It all started with sourdough. Or maybe bean recipes. During quarantine and isolation these basic kitchen projects began to infiltrate our Facebook and Instagram feeds. Turns out, for many of us, staying home during the Covid-19 pandemic is an injection of culinary inspiration. It's also pushing us to be more creative because ingredients can be hard to find, dishes we used to order in a restaurant now have to be done at home, and trips to the store are lengthened as much as possible.
But now that we have a jar of sourdough and have prepared all those pantry foods in creative ways, what do we do? We've asked six chefs and bloggers what their deceptively easy recipes are. From homemade pickles to pesto, you may never buy them from the store again.
Most store-bought pesto is made with basil, but if you make it at home, you can play around with different vegetables and herbs. Suzanne Cupps, executive chef at 232 Bleecker in New York, likes to make a spring pesto with chives or arugula. (Cupps' favorite mix is half wild leek and half arugula)
Cupps quickly cooks the vegetables before making the pesto and uses a blender instead of a food processor as it is best to break down the vegetables. In addition to mixing it with pasta, Cupps uses it to spread on sandwiches or serve with grilled fish.
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds (or your favorite nut - traditionally pine nuts are used)
- 1 tablespoon + 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 quarts of spring vegetables, cut into 1-inch pieces (wild leek, chives, or arugula - traditionally basil leaves are used)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 small garlic clove, sliced
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the walnuts in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt. Place evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, turning once, until the almonds are golden and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool.
Put a medium pot of water on the stove to boil. Season generously with salt, as you would with pasta water. Fill a large mixing bowl separately with cold water and ice. Put the spring vegetables in boiling water and dip them with a spoon or long-handled slotted spoon. Let cook over high heat for 30 seconds, then immediately remove with a skimmer or strainer and soak them in the ice water. Leave the vegetables for 2 minutes to cool completely, then strain the water and gently squeeze out any excess.
In a blender or food processor, combine toasted walnuts, vegetables, grated Parmesan, and garlic. Start mixing over low heat and slowly add the cup of olive oil. Gradually increase the speed until the mixture is pureed.
Scrape the pesto into a mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Season to taste with salt. If the pesto is thick, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to loosen it.
Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.The team
Vitamix A2300 Ascent Series 64-Ounce Smart Blender in Black ($ 449.95, originally $ 549.95; amazon.com)
Cupps prefers a blender to a food processor for this spring pesto. She recommends a Vitamix. "They are expensive, but they will last forever and are much stronger than most other blenders," he says.
Checkered Chef Baking Sheets & Sheets Set ($ 22.95, originally $ 37.95; amazon.com)
This frying pan with a removable built-in cooking / cooling rack is so useful in the kitchen that it's hard to imagine life without it once it's in rotation. From roasting walnuts to chilling cookies, cakes, and donuts (see below), or even baking bacon, burgers, and tray dishes, this dynamic duo works hard for home cooks.
All-Clad 4-Quart Stainless Steel Pot with Lid ($ 199.95, originally $ 279.99; amazon.com)
A medium-sized pot is a solid accessory in any kitchen cabinet, whether it's boiling water or making homemade soup.
Kitchen Easy Release White Ice Cube Trays, 4-Pack ($ 11.95, originally $ 19.95; amazon.com)
Creating an ice bath to whiten vegetables or cool hard-boiled eggs before putting them in the refrigerator requires a lot of ice. Even if you have an ice maker in your freezer, it can still be useful to grab some of these trays.
MyLifeUnit Japanese Hot Pot Skimmer ($ 6.99; amazon.com)
For this pesto recipe, a skimmer is used to remove the vegetables from the boiling water. However, a skimmer can be used for many different jobs, from taking out hard-boiled eggs to gently dropping food into and out of hot frying oil.
Even seasoned bakers can resist the idea of making donuts at home. After all, the donut machine at Krispy Kreme isn't exactly something you can put in a home kitchen. Fortunately, Dzung Lewis, YouTuber and author of the upcoming "Honeysuckle Cookbook", has found a way to avoid excess oil and still make donuts at home.
"I love making baked donuts, which are a bit healthier than their fried counterparts, and when it comes to flavors, you can make them as forgiving or as light as you want with just a few ingredient swaps," he says. Lewis has experimented quite a bit with donuts, from matcha green tea to bacon-topped maple syrup donuts.
While baking is much easier than frying, you need to invest in a special piece of equipment: a donut pan. After some experimentation, Lewis finds that a silicone one works much better than non-stick steel pans, even when sprayed with oil. Lewis stabilizes the pan on a baking sheet. The dough is channeled into the molds using a pastry bag, although a large bag with a trimmed corner can also be used.
Check out some of Dzung Lewis's donut recipes on his YouTube channel:
- Matcha Green Tea Baked Donuts
- 3 baked fruity donuts
- Baked Chocolate Donuts
Wilton Food Grade Donut Nonstick Baking Pans, Set of 2 ($ 12, originally $ 16.69; amazon.com)
Lewis likes that these silicone donut trays are not only non-stick, but also roll up and store easily.
Wilton Perfect Results Nonstick 20-Cavity Donut Baking Pan ($ 14.93, originally $ 22.89; amazon.com)
However, watching Lewis make mini donuts on his YouTube channel, you'll also see this mini non-stick irons.
Ateco 18-Inch Disposable Pastry Bags, Set of 100 ($ 14.49; amazon.com)
The sleeves allow you to carefully transfer the dough to the mold.
Set of Magnetic Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons ($ 29.99; amazon.com)
Making donuts from scratch requires a ton of ingredients measured in varying amounts. This set of spoons and cups should suffice.
Oxo Good Grips 11-Inch Whisk ($ 9.99; amazon.com)
A good whisk will mix all kinds of amazing things, including the donut dough.
Cooptop Silicone Spatula in Red ($ 10.99; amazon.com)
Spatulas are ideal for mixing dough and scraping every last drop to make as many donuts as possible.
Falafel and donuts don't have much in common, but again, falafel can be a very popular food that we can assume (wrongly) that requires a deep fryer and is not worth trying at home. Hannah Messinger, a food writer in Nashville, Tennessee, has become a falafel evangelist in part because of her podcast, "Pantry Raid," where she encourages people to cook with ingredients they already have. Turns out, Falafel might not be so out of reach. Pro tip: Falafel is a great way to use leftover beans, herbs, and vegetables!
That's because Messinger's recipe is what she calls "highly improvised" and "one of the most forgiving recipes you can imagine." Although her recipe calls for dried chickpeas, she is quick to add that you can use almost any dried bean. Dried beans are soaked overnight, drained, and then pressed into a food processor with onions and parsley or whatever herb you have on hand.
Then you collect the processed dough into small balls and fry them. Falafel is best eaten fresh, but you can store the dough in an airtight container for up to five days and fry it fresh as needed.
Once fried, falafel can be added to a salad, put on a pita, or even served on a plate with some olives, pickles, and feta for a Mediterranean flair on a cheese plate.The team
Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus Food Processor ($ 39.95; amazon.com)
No space or budget for a full-size food processor? No problem! Messinger says a small one works well, you may have to mix it in batches.
Norpro 679 Stainless Steel Spoon ($ 17.80; amazon.com)
Messinger obtains uniform falafel balls using a stainless steel spoon. This size can also be used for meatballs, extra large cookies, and even ice cream.
T-fal E76597 12-Inch Nonstick with Lid ($ 67.95; amazon.com)
Rated the best non-stick skillet of 2020 by CNN Underscored, it offers a serious non-stick surface at a great price. Those delicious and crispy falafels don't stick to this skillet!
Messinger also recommends serving falafel with labneh, which, depending on where you find it, might be hard to find even before the pandemic. It is a kind of cheese made from strained yogurt. You can do it at home, you guessed it, by straining yogurt. Tenaya Darlington, better known on the Internet as Madame Fromage, started making her own labneh after finding a recipe for it in Lucy and Greg Malouf's "New Feast". You can find the full recipe here, but as with quick pickles, it's a recipe that requires patience.
Labneh is done by letting the serum drain slowly. In "New Feast," the authors recommend tying yogurt in a cloth bag and hanging it on a wooden spoon, but Darlington found a much easier solution: line a strainer with cheesecloth and let it sit in a larger mixing bowl. Throughout the night, the buttermilk will drain slowly, leaving you with a fresh, spicy cheese in the morning.
While labneh may seem close to Greek yogurt, and Greek yogurt is almost everywhere these days, Darlington prefers to start with regular yogurt.
"I find that a lot of Greek yogurt contains thickening agents, and sometimes the consistency reminds me of wet cement," he says. Using regular yogurt (Darlington likes the grass-fed organic type) gives you more control over texture and flavor.
Labneh can be used as a spread or as a dip, but Darlington is particularly excited about using it in labneh bowls for breakfast. Put a little in a bowl and top it with fruit, crisps (such as seeds or nuts) and spices, and you'll have a surprisingly sophisticated response to oatmeal.The team
Oxo Good Grips 8-Inch Dual Rod Strainer ($ 19.99; amazon.com)
Yogurt drains through a fine mesh strainer overnight to leave behind a thickened, spicy labneh.
Regency Natural Ultra Fine Cheesecloth ($ 4.49; amazon.com)
Even if you don't have a fine mesh screen, you can line a strainer with cheesecloth to strain yogurt.
"New Feast: Modern Middle Eastern Vegetarian" by Lucy Malouf & Greg Malouf ($ 29.99; amazon.com)
This is the cookbook that inspired Darlington to try making his own labneh at home.
You can make quick pickles out of just about anything, and it can be an easy way to use and preserve products before they spoil. They're also a great way to spice up meals that are starting to feel repetitive with all this home cooking. Carolynn Spence, chef at Shaker + Spear in Seattle, almost always has a jar of what she calls "all-purpose pickles."
"I'll be honest, as a chef ... I don't cook much at home. I'm more of a sandwich. But whatever you eat generally requires spiciness and acid, ”he says of pickled peppers, which he adds to pizza, egg salad, vegetables, and sandwiches. Quick pickles don't last as long as traditional preservation methods, but they are much easier and still last several months in the fridge. Plus, Spence adds, you don't need to worry about preserving them for more than a few months - you'll eat them long before they expire!
Fresno peppers have a very balanced spiciness and are less distinctive than jalapeños, making them a great condiment. But you can do this with jalapeños or another pepper, just keep in mind that while the pickle removes part of the itch, if you pick something like a habanero, it will still be very spicy.Pickled chili recipe
- 16 red ash chilies (or similar amount of any vegetable)
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of white sugar
Cut the chilies into thin slices and soak them in water to seed.
Boil the 2 cups of water and vinegar and dissolve the salt and sugar.
Place the chilies in a 1-quart Mason jar and cover with liquid.
The pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will be stored for a few months.The team
12-Ounce Mason Jars, Smooth Side, 12 ($ 10.59; target.com)
Spence stores her quick pickled chili peppers in 32-ounce Mason jars. They're great for long-term storage, and the glass won't absorb odors or odors.
8 Inch Wüsthof Classic Chef's Knife ($ 116.99, originally $ 165; amazon.com)
This high-quality chef's knife will last a lifetime when well cared for and will make preparing food that much more enjoyable.
17-by-11-inch reversible cutting board with handles and juice slot ($ 49.97; amazon.com)
Making quick pickles requires a lot of cutting. A versatile cutting board will be essential for that, or any kitchen project that requires cutting. Our editors love the juice groove that keeps juicy fruits and vegetables from running all over the kitchen counter.
Zoie + Chloe 3-in-1 Stainless Steel Funnel Set ($ 13.99, originally $ 20; amazon.com)
Pouring liquids into Mason jars from a bowl or pot requires skill. Reduce spills using a wide mouth funnel. This set comes with a bunch of inserts that make the funnel useful in a bunch of applications.
The broth is relatively cheap to buy in stores, so many of us don't think twice about making ours. But, as with the pickles, it is an easy activity that leaves a good feeling. The most important thing with the broth is the time: you need to simmer the ingredients for at least two or three hours. But since you're probably sitting at home anyway, why not? And, just like pickles, it can be a great use for leftover carrots or celery and a way to get more use out of whole roast chicken or other bones. Frank Proto, director of operations for the Culinary Education Institute, shared his recipe with us. Makes a lot of it, but recommends freezing it after cooling so you have it on hand for defrosting and future use. In addition to using it for soups, Proto recommends using homemade broth for rice, pasta and braised meats. Try the broth while simmering; It must be "sulso ... but with a good chicken flavor," he explains. If it's not there, you can always simmer longer.
Proto also recommends cooling the broth quickly before freezing it to reduce the risk of contamination. Use a bucket full of ice and water to cool the containers before labeling them with the date and putting them in the freezer.Chicken broth recipe
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 pounds of chicken bones
- 1 pound chicken wings (if you don't have any, just add more bones)
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the bones and wings and brown lightly.
Add all the chopped vegetables, including the garlic, and brown lightly.
Add cold water to cover the bones and vegetables. Add the bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil.
Once the broth boils, reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 2 to 3 hours. Strain and cool.The team
Gourmet Aluminum Pot with Lid (starting at $ 99.98, originally starting at $ 103; amazon.com)
Proto uses a 22-quart pot to make his broth, which is too big for most of us. Recommend a 10 to 15 quart pot for most home chefs.
DuraHome Food Storage Containers with Lids, Set of 44 ($ 17.91; amazon.com)
Chefs, including Proto, love plastic containers. You can usually find them at restaurant supply stores, and they're cheap and reusable. Proto recommends getting a mix of pint and quart containers so you have different sizes. Because the caps fit both sizes, you're less likely to be struggling with finding the right size. Of course, the jars mentioned above also work well for this.
3 Quart Stainless Steel Mesh Strainer Basket ($ 9.96; amazon.com)
This large strainer is ideal for straining solids out of the broth while pouring from the pot into a bowl (see below) and then into jars for storage.
Rorence Stainless Steel Non-Slip Mix Bowls, Set of 3 in Red ($ 38.99, originally $ 42.99; amazon.com)
Mixing bowls with high rims, non-slip bottoms, pour spouts, handles, and lids are more or less the holy grail of mixing bowls. This set will be used for everything in almost any kitchen.
Note: The above prices reflect the price at the time of article posting.