The Culinary Diplomat Does Quarantine Cuisine

Hi everyone!  Yes, the CD is still here and I finally have some time on my hands and extra creative energy to post – maybe many of you all do, too. I found myself so busy over the past three years that my creative energy was tapped out for a long time  – even when I was still traveling and experienced so many food adventures I wanted to share with you all but was too exhausted to do so. I hope to get back to this blog and what made it such a passion project for me, but I also want to hear from you all!

We certainly are in a bit of surreality for the time being.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but this pandemic has reminded me of just how fortunate I am, how unnecessarily complicated we tend to make life, and how we’re all in this together. As scary as this virus and the uncertain future it brings may be, I am heartened by the hard work of those of you on the front lines of this phase of battle with our shared microscopic enemy.  To all of you medical professionals, janitorial and facility management personnel, grocery workers and small businesses operating during these trying times while others stay safely isolated at home, THANK YOU.  You all are our anchors to this earth, and I can’t post during this time without a small word to express my appreciation.

Times of crisis tend to bring out our creativity and innovation.  While I continue to work my day job, more time at home leads me back to my culinary roots – cooking for the love of food and the experience of sharing it with others. With more unscheduled hours in the day, cooking has become less of a chore and more a labor of love. I went back to my staple of basics to start cooking again, as well as allowing a little room for more indulgent meals (and also more meat than I’d like, thanks to a roommate that acts like they’re allergic to vegetables).

I’m sharing a few of my recent meals with you, hoping you may draw some inspiration for some easy meals for you and your family, as well as some more time-consuming projects (read: stave off any boredom during your new normal!).

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These turkey burgers don’t require buns to make the meal – try them over salad, topped with tzatziki or on a slice of crusty bread, open-faced.
  1. Easy pan-fried turkey burgers
  • These burgers are healthy, easy, and allow you to get creative with the ingredients you already have in your pantry to create patties bursting with your favorite flavors.
  • For my standard recipe, check out The Healthy Diplomat’s Mediterranean-inspired turkey burgers.
  • During these #quarantinecuisine times, try stuffing the meat with your favorite fresh or dried herb, a fun seasoning blend (Trader Joe’s Chili-Lime seasoning is perfect for spring/summer and doesn’t add much heat for the kids), any type of shredded or crumbled cheese (or a small ball or sliver of your favorite meltaway), and even a chopped fresh veggie (sun-dried tomatoes, diced onion, bell pepper, jalapeno).

 

risotto up close and personal

2. Spring risotto

  • Missing a nice dinner out?  When you’re ready to bang your head against the wall on a rainy day, risotto is an elegant and low-cost way to leverage your pantry staples.
  • The weather isn’t quite warm enough to make comfort food unappetizing, so I picked up a 10 oz. container of fresh mushrooms and fresh peas and decided to combine the two into a nice risotto. Need a recipe?  The New York Times has the perfect one here. 
  • Trying to avoid another trip to the store?  Honestly, use whatever rice, vegetables, wine, or herbs you have.  Risotto typically calls for arborio rice – fairly short-grained, but guess what?  I used basmati rice, which is long-grained and not typically recommended.  It still turned out fantastically! You can add almost any vegetable when the cooking is nearly complete – squash is always popular. And red wine also will work in a pinch (and pairs well with the mushrooms, though the color may seem a bit odd).
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Avocado toasts = Brunch of champions!

3. Avocado toast

  • Sometimes you just need to be a little basic to enjoy the little things in life – didn’t I mean it when I said I was getting back to basic(s)? Make fun of me all you want, but avocado toast is the slice of vacation or missing brunch days with the gals (or guys!) that make you wistful to recall right now. Also, wouldn’t you rather pay $2 for 2 pieces of avocado toast than the $12 you’d be charged at brunch in a major U.S. city? I’ve really been eating a lot of this lately; they say we tend to eat our feelings, but this is one item that brings out happy feelings, instead of squashing negative ones.
  • Avocado toast is all about three components:
    • 1 – Bread worthy enough to be your vessel for the avocado.  A thick sourdough is sturdy and flavorful on its own, but add avocado and *kiss emoji* mwwwah!
    • 2 – Ripe avocado.  Better use it all before it turns brown!
    • 3 – The perfect seasoning – I’m obsessed with that Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning I mentioned above.  It’s like summer and a beach trip in a jar.
  • You can embellish the toast with an egg, sunny-side up, crumbled bacon, diced red onions, tomatoes (or even pico de gallo), or even deli meat for a classier, open-faced sandwich.
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Egg white omelet with onions, red bell pepper, kale, and shredded asiago cheese, paired with zata’ar spiced Greek yogurt and an arugula side salad is a complete breakfast, lunch or dinner.

4. Omelets

  • While we’re on a brunch kick, an omelet is another low-budget, easy, and filling main dish at any time of the day. It’s also another “kitchen sink” means of clearing out leftover fresh, cooked, or frozen vegetables, meat, or cheese from your refrigerator, and it’s easily customizable for the entire family.
  • For a standard omelet, whisk three to four eggs, liquid egg white, or egg equivalent) with salt, pepper, and/or light seasoning on medium heat.  Add your favorite cooked meats, veggies, cheeses (or substitutes) and fold/flip when the top surface of the egg begins to bubble.  Reduce heat to medium low if you’re concerned with burning.
  • Serve with salsa, sour cream or yogurt, and a side salad for a complete meal.

 

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An oldie but (spring) goodie – curried English pea soup. See below for the recipe link.

5. Soup

  • Soup is so easy to make – especially if you have an immersion blender or large food processor/blender, and it’s perfect for those rainy April days when everyone’s stuck indoors.
  • This formula for pureed soup is versatile: 1 quart of broth or stock(chicken, vegetable, beef, etc.); 1-2 lbs. vegetables, chopped into approx. 1″ pieces (squash, carrots, red pepper, peas, mushrooms), 1 onion/2 shallots/1-2 leeks, 3 cloves garlic, diced/minced, salt and pepper to taste.
    • With 2 Tbsp. oil or butter, saute the onion/leek/garlic; add chopped fresh (2 Tbsp) or dried (1-2 tsp.) herbs until translucent/soft and fragrant
    • Add chopped veggies and enough liquid as needed to saute the vegetables until they begin to soften. Add the remainder of the broth; bring to a boil and then reduce to medium low heat to continue cooking the vegetables until tender (approx. 20-30 minutes).
    • Add other desired seasonings; remove from heat and then puree at a safe temperature. Return to low heat to warm and serve.
    • For full recipes, here are a few to get you started:
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It’s a good night when Memphis Mafia ice cream and a tricky puzzle are involved.

6. Dessert

  • Leftover overripe bananas?  You may be thinking, ok, which will it be? Banana bread or banana muffins? In warmer weather, do you really want a hot dessert?  Why not get everyone involved in making ice cream?
  • This past week, I re-made one of my more creative, “kitchen sink” ice cream recipes.  It is indulgent and made us feel like it was a lazy summer evening instead of the monotony of COVID-19.  This Memphis Mafia ice cream, inspired by a Goliath of a pastry at Portland, Oregon’s Voodoo Doughnut, is an utterly insane marriage of banana-cinnamon ice cream with hints of peanut butter (I used almond butter since I had an open jar), homemade chocolate ganache, and the kicker – cinnamon roll pieces.  I baked cinnamon rolls for brunch and used the remainder in this ice cream.
  • If that flavor combination overwhelms you, here are a few other suggestions, so break out that ice cream maker!

Thank you for clicking on whatever link brought you to check out this post.  I hope you might draw a bit of inspiration from my meal suggestions – even if that means creating something 180 degrees from my suggestions. I know we’re all still recalibrating our daily lives and expectations for the near future, but it helps to know we’re all in this together. For now, I wish you all many food adventures in your homes.  I’ll be back soon with more meal ideas and escapist tales of my untold food adventures around the globe.

Thanks for stopping by!

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