COVID-19 Cooking Diary: Photos and Recipes from the Bikes and Butter Quarantine Kitchen
Updated: May 21, 2020
Main Dishes and Condiments
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Since everything is closed (except for grocery stores and a few other essential businesses), we’ve been cooking a lot to stay busy and distract ourselves from the news. We’ve been posting some food photos on social media, especially Instagram (@bikes_and_butter), but weren’t in the head space to write until recently. To put it mildly, things haven’t been normal. And in these strange times, one of Seattle’s most highly regarded fine dining establishments temporarily became a burger joint to survive.
Recently, a couple of friends who saw some of our social posts persistently asked, “hey, is that recipe on your blog?” So why not write a post and share all that we’ve been cooking. If we can entertain you for a bit or give you a few cooking ideas while you’re spending more time at home, we’re happy to do that. 😊
So, friends, here are some of the fun things we’ve cooked lately. Most of these were really tasty, with the exception of a couple of flops we’ve included at the end for posterity’s sake. Enjoy!
Note: since we’ve been baking a lot more during quarantine, we plan to do a separate post on that. Stay tuned.
Salmon Gravlax with a Mexican Spin
We enjoy watching Pati’s Mexican Table, a PBS show, and included it in a recent list of sites and recipes we look to for cooking inspiration. In an episode of her show, she made Mexican-Style Gravlax with Cilantro and Tequila. We went to Alaska a couple of summers ago and *still* have a zillion pounds of Coho salmon in our freezer. It’s very firm and meaty, not rich and buttery like king salmon, so it’s been hard to figure out what to do with it. So, with the salmon taking up key freezer real estate, we decided to give this a go. And guess what?! It was delicious!
This is a great set-it-and-forget-it recipe too. You season the fish, put it in the fridge and weigh down the top to press the seasonings into the fish, spoon the liquid in the dish over it each night and then two days later you have wonderful homemade gravlax.
Serving suggestion: while you can eat these with bagels and cream cheese or on toast, we decided to use up what we already had in the fridge (flour tortillas and Mexican sour cream (crema agria). Since we still have plenty of Alaskan salmon in the freezer, we’re inspired to try making this recipe again or to try another gravlax recipe.
South African Leg of Lamb
To counter boredom, we started looking to old cookbooks for inspiration. Sometimes it’s fun to look at all the photos in these when you just don’t feel like reading a book (which is how we’ve felt for much of the last month or so). We enjoy watching BBQ master Steven Raichlen’s shows on PBS and own one of his early cookbooks, The Barbecue Bible.
Officially called “Cape Town Lamb,” this recipe combines both Asian and British influences. The marinade is made with everything from garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice.
Pictured above: (left) Cape Town Lamb about to come off the ceramic smoker grill / (right) the lamb and Pineapple Achar with grilled broccoli (cooked on a gas grill)
We took Steve’s recommendation in his cookbook and paired this with a Pineapple Achar, a unique SE Asian salsa-like condiment. Its secret ingredient is fish sauce which sounds really weird but it works! We added some red onion to this, which we recommend as it rounds out the flavors. I ate this by making a taco: I took a warmed fresh pita from my favorite Mediterranean Bakery (Mediterranean Oasis in Shoreline) and wrapped it around the lamb and achar.
Pizza with Homemade Dough and Red Sauce
Another fun thing to cook when you’ve got extra time is pizza.
We used the Thin-Crust Pizza recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, but deviated by making our own version of red sauce. We didn’t like their method of not cooking the sauce. (Cooking concentrates the flavors and reduces some of the moisture.) We topped the pizza with sautéed shitake mushrooms.
New Orleans Dirty Rice
We love this dish so much that we wrote a previous post on it.
We recommend doubling the meat or halving the rice to make it more of a main dish. If you have leftovers, it’s great topped with fried or poached eggs. (On that note, one of the easiest ways to make poached eggs is with a Demeyere Stainless Steel Each Poaching Pan. We prefer this to fishing eggs out of boiling water with a slotted spoon or the sous vide method. It’s much quicker and simpler)
Honey Lavender Chicken
This is a really flavorful take on roast chicken as it combines both herbs and lemon. We made this with homegrown culinary lavender. You could use Herbs De Provence too – or a smattering of the dried herbs you that you have on hand.
The pan sauce made with the drippings from the chicken is out of this world! You can find the full recipe here.
Slow-Cooker Pork Ribs – both St. Louis style and Baby Back Ribs
Quarantine means that you can now use your slow-cooker (AKA Crockpot) during the week too! And in anticipation of a Costco run, we had to start clearing out our freezer. It was like a treasure chest. First, we found some baby back ribs. A week later, we found some St. Louis style ribs.
This recipe for Slow-Cooker Classic Barbecued Spareribs takes some time, but it is very easy as the slow-cooker does most of the work. You put a dry spice rub on some pork ribs, put them in the slow-cooker on low, and finish them off by topping them with barbecue sauce and placing them under the broiler or on the grill. We used our gas grill since we still haven’t made peace with our broiler (long story but it involves tons of smoke coming out of the oven when broiling tomatillos and poblano peppers for pork chili verde). Also, instead making the bbq sauce specified in the recipe, we were lazy and just used a bbq sauce we already had in the fridge.
This recipe is behind a paywall on the America’s Test Kitchen site, but it’s worth your while right now and after quarantine to subscribe. By the way, right now America’s Test Kitchen is offering some free content: The 50 America's Test Kitchen Recipes You Need Now.
Smokey, Spicy and Sweet Chili Sauce: Salsa Macha
This unusual Mexican sauce/condiment is good on almost everything. It is tasty on tacos, especially Citrus-Braised Pork Tacos. It’s also lovely on toast topped with poached eggs. It takes a great dish and gives it just a little more flavor and kick. (And Salsa Macha goes well with all kinds of food, not just Mexican dishes.)
We made this recipe from Pati Jinich a while back and were running out. Fortuitously, we had some dried chilis sitting around in our cabinets. They were not the chilis specified in the recipe, but with quarantine cooking, who cares? Now is the time to allow yourself extra creative license. While the recipe contains two kinds of chipotle chilis, we used what we had: 2 chipotle chilis, some New Mexico chilis, some guajillo chilis, and a couple of chiles de arbol for heat and (red) color.
You can watch the video of Pati Jinich making this wonderful sauce here.
Pickled veggies are a culinary workhouse as they keep for a while (in the fridge) and have so many potential uses. For instance, they’re great on tacos, salads, and rice bowls.
We make these particular pickled vegetables often, even when we’re not making the full recipe for Pickled Vegetable Salad with Nori Vinaigrette. This wonderful salad was featured on Milk Street Kitchen and it’s worth making too.
While this recipe calls for carrots, a red onion, and red radishes, you can use other veggies instead. We used watermelon radishes for variety since the store had plenty in stock. We also tried using golden beets which seemed like a great idea but wasn’t. Uncooked beets – even when immersed in hot pickling liquid – taste a little too earthy. We’ll stick to making pickled beets by putting them in the pressure cooker first. The more you know, right?
While this calls for rice vinegar, we had tons of apple cider vinegar sitting around and didn’t want to deplete our bottle of rice vinegar, so apple cider vinegar it was. In a perfect world, we recommend using rice vinegar since it has the right level of acidity and sweetness. With apple cider vinegar, we had to add more sugar to balance the tartness.
In the interests of providing a more unfiltered and candid view during these times, here's the stuff we made that wasn’t up to par.
To mix things up, we decided to go meatless for the evening and make these Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Enchiladas. Unfortunately, this recipe was a bust. The final product just had way too much cilantro. Also, the canned black beans brought no flavor, just fiber. We’d like to add more vegetarian main dishes to our repertoire, but this one needs work.
Next time we attempt vegetarian Mexican fare, we’ll probably use Soyrizo. We sometimes use this in the place of Spanish chorizo when making paella (when dining with friends who don’t eat pork). It’s a vegan soy-based chorizo with plenty of spices. It has a ton of flavor and could be used in scrambled eggs, nachos, etc.
Frozen Dim Sum
Since we can’t go out for dim sum, we decided to bring the experience home – or to attempt to bring the experience home with the frozen dim sum items we had in our freezer. To sum it up one word: terrible! The BBQ pork hum bao just didn’t take like it's supposed to. Neither did the shumai. If you know if a decent brand of frozen dim sum, let us know.
Looking back, producing 8 tasty items out of 10 total is pretty good. We’ll take that as a win.
In the meantime, peace to you and your family and happy cooking! If you try making any of these items, let us know in the comments below.