Shelter-in-place measures across the country restrict restaurants from having regular inside dining for patrons. During the last two months, restaurants have been limited to carryout or delivery. There’s never been a better time to master the kitchen.
Cooking can seem like a daunting task to many Americans. Under ordinary circumstances, it’s easier to just go to a restaurant that everyone in the family can agree on. That way, nobody has to labor over a hot stove and everyone gets to eat what they want. However, the costs have always been higher than buying ingredients for dinner—and now, with most areas of the country in various conditions of being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, eating at home is back in the spotlight.
If you feel overwhelmed in the kitchen, there are a lot of places you can start for tackling how to cook easy recipes.
Eating Mediterranean—Without the Bill
Spain, Italy, and Greece have brought some of the best-known Mediterranean cuisine to the United States, and their cuisine can become your specialty with the right tips and tricks. The Great Courses had paired with the late chef Bill Briwa of The Culinary Institute of America to produce an instructional series called The Everyday Gourmet: The Joy of Mediterranean Cooking to help get you started.
For example, any home chef can make a traditional Neapolitan pizza. This classic staple from southern Italy doesn’t have to come from a restaurant with an enormous brick oven in its kitchen; it can come piping hot and fresh-baked straight from the oven in your kitchen. Chef Briwa explains how in a lecture about southern Italian cuisine, alongside a less-famous but equally historical dish: an African-inspired caponata with seared tuna. The caponata stems from the inspiration that Italy took from other cultures as seafaring rose in popularity.
Spanish cuisine is terrific for cooking while being stuck at home, as well, whether you need some comfort food or have picky eaters in your house. Paella, one of the best-known Spanish dishes, takes comfort food to new heights. It’s a hearty rice-based dish full of different kinds of meats, like chicken, lobster, pork chops, shrimp, and chorizo, with vegetables added. It’s a bit like a Spanish jambalaya or fried rice.
If your family always wants dinner prepared to cater to each family member, Chef Briwa also explores the world of tapas, which are a series of small plates prepared at the same time to be passed around the table family-style. This way, everyone can pick a couple bites of whatever they want and leave whatever they don’t.
A World of Spices—Literally
One common phrase in the culinary arts is “If it grows together, it goes together.” In other words, ingredients that originated from the same geographical regions of the Earth usually work together in cuisine. The Everyday Gourmet: Essential Secrets of Spices in Cooking kills two birds with one stone: It cuts that intimidating spice rack down to size and it helps teach you what regions of the world spices come from, and therefore, which local ingredients you should add with them.
If Mediterranean cooking sounds good, you can accentuate those dishes with dynamic spice blends like Moroccan ras el hanout or North African charmoula. A lecture about Mexican chiles will surprise your palate and add a wide range of flavor to your Mexican repertoire in case everyone in the house is getting a little sick of taco night.
Once you’ve learned more about the spices in your spice rack—or in the spice aisle at the grocery store—your meals can boast a well-deserved authentic flavor and you can experiment on your own to concoct your own spice blends.
By the time restaurants fully re-open, you may not need them to do so.