count Olaf’s guests and we all enjoyed the meal – not expecting prime rib on a pittance.
None of us have any idea what the future holds for our various countries as we work our way out of this strange situation we find ourselves in. There are people who are hurting fiercely, scared and in great distress. The real or perceived threat we have experienced has required people to distance themselves from each other. But relationship, fresh air and exercise are important to our immune systems and above all to our mental health.
I think many of us have learned some valuable lessons during this enforced down time. The importance of family, friendships and community cannot be overstated. If you aren’t ready to throw your doors open, an extended chat (at an appropriate distance) with a neighbor might lead to coffee together or a walk. But kindness and acceptance are the main ingredients required for healing our fractured world. And they are free and never out of stock.
A dear friend of mine – one who exemplified hospitality – passed away today. I can’t bring myself to say died – not because of denial, but because I seriously don’t believe she did. I believe she is more alive than she has ever been. But we will miss her and remember the many ways she blessed our lives – how her hospitality warmed us physically and spiritually and her love of beauty and her amazing gardens enriched our souls. In Till We Have Faces CS Lewis wrote, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.” We shall meet again in a yet more beautiful place.