THE HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: MARCH PROJECT

If you don’t know what the Home Bakers Collective is all about, please read my post about it with a click here. This month’s challenge was… surprise surprise…. conceived by yours truly! In case you did not notice, we are following the painful path of elimination through the Great American Baking Show that aired in December. Seems like ages ago, as we face  difficult, truly stressful times. At some point I did not know if we could even meet this challenge. Things degenerated too quickly, nobody could find flour and many other baking ingredients were scarce (and still are), but my baking  buddies stood up to the task and here we are. The brief is: bake a pie to say goodbye to winter, dedicated or inspired by someone you miss. Mine is a Blueberry Pie, and I dedicate it to my stepson Alex. More about it on comments after the recipe.

Note added after publication: our next challenge, designed by Tanya, will be…. DONUTS!  Any shape, any kind… If you’d like to join, bake some and we’ll soon figure out a way to share them all…

BLUEBERRY-BERGAMOT PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

for pie crust:
200 g cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
85 g ice-cold water
350 g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water)

for the filling:
3 pints fresh blueberries.
Finely grated zest of 1 orange, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice.
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons cornstarch.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1 drop food-grade bergamot essential oil (optional)

Make the pie crust. Mix the water, egg and vinegar in a bowl, reserve in the fridge. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few seconds to mix, but just a few seconds, you do not want to heat up the ingredients.

Add the very cold butter in pieces and pulse briefly to form clumps of butter the size of peas. Turn the processor on and add the cold water/egg mixture through the opening of the lid. Process until the dough starts to come together, then stop immediately.  Grab the dough and press it as a disk over plastic wrap.  Reserve in the fridge for one hour.

Divide the dough in two parts, one slightly bigger than the other (to form the bottom crust). Roll the bigger portion as a round with about 3mm in thickness. Drape it over the pan and reserve in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Roll the second portion in the same thickness to cover the top. Using small cookie cutters make a design on the top if desired, and cut decorations from the same piece of dough. Place them in the freezer.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Make the filling. In a medium bowl, gently toss together blueberries, orange zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, and bergamot oil.  Pour the  mixture over the bottom crust, dot with butter and cover with the frozen disk. Brush the surface with egg wash.

Bake until the filling begins to bubble out of the vents and the top crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 to 2 hours to let the filling set before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had a lot of fun making this pie, even if compared to the fancy designs made by serious pie artists, mine was pretty amateurish. I dedicated this pie to my stepson Alex. There are two food items that I will always associate with him, because he loves them so much. Blueberries and crab. No, not together, he is a man of fine taste… 😉  When he lived with us as a young teenager and blueberries were in season, we always kept many little containers in the fridge, so that he could have his blueberry fix with every meal. Steamed crab legs were another favorite of his, our dinners would take a long time, as the three of us went through an impressive number of crab legs. Unfortunately, we don’t see him as often as we would like. He is a physician in New York, a resident in Interventional Radiology working right in the center of the coronavirus pandemic. We wish we lived closer and that he could have enjoyed this pie, sitting right at our table with his adorable partner Courtnie…

Please make sure to stop by The Bakers Collective to see what my fellow tent-bakers did for this challenge. Not everyone could join, for obvious reasons. Life has been stressful for the whole human population. It is a strange way to feel connected to the whole world, and I hope that this nightmare will have a happy ending soon. Be well, be safe, be healthy and STAY HOME.

ONE YEAR AGO: Another Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SIX YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

MOROCCAN TURKEY PIE WITH OLIVE OIL CRUST

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here. A video summarizing important tips can be found here

We don’t eat sweets that much. I bake a lot but it all goes to departmental colleagues, senior citizens at our town center, and homeless meals. What is a baker to do, when a pandemic forces everyone into isolation and she has very limited outlets to share sweets?  She bakes savory stuff, that is. Like this crazy departure on Shepherd’s Pie, made lighter because the topping is cauliflower-based. The lightness is immediately neutralized by enclosing it in a pie crust. It all balanced out beautifully,  and we were both quite pleased with our dinner. Normally I would make a salad to go with it, but it felt like a complete meal without it.

 

MOROCCAN TURKEY PIE WITH OLIVE OIL CRUST
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the pie crust:
250g all-purpose flour (260 grams)
1/8 teaspoon salt
50g olive oil (50 grams)
125 g cold water

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the olive oil, stir with a fork until the flour gets coated with it, forming a crumbly ness. Slowly add cold water and knead gently just until the dough starts to comes together.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate one hour before using.

Roll it over plastic wrap lightly coated with flour, then use it to cover a 9-inch pie pan of your choice. Freeze for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400F. Remove crust from the freezer, cover with saran wrap or parchment paper and add weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

for the filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 + 1/2 pounds ground turkey
2 large carrots, cut in pieces
8 oz mushrooms cut in pieces
2 celery ribs, minced
1 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon harissa, or to taste

Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet using 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and seasoning with 1 tsp salt. Once the meat is brown, transfer to a bowl. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil and saute the carrots, shallot and mushrooms, sprinkling all the spices and the final 1/2 tsp salt over the veggies as they cook. Once the veggies start to get some color, add the harissa, the ground turkey reserved, and mix everything gently. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool it completely.

for the topping:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
70g raw almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp paprika

Arrange the cauliflower florets in a steamer basket, cover, and steam for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Check after 12 minutes, if a fork goes through easily, stop the steaming.

Put the almonds, olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and paprika in a Vitamix type blender (or food processor) and add the steamed cauliflower. Blend, increasing the power until it gets very smooth and thickens a little.  Remove from the blender and reserve until ready to top the pie. Can be made a day in advance, keep it in the fridge.

Assemble the pie. Heat the oven to 400F. Add the turkey filling to the crust, spoon the cauliflower topping. If desired, add a pattern using the tines of a fork.

Bake for 30 minutes. If you like a darker topping run it under a broiler protecting the edges of the pie crust. Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you omit the pie crust, this would turn into a pretty low-carb meal, that will still be quite satisfying. Keep that option in mind, although then I think a small salad could be a nice touch. Just lightly coat a Pyrex pie dish with olive oil and add the cooled turkey mixture, spread the cauliflower topping and bake. Some grated cheese could be very nice, we usually opt for a meal that is low in saturated fat, so we skip it.

I am very pleased with the olive oil crust. There are many recipes in cookbooks and websites, some will instruct you to do it as a press-on crust, but I did not like that at all. I adjusted the amount of flour and fat to produce a dough with good consistency for rolling. As a general rule, olive oil crusts need to bake for 35 to 40 minutes total, so depending on the type of filling you have, how moist it is, you can blind bake it for 10 minutes as I did, or skip it all together. Make sure the total baking time does not go over 40 minutes, or the crust might get too tough. It is a nice option for those avoiding dairy or trying to reduce the level of saturated fat.

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Another Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie (what a nice coincidence!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SIX YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

 

YIN & YANG VIENNOISE BREAD

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here

During difficult times we often see the best coming out of people. Acts of kindness, generosity, and love try to counteract the fear and uncertainties that surround us. This bread, with its dual nature of darkness and lightness brings this image to my mind. I enjoyed the process of making it, and hope you consider baking a batch in your kitchen, trying to focus on all the positive things we do have.

 

YIN & YANG VIENNOISE BREAD
(slightly modified from Bake-Street)

300 g bread flour
200 g all purpose flour
3 g osmo-tolerant yeast (or regular instant dry)
255 g milk
40 g egg (whisk one egg and weigh the amount needed)
50 g granulated sugar
75 g butter, at room temperature
10 g salt
20 g cocoa powder + 15 g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten + pinch of salt

Add the flours, yeast, egg, salt, and 3/4 of the milk to a KitchenAid type bowl.  Using the dough hook, mix until the ingredients are incorporated, then decide if you need to add the rest of the milk. Once the milk is added, with the machine still running, add the sugar in two additions. Knead for about 4 minutes at low-speed, then add the butter, one tablespoon or so at a time.  Wait until each  piece disappears into the dough before adding more butter. Knead until you get good gluten development, probably 4 to 5 minutes longer. The dough should stretch smoothly without tearing.

Divide the dough in two portions, one weighing 40 g less than the other. To the smaller batch, add the cocoa powder and brown sugar and knead by hand or in the machine until the cocoa is fully distributed. It will take a little time and effort. Place both balls of dough in separate oiled bowls, and allow them to proof at room temperature for 2 and a half hours.

Divide each dough in five portions, each between 90 and 95g. Form each as a little ball and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each as a long oblong shape about 4mm thick. Place different colors of dough on top and bottom, form as little loaves, seam at the bottom.  Use a very sharp blade to make slashes on the surface, being very determinate. Any hesitation and the cut won’t be sharp enough. You need to see the different color of dough showing underneath. Place the shaped and cut loaves over parchment paper and let them proof at room temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400F.  Paint each loaf with an egg wash, and bake for about 16 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The most interesting aspect of this bread is how the cocoa powder affects texture and resulting oven spring. The white dough is very smooth, stretches easily, and wraps around the dark dough like a soft blanket. The cocoa-containing dough resists rolling a lot more and has a dry feel to it. When it is inside, it will have less oven spring, so the outer dough is not going to open as dramatically as when the dough placement is reversed. As far as taste goes, it will depend on your goal for the bread. If you will enjoy it plain or with a little butter, the light dough inside is the way to go. But if you toast it and enjoy it with jam (orange jam would be awesome according to Eva from Bake-Street), the cocoa kind will be hard to beat.

 

Yin and Yang. Focus on the positive. We know how to deal with this pandemic. Imagine what it was like on the times of the Black Death, when not only people were dying left and right, but nobody knew why. Nobody knew what to do. Focus on the positive. Do everything you can to maintain social distance and to keep your personal environment clean.

The bread is soft, the cocoa crust slightly harder than the lighter version, but not much. These little loaves would be perfect for a brunch on a Sunday morning, or with a nice cup of tea as the sun sets. Focus on the positive, we will beat this.

I am very fond of Eva’s blog Bake-Street, having made quite a few of her recipe over the past few years, they are very detailed and always work as expected. Make sure to stop by and subscribe, you will be glad you did!

ONE YEAR AGO: Extreme Chocolate Cupcakes

TWO YEARS AGO: Sunflower Seed Kamut Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Auberge Pecan-Walnut Bread

MACARONS FOR ALL SEASONS AND REASONS

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here

Crazy times ahead for all of us. I find it difficult to go on blogging as if life is normal, but on the other hand, this site is one of my ways to feel connected, and blogging keeps me sane. Or so I hope. Instead of sharing a recipe, I will talk briefly about a series of macarons that happened in our kitchen over the past few months, since last December to be more precise. When we had no idea of all that was probably already brewing in our beautiful planet. Macarons always make me smile, the idea is to bring a smile to you too…

All recipes in this collection used the same basic method that you can find here.

I start with perhaps my favorite…

These were decorated with air-brush and stencil. Some were piped as donuts and topped with drizzles of Candy melts and sprinkles. The filling was a simple almond buttercream (butter, powdered sugar and smooth almond butter).

 

These were made around the holiday season, using a white chocolate ganache with mint, and decorated in two different ways. Some were painted with golden pearl dust and topped with little stars (for detailed technique, look here). Others were decorated with Royal icing, as at the time we were busy making sugar cookies and had a lot of icing laying around.

 

Very similar filling, except that I used mini-mint chocolate chips to make the ganache. Shells were left plain and decorated with air-brush and stencils.  Come to think of it, a blueberry filling would turn these perfect for the 4th of July!

 

For these shells, I divided the batter in two portions, before proceeding with the macaronage step (when things are still pretty roughly mixed). One portion stayed clear, the other was dyed with gel food color (Chesnut by Progel). Each was placed in a small piping bag, and both were slipped inside a larger bag with a round piping tip (see top right photo in the above picture). The filling, a coffee ganache, was from this post.

 

Galaxy Macarons were all the rage a few years ago. I made them three times, but to be honest, I have not reached my desired goal yet. The batter is divided in four portions, dyed black, dark blue, light blue and pink.  My main mistake is using too much of the darker colors, so they  become too dominant. But this batch was my best, and I decided to share. Stay tuned for future adventures in this theme. Filling was a blueberry ganache made along the lines of this recipe.

 

Very simple batch, dyed Purple using Artisan Accents gel color. As soon as the batter is piped, sprinkles are added on top. Some shells were left naked and decorated later with Candy melts. The filling was another variation of the Galaxy macs, this time using Black Cherry Jam.

Very simple design using once again the air-brush and a stencil. Shells were dyed with a mixture of green and yellow gel dye from Artisan Accents. The filling was American type buttercream (butter and icing sugar) with the addition of Tart Apple flavoring from Amoretti.

 

Loved these! Shells were dyed orange (Artisan Accents gel color), and the filling was a white chocolate ganache with Passion Fruit flavoring once again from Amoretti. After filling, macarons were dipped in a mixture of “magic shell” (like this version). Before the coating set, Sprinkle Party!

 

Thrilled about this and urge you to consider flavoring the shells this way. Simply open a bag of Double Chai tea (I used Stash) and add to the dry almond-powdered sugar mixture. Follow your recipe as you normally would. Shells were decorated with air-brush and several different stencils. The filling was a modification of that from my recent batch. I made a white chocolate ganache and added to it the leftover mango-jellie that I had in the fridge.  The chai flavor is amazing on the shells, and I can tell you I’ll be playing with all sorts of teas in the future.

 

This batch follows along the lines of mixing several colors (in this case purple, red and orange), but instead of separating the batter, you simply paint the inside of the empty bag with a stripe of undiluted food dye.  Fill with the full amount of batter to be piped, and as it moves along it will drag the colors with it. The pattern will be random, the proportion of colors changing as you go. Two things I do not like about this method: you need to make sure the dye reaches way to the bottom of the bag, close to the opening, and as you add the second and third colors, there is a high chance you will mess up the stripes already there. Still, it is a very popular method to make colorful shells. The filling was a Cranberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream which in fact I had made to use in a cake the day before. Recipe should be on the blog soon.

 

Last but not least, a similar effect using a different technique which I read about it in a forum for Mac-addicts on Facebook. Instead of painting the bag, just add a few drops of gel dye on top of the batter once it is ready to go. Quickly move it around with a toothpick, fill the bag and start piping. The picture on the right top corner shows how I did it. You can use many more colors in this case, as you are not limited by the small area inside the piping bag. I loved it! Very easy to do, no mess, no fuss. Expect to see more of this technique in the future. These macs were filled with a White Chocolate Coconut Whipped Ganache. I made it using shredded coconut, simmering heavy cream with it, allowing to cool, straining, and proceeding with a regular ganache.

 

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of macarons, and that it made your social isolation a bit more colorful…

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Lentils and Radicchio? Yes, please!

TWO YEAR AGO: Tres Leches Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Auberge-Pecan Walnut Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars

SIX YEARS AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

COVID19: KEEPING YOURSELF SAFE

A guest post written by my beloved husband….

(An update to this article has been published, please read it here)

Originally posted on March 16, 2020; updated on March 19, 2020

Avoiding COVID‐19

We are witnessing a rapidly evolving pandemic, that is unpleasantly similar to the plagues of the past, and more like science fiction than the reality we took for granted. In many ways COVID‐19 most resembles the Spanish flu from 100 years ago: it’s mortality rate (currently 3.8% vs 2%), it’s R0 (R-naught = contagiousness; currently 3.1 vs 2.0), and its rapid spread across the world. The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed 650,000 americans and >50 million people worldwide. COVID‐19 is related to two other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS. Like them, it is a biosafety level 3 (BSL‐3) pathogen, that’s now loose and uncontained in the population.

Even a few days ago I heard people minimizing or dismissing the severity of this situation. But, as it became known that 12,000 new cases arose in Italy in the past 48 h, and 370 people died yesterday (Italy has a mortality rate of 7.3 %), that unrealistic viewpoint was replaced by fear and panic. No vaccines or anti‐viral medications exist for MERS, SARS or COVID‐19, so we cannot expect medical intervention to stop the pandemic in the near future. The best person to listen to for advice on how to guard against coronavirus is Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on viral pathogens. Still, I read an article asking for guidance on how to avoid contracting COVID‐19, and so I’m summarizing some practical advice about that. You may not need this input, but I want to provide it in case anyone wants it. My wife Sally and I were trained by excellent microbiologists, from whom we learned procedures that prevent contamination. We use them in our laboratory, and as we watched COVID‐19 progress over the past weeks we made a plan to adapt these methods for our home. We are in a high‐risk group, but with this approach we hope to avoid contracting the virus. Given its very contagious nature, that’s a tall order. What follows below is a step‐by‐step plan for how to change life at home.

1. Prepare disinfectants.Coronaviruses are microscopic particles, invisible to the naked eye, that have an RNA genome within a lipid bilayer membrane that also contains proteins. The membrane makes the virus hardy and protects it outside the host cell.   However, most viruses, including COVID‐19, are susceptible to destruction by bleach or alcohol. The first thing to do at home is to prepare two types of spray bottles, one containing 10% bleach, and one containing 70% alcohol (either isopropanol or ethyl alcohol). If you are not knowledgeable about making such solutions, here’s how to do it. For the bleach solution, mix 1 part CLOROX with 9 parts water. Do not use cheap, off brands of bleach; CHLOROX contains stabilizers that maintain its potency for up to 5 days after dilution in water.  Ordinary bleach loses efficacy within 1 day of dilution in water.  For the 70% alcohol, you can buy bottles of 70% isopropanol in supermarkets or pharmacies. You can also buy EVERCLEAR (it is 95% ethyl alcohol) in a liquor store, and mix 3 parts EVERCLEAR with 1 part water. Isopropanol is also available as a 95% solution, so you can dilute that the same way.  10% bleach, 70% isopropanol or 70% ethyl alcohol inactivate and kill COVID‐19 within a minute of exposure. Put these solutions in 1 qt spray bottles (available at supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores) for general use. We also prepare small, 60 mL spray bottles of 70% alcohol to carry in a pocket or purse, and use them to spray down anything that we suspect might be contaminated, including our hands, shopping cart handles, door knobs, gas pump dispensers, etc. You can find these small spray bottles in pharmacies or eye centers, because they are often used to hold eyeglass cleaning solution. Don’t skimp when decontaminating something with bleach or alcohol: give it a thorough coating, until it’s wet with the liquid, then let it sit for at least a minute.

2. Eliminate hand‐to‐mouth contact.When you are in a potentially contaminated environment, whether it’s a public place (grocery store, office, classroom) or in your home, it’s crucial to avoid touching your face. That’s the first priority in the laboratory, but it’s not easy to remember or accomplish. One tip that helps is to think about keeping your hands below the level of your shoulders. If you don’t raise your hands above your shoulders, then you cannot touch your face. Second, maintain a discreet distance from other people, a few feet away. Coronaviruses are quite hardy.  Recent findings (Mar. 17, New England Journal of Medicine) describe the survival of  COVID-19 (also called SARS-Cov-2)  and the related SARS (also called SARS-Cov-1), in the air and on different surfaces: in the air, 3-4 h;  on cardboard, 24 h; on copper, 4 h; on plastic or stainless steel, 2-4 d. Respiratory viruses are present in fluids from the lungs of infected people, but coronaviruses are not airborne… that is, they don’t fly. When they are coughed or sneezed or breathed out in the respiratory droplets of sick people, they have a maximum range of projection of a few feet, before the droplets fall to the floor, a table, or a countertop.  Hence, keep your distance (6 ft) from other people, but especially from anyone who has symptoms of sickness.  A sick person may contaminate others by coughing or sneezing or talking, any of which can project droplets of the virus. But, those droplets fall out of the air in a few minutes, limiting the scope of direct contagion.  On the other hand, a sick person walking through a room touching things leaves a trail of millions of viral particles, that in the case of COVID-19 remain viable and infectious for days.  The head of a pin is large enough to hold 70 million virus particles.  If a sick person walks through a supermarket, even without directly encountering anyone, his or her hands will likely contaminate the shopping cart, that may infect the unlucky 10 – 15 people per day that use it over the next few days, by hand-to-mouth.  Consequently, and perhaps most important, healthy people become infected by touching a contaminated surface, and then touching a mucous membrane (eyes, mouth, nose) without decontaminating their hands.  But, the virus cannot penetrate unbroken skin, so if even you touch an infected surface you can wash your hands or sterilize them with 70% alcohol or 10% bleach to protect yourself. Make a habit of washing your hands with warm soapy water, and when you are out and away from a sink use 70% alcohol to sterilize them.

3. Re‐organize the home environment.At present our city and the university are free of coronavirus, but that will soon change. Now is the time to prepare for a situation in which a percentage of residents are carrying COVID‐19. Yesterday 14% of 1500 people tested in New Rochelle, NY were carrying the virus. Soon, whenever we leave our homes, we will venture into a potentially infectious situation. Besides the possibility of direct contamination, the foods and other items that we bring home are a risk, because they are prepared, packed and shelved by people who we know nothing about, who might be infected or sick with COVID‐19. The mushrooms and broccoli that we cooked last night were from Watsonville and Soledad CA, respectively; today CA reports that 400 of its residents are infected.  At its current growth rate, in a week that number, which is probably a gross underestimate, will rise to >3000. California is just an example; many places that we obtain food and merchandise from have similar levels of infection. Unfortunately, within days or a week people here in town will be infected too. The bottom line is to make your home a sanctuary from any threat of infection by COVID‐19. To do so, we decontaminate things that come into our home. At present these precautions may seem extreme, but we are facing a potentially lethal virus that is unprecedented in recent history. The decisions that we make and the actions that we take are literally life‐and‐death choices. Why take chances with the lives of loved ones?

a. We installed a table in our garage, on which we spray potentially contaminated things with bleach or alcohol, before they enter our home. Most of our foods are packed in plastics anyway, so it’s easy to spray them down. Use your best judgment about what needs decontamination, but anything that was handled by several people should be either cleaned or well‐cooked. Assume that the exterior of anything you purchase might carry particles of live virus.  When shopping, try to use your credit card instead of cash or coins, and spray it with alcohol before putting it back in your wallet.  When you return home from shopping or other errands, leave your shoes in the garage and put on some shoes that never leave the house.

b. Besides the garage, divide your home into different areas, for: incoming unpacking/triage/decontamination, cooking, eating. We have a space in the kitchen to place incoming stuff that we are unsure about. Do not place incoming bags of groceries, packages or mail directly on the countertops used for food preparation. Decontaminate the contents first, and then start cooking. It’s unlikely that COVID-19 will survive during transit in the mail because its survival is much shorter on porous surfaces.  Nevertheless, the people that handled the mail during delivery might be infected, so after opening mail discard the envelopes and packaging and wash your hands.  After shopping, wash and decontaminate your hands, and then unpack, decontaminate and store your items.  Throw the bags away in the trash.  You can spray or soak fresh produce that you want to eat raw (celery, carrots, lettuce, broccoli peppers, etc.) with a dilute solution  of (unscented) CHLOROX (0.75% = 1.5 ts per gallon of water); let it stand for at least 5 min and rinse with water before eating.   After unloading, decontaminating and storing everything, wash your hands again before food preparation.

c. De‐clutter and organize the countertops and tables in your kitchen. To keep your kitchen safe, it’s necessary to frequently and easily clean all these surfaces with bleach or alcohol. Throw away anything unnecessary, store anything decorative, put away everything not in use, and keep counters and the sink clear. In the morning, before cooking, and in the evening before bed, spray the countertops, eating areas and sinks with 10% CLOROX and wipe them down with a clean cloth.  You may want to wipe the countertops with alcohol before using them during the day.

d. Carry a small spray bottle of 70% alcohol in your pocket or purse, and use it to decontaminate anything you are skeptical about: your hands, your steering wheel, your door handles, your computer keyboard, your phone, your keys, shopping cart handles, touchscreens. Liquid/gel hand sanitizers also contain 60‐70% alcohol and they work fine, but they are less penetrating than an alcohol spray, and more difficult to apply to surfaces. 70% alcohol will not damage glass, plastic, metals or your skin. It will dry your skin, so it’s a good idea to also use hand creams to re‐moisturize.

e. Change your clothes regularly and do not re‐wear clothes that you wore outside without washing them. When you leave your home you are entering environments that might contain COVID‐19, and it could get on you clothes when you are working in an office or sitting in a chair. When in doubt, wash it. If you can’t wash it, then hang it in a closet for a week. COVID‐19 does not survive as long on porous surface like fabrics.

f. Don’t go to restaurants, bars, clubs, churches, theaters or any other place where people congregate. Do not invite other people into your home.  Do not go to health clubs or gyms.  Try to do as much as possible electronically from home with your computer or phone. Avoid trips outside the home; shop as infrequently as possible. The next few months will be critical in the fight against this organism. It’s a good time to stay home with the family, to write, read, stream entertainment, watch the news and listen to Dr. Fauci. If you follow these approaches it will maximize the chance of avoiding sickness from the coronavirus.

Additional notes on Mar. 19, 2020

Without a vaccine or an effective anti-viral drug, the only approach left to stop the pandemic is to eliminate person-to-person transmission.  China’s response of complete, militarily enforced quarantine in Hubei province leveled off the incidence and the mortality of the epidemic within 2 months, at a total of 3200 deaths (only 34 new cases, and no deaths reported yesterday).  South Korea took a similar approach.  As a result, the number of new cases in these countries plummeted, and the infection is under control (see the graph below, from today’s New York Times).  Looking at the responses of Italy, Iran, Spain and the US, all of which initially did nothing to contain it, the results are strikingly different: exponential growth of the virus and exponential death of infected individuals, neither of which shows any indication of subsiding.

.

The bottom line is that many, many people are going to die from this pandemic, and the only thing we can do, until vaccines or treatments are available, is to stop transmitting it person-to-person.

P.E. Klebba, Ph.D

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU EYE-OF-THE-ROUND

Make it play the tenderloin role! I am over the moon with this preparation, sous-vide turns a very cheap and often neglected cut of meat into Dinner Royalty. There are other methods to achieve the same outcome. America’s Test Kitchen uses a very low oven and careful monitoring of the temperature in the center of the meat using a probe thermometer that stays inside throughout the cooking time. I made their version before attempting this one. What I dislike about their recipe (sorry, ATK), is that you just don’t know how long it is going to take, so dinner plans get a bit iffy. With this method, no worries. Set the temperature, place the meat in the water-bath, and you can finish it in mere minutes on the stove top. Brilliant, just brilliant.

EYE OF THE ROUND SOUS-VIDE
(adapted from Anova Culinary)

3lbs eye of round beef roast
1/3 cup mustard
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 Tbsp black pepper
1.5 Tbsp kosher salt

Set a water bath to 131F.

Season beef liberally with salt and pepper. Cover beef with yellow mustard massaging it well all over the surface.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat with 1Tbsp vegetable oil.
Once pan is hot, sear beef on all sides until golden brown. Remove from pan, place in a bag suitable for sous-vide cooking. You can seal using vacuum or use water displacement. Place in water bath, cook for 24 hours.

Remove meat from bag, and heat a cast iron pan on medium-high with 1 tablespoon oil. Once hot, quickly sear beef on each side until golden brown (about 1 minute per side). Once done, place on a plate to rest for a few minutes.

Slice the beef into 1/2 inch slices.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: In the original recipe at Anova, they include additional steps for making a sauce. I was not interested in making it that particular evening, so I kept it super simple. But please check their site, it is a wonderful way to serve it.


We enjoyed it with air-fried small potatoes, and broccoli puree. Leftovers were my lunch for three days in a row, just briefly warmed over a non-stick pan with a touch of olive oil. If you enjoy roast beef served cold in sandwiches, just make sure to slice whatever is left very thinly, if you have an electric knife (I don’t) put it to use.

ONE YEAR AGO: Carrot Cake Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Soup Saturday: Say Goodbye to Winter

THREE YEARS AGO: Manchego and Poblano Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Smashing Pair

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

SIX YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

NINE YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

TEN YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERS!


I got a blog award!  And like sunshine it made me very very happy… Thank you so much, Dorothy (from New Vintage Kitchen), it took me a while to compose this post, but better late than never! Life has been slightly hectic, but now that I am for the most part laying in the sun in Hawaii, it seems like the perfect opportunity to say a big thank YOU!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given by bloggers to peers who they feel are creative, positive, and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

Rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 (or so) questions the blogger asked you.
  3. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your blog post.
  4. Nominate 11 (or so) new bloggers & their blogs. Do leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award and ask your nominees 11 (or so) new questions.

Being the rebel that I am, I must say that I will not nominate 11 bloggers, so my apologies for that, I hope it’s ok. But here are the answers to the questions Dorothy asked in her nomination

  1. Describe your blog and why you started it. My blog is almost 11 years old and it started just to join my passion for writing and cooking. I like to keep it varied, but over the past couple of years there has been a clear increase in baking.
  2. Favorite time of day to write? I don’t have a preferred time, usually I write my posts in the weekend or evenings.
  3. Music while you write? If so, what? No music. I don’t listen to music while I write or cook. If Phil has music on in the background, it does not bother me, but I never set anything to play.
  4. Do you carry a notebook or use notes on phone or tablet to jot things down when out of the house? No.
  5. What inspires you the most in regards to your writing? First, the recipe I will be featuring. It all goes around it. But I avoid excessive text before the recipe, I find it too distracting.
  6. Have you ever dreamed you could fly? No.  I guess I am a very boring person… No music, no notebooks, no flying… what’s wrong with me?
  7. What was the last book you read and did you like it? Man’s Search for Meaning. A difficult, disturbing read but I adored it.
  8. What superpower do you wish you had? Time travel (with 100% safe return to present).
  9. Dark or milk chocolate? Both. Plus white.
  10. Is there a question you wish you were asked? Nothing in particular comes to my mind.

A few more words about blogging. I have perhaps a bit over 3 thousand subscribers to the site, but I doubt that more than 20% of those come and read what I post. I never had a blog post, pinterest or instagram entry go viral. But every time I hit “publish” on a post I feel the same thrill of 11 years ago when it all started. I guess that is what keeps me going. Being nominated for an award by someone who pays attention to my writing and leaves me comments and so much encouragement? That is special. That warms my heart.

THANK YOU, DOROTHY!