Living in the midst of the Corona Virus pandemic caused me to think of Gabriel García Márquez’s book, Love in the Time of Cholera, which refers to the disease of cholera, which has contributed to many outbreaks and at least one pandemic in the past 200 years. In the throes of this pandemic, I witness the realization of the other part of cólera, the Spanish word referring to the disease and to the concepts of anger and rage. I liken that anger and rage to be synonymous with what we’re experiencing today. Some people are angry at the call to shelter in place and politicize and moralize the disease. Without getting political, I will tell you about my own sheltering in place. I cook or I bake. We eat…just the two of us, but I focus on meals that I’d prepare for a group of friends or our family. I call that, love in the time of Corona Virus!
If there was a secret to home cooking, it’s sort of a combination of bravery to try new things, understanding flavors and how they interact with one another, and a bit of creativity and lots of love. We used to live in an region marked by majority “minority.” That just means that there are more people of color than Caucasian people, and the term, “minority” is not one I prefer since it further minoritizes a group of people. Anyway, the majority in the region is predominately Hispanic from Meso, Central, and Latin America. And with them comes wonderfully delicious cuisine. We love fish tacos made with white tilapia, a super mild tasting fish. It does not overwhelm the other dishes. We as the “topping,” we use a cabbage and carrot salad much like the “slaw” used for Salvadoran papoosas. I cook about three tilapia filet in butter seasoned with salt, dehydrated lemon and lime, pepper, and a mild red chili. When it’s cooked, I drizzle it with lemon.
Before I cook the fish, I prepare my version of the “repollo.”
Half head of cabbage sliced thinly
1 grated carrot
Dressing: 1/4 cup (59.15 mL) sherry vinegar, 1/4 c (59.15 mL) sunflower oil, seasoned salt to taste, 1 teaspoon (2.60g) each of onion and garlic granules, salt and pepper to taste. For most dressings, you always need a bit of sweetener, and I like to use jams, so I add 1 Tablespoon (20g) of my jalapeno or apricot jams. Shake vigorously and add to the combined cabbage and carrot. Put in a lidded jar and shake to assure that each cabbage leaf gets covered generously.
Warm corn tortillas on the stove with just a little butter or oil. They are better if they are warmed and soft rather than fried. Frying the corn tortillas are great for beef tacos, but it tends to overwhelm the delicate fish in this case. Make your taco by placing a serving of the fish on the corn tortilla topped with the repollo. Sometimes, I’m not sure the pictures does the meal justice, but it was delicious!
Around holidays, I love to cook large meals for family or friends. Obviously, with the importance of physical distancing, I knew that the grand meal would have to be for the two of us, and we would feasts on left overs for the remainder of the week.
The Easter Dinner – The Menu:
Leg of lamb, grilled flat bread, Greek salad, Tzaziki (cucumber/yogurt), and deviled eggs with lemon-saffron panna cotta for dessert. Now the leg of lamb cooked on a charcoal grill takes some practice, and Dale has perfected the skill over the years. The secret is never letting the charcoals sit directly under the meat. They must be on both edges of the grill “kettle” with a drip pan separating them. The drip pan sits directly under the leg of lamb (or turkey if we cook that!). I prepare the leg of lamb by rubbing it with pesto that I make up in the fall and freeze. This time, I had three slices of bacon left in a package, so I topped the lamb with that and draped it to protect lean that was not covered in fat.
Notice the charcoals. Dale adds 24 already red and ashy charcoals on each side every 30 minutes for up to three hours for this seven pound (3.17 kg) leg of lamb. We take it off when the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.56 Celsius). We let it sit for 10 minutes before we slice it. We serve it with the Tziziki, diced cucumbers mixed with Greek style plain yogurt. I season the Tziiziki with salt, pepper, onion and garlic granules).
The Greek salad was a simple mix of romaine, tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers, and green onions with a balsamic dressing mixed up by Dale. It was delicious! We served the meal with red wine from the Rijoa region of Spain. I think we tried to touch as many cultural cuisines as we could! It worked, and it was lovely!
Now, for the panna cotta, I took a simple box of lemon flavored box gelatin that takes one cup of boiling water and one cup of cold water. Instead of the cold water, I used one cup of canned milk. Once all that was mixed, I added about 8 strands of saffron, which I think is one of the most wonderful spice, ever! The scent of saffron is only surpassed by its subtle but distinctive flavor. It made a sublime addition to the simple gelatin dessert, which I am choosing to call, “panna cotta.”
All this was served with great love and friendship with my spouse. Thank you for reading!