I’ve been working on some recipes to share on the blog, then the confinement hit, and going to the supermarket or obtaining ingredients became more of a challenge. Having lived in earthquake country, I started buying a few extra things in the last few weeks, especially seeing what was happening to our neighbors in Italy. Being a baker, I’m fortunate that I always have flour, chocolate, sugar, and nuts in stock, plus I keep butter on hand in the refrigerator and freezer, in case of emergencies. And not being able to bake a cake or a batch of cookies for me, counts as one!
We are on day #1 of a fifteen-day confinement. Bars, cafés and restaurants were closed Saturday at midnight (which were packed in my neighborhood, as usual, with twenty- and thirty-somethings), and people were told to keep a distance between them and avoid public places. But the revelry continued on the streets around here through the wee hours of Sunday morning. Later in the morning, people waited in line, shoulder-to-shoulder, shopping at the Bastille market, and Sunday afternoon, people filled parks in Paris, or sat by the canal to have a beer with friends. To be honest, it was disheartening, and a little frightening, to watch the news and hear people being interviewed, talking about how they didn’t care, that they were going to do whatever they wanted. So here we are, with talk of the military coming in to make sure people stay indoors.
I realize how fortunate I am to have a safe place to live. And while being stuck indoors isn’t all that fun, other people are having a much more difficult time. So be sure to compassionate to others, especially people in the medical community, public service, or who are working in shops. Bakeries and grocery stores in France are allowed to be open, and those people are in close contact with others, as well as handling money. Many are taking public transit to work, which isn’t the ideal place to be. So we should all do our best to make an extra effort to be compassionate and nice at this time, both in daily life and online, and realize that we are all in this together, no matter what country, continent, and culture you come from.
While we’re confined for a few weeks, I’ll be sharing some new recipes I’ve been working on which you can bookmark for later if you don’t have the ingredients right now, and I’m planning to share one of my favorite cocktails from Drinking French shortly as well, because many of us could use a good drink at the moment. Right?
People have asked me for recipes that they can make at home, who have limited access to ingredients. These are some of my favorites from the blog, and I’ve offered modification for certain ingredients if the ones in the ingredient list aren’t available:
Being a miser with whatever amount of butter you’ve got? These bars have zero beurre and only use 1 egg. The only other things you need are dried fruits and nuts, which you probably have amongst all those jars and bags in your kitchen. I like the tangy dried apricots in there, but feel free to swap out whatever dried fruits and nuts you have on hand, keeping the quantities the same. These fruit-filled bars are a great snack or energy booster.
If you’re looking for a granola recipe that doesn’t have a long list of ingredients, here ya go. With a base of protein-packed peanut butter, this is a fun project if you’re trying to keep the kids busy. If you don’t have the sunflower seeds or peanuts, swap them out with the equivalent amount of another nut or seed. Sesame seeds would work here in place of the sunflower seeds, as would coconut. Maybe pumpkin seeds, although those tend to burn, so I’m not sure. But whatever you do, don’t skip the chocolate! : )
This rich chocolate cake highlights how French cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s got ingredients that you likely already have on hand; chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. The result is a very chocolaty gâteau that will satisfy chocolate cravings. For those who are gluten-free, try my Chocolate Orbit Cake or Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies.
These individual puddings are easy to make, and easier to eat! You don’t need any fancy cake pans. I’ve even baked them in oven-proof coffee cups or café au lait bowls, like the one shown above.
No flour, eggs, butter, or dairy? No problem with this egg-free chocolate sorbet. It’s amazingly rich that people say “I can’t believe it’s not ice cream!” But it’s not. The recipe calls for milk or water, but if you have nut milk (or oat, or another alternative milk), that can be used. And honestly, some of the best hot chocolate is made with a base of water, not milk or cream. (If you do want to make it more creamy, you can swap out some coconut milk for some of the regular milk or water.) If you don’t have an ice cream maker, follow these instructions for making ice cream without a machine.
Take a tip from the French and turn all those bits and ends of cheese lurking in your refrigerator into fromage fort, a hearty, robust cheese spread. If you don’t have cream cheese, try straining a pot of yogurt into labneh and using that in place of the cream cheese. (Reserve the liquid to add to soup or a batch of bread.)
Tinned artichokes are the base of this flavorful dip and spread. You may have a jar of green olives lurking in your refrigerator. Even those Spanish olives you use to put in your martini will do. If not, you can use black olives, which will change the look, but if anyone balks…more for you! A substitute for the capers would be some finely chopped pickles.
A few days ago I posted some of the foods that I had purchased in anticipation of the lockdown. People thought I was nuts, but although the grocery stores are going to remain open, I think it’s good to have an extra bag of non-perishables. I have plenty of grains, pasta, and olive oil on hand (I keep those in stock all the time), but I doubled down on canned tuna and sardines, which I love. (I also bought sterilized UHT milk which I dislike, but any port in a storm, as my grandmother used to say.) And several readers asked if the sardine rillettes on my blog, made with fresh sardines, would work with tinned. I don’t think so because they are of a different size, and have different moisture levels.
So if you’ve got tinned sardines, you can use this recipe from My Paris Kitchen: 1/4 cup (110g) cream cheese (you can use butter in its place), 3 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, two 4-ounce (115g) tins of sardines, drained and boned, 2 scallions or 1 shallot minced, 1 tablespoon of capers rinsed and squeezed dry (or chopped pickles), 1 tablespoon lemon juice (ok to add a bit of vinegar in place of the lemon juice), salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Mash all together with a fork. You can use tinned mackerel in place of the sardines if you have them. Serve on crackers or bread.
When I get a moment, I’m going to redo the photo of these, above, which I think I took in eleven years ago. But they are really tasty and a great way to use canned sardines which are really good for you. A reader told me he saves the nutrient-rich oil to give to his dog.
If you’ve got smoked salmon on hand and fresh or frozen salmon, that can be used to make smoked salmon rillettes, although I am sure you can use canned salmon (which my grandmother used to buy, but it always sounded weird to me for whatever reason…) in the recipe in place of the fresh.
This is one of my favorite soups. It uses dried split peas, if you’ve got those in your pantry. The base starts with carrots and onions (and some bacon), but you can skip the bacon, and modify the recipe with any aromatic vegetables in place of the carrots or onions, such as using celery or leeks. The potatoes give it additional body, but those are optional, too.
If you’ve got a bag of potatoes, you’ve got a pot of soup. That’s all there is to it. Onions can be subbed for the leeks. I like a little sour cream or crème fraîche dolloped on top. Chives are a nice garnish, but use whatever is available to give it more eye appeal; toasted garlic breadcrumbs, bacon bits, Tuscan seasoned or smoked salt, or even a few leaves of arugula or lamb’s lettuce.
I have no idea why this rice soup goes by several names, but I learned to make it when I worked in a restaurant that served southeast Asian and Chinese food, back in San Francisco, from one of my co-workers. (She told me jook mean “archer” in Chinese, which had some connection to the dish, but I don’t recall exactly why.) No matter what you call it, it’s a simple, nourishing soup/porridge made from rice. You can add whatever you like to it; dried (soaked in hot water until soft) or fresh mushrooms, crisp or soft bacon, meat, shrimp, and frozen or fresh vegetables like peas and carrots. The fresh ginger gives it some zip but if you don’t have it (and yes, I know it’s not the same flavor) but some dried ground ginger will liven it up. I like a hint of fish sauce stirred into it, too.
This one-skillet pasta is the ultimate pantry dish since, traditionally, none of the ingredients are fresh; it’s specifically meant to be made with preserved ingredients. It calls for tinned tomatoes, garlic, capers, olives, and anchovies. The anchovies “melt” into the sauce, so if people have concerns about people not liking them, they may not notice them. If you don’t have anchovies or afraid people will not come to the dinner table, although not traditional, you could use some tinned sardines or a dash of Asian fish sauce to sneak some umami flavor into the sauce.
My favorite way to turn canned tomatoes into a one-pan breakfast, or dinner: Shakshuka! Spices give these baked eggs an extra kick, and you can make the base in advance. I like it best with runny eggs, but you can cook the eggs longer than the softly cooked ones shown here if people in your household like their more cooked. Just be careful as they can go from soft, to overcooked, in less than a minute.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got some bits of pork or bacon squirreled away somewhere in the back of your freezer. Dig them out (unless you have some fresh pork/ham hocks on hand) to pair with some of those dried beans you’ve been stocking up on. If you want to get more creative with dried (and fresh) beans, check out Joe Yonan’s new book, Cool Beans.
Digging into my stash of unsweetened chocolate, I made these in my Instagram stories and they were a big hit with questions coming out me left and right. The nuts and nibs are optional, and the result into a Katharine Hepburn-approved brownie. (Her family lived in our neighborhood when I was growing up, but I never met her, unfotunately.) If you don’t have unsweetened chocolate, check out one of the other brownie recipes on my blog.
I can’t live without bread and although the bread bakeries are open in France during the lockdown, that might not be the same where you live. So here’s a great loaf to make at home. You likely don’t have the Irish flour in your cupboard, but you can swap out whole wheat flour. This bread is easy and nutritious. It doesn’t require extensive kneading or any fancy baking equipment. So if you can’t get bread, this bread will tide you over.
If you’ve got an overload of vegetables, why not make pickles out of them to preserve the bounty? Chard stems, radishes, carrots, and red onions, are all easy to pickle. They’re a fun project if you’re stuck indoors, and nice to have to serve at meals. They’ll perk up any lunch and dinner and make it more interesting.
I like these with Marsala wine, but port or Madiera will do the trick.
Dried fruits are my best friends right now. If you’ve got prunes in your pantry, poach them and serve with some kumquats to perk things up, or slices of fresh oranges to round the prunes out for a more complete dessert.
Take a banana and some chocolate, blend with Bailey’s and freeze. Then…voilà!…you’ve got ice cream. You will need to use the Bailey’s, which gives the ice cream a scoopable texture after frozen. No Bailey’s? Another liqueur with a flavor that you like with chocolate will do. (The liqueur keeps the ice cream soft so there’s no non-alcohol option on this one, but here’s a standard Chocolate Ice Cream recipe, and you can freeze it using this no-churn method.)
I’ve got a number of favorite cocktail recipes here on the blog, if you need a drink, everything from a beguiling Black Manhattan and Negroni Spritz, to Margaritas and Cosmopolitans. If you think you’re too sophisticated to have a Cosmo, then you don’t know what you’re missing. I had one recently and was reminded why they were such a hit. Tough times call for a fun cocktail, imho, and a Cosmo definitely falls into that category.