by Zach Yanowitz
If you know anything about WideFoc.us, you know that we’re obsessed with food. From our weekly “The Best Thing I Ate All Weekend” contest on Instagram to our well-documented love for the Denver culinary scene, you’ll typically find us daydreaming about our next meal. This means that COVID-19 has been especially tough for our palates — as we’ve spent most of the past year in our homes, we certainly miss expanding our food horizons at restaurants and through travel! However, what it does mean is that we’ve been perfecting our home cooking game — read on for three pandemic dishes that helped get me through the past year.
One-pot sausage, beans, and kale
This recipe is about as simple as it gets, only takes one pot and 30 minutes to cook, and is extremely budget-friendly. All you need is ground sausage (I’m a Spicy Italian enthusiast, personally), eight cups of kale (be sure to massage it first!), an onion, garlic, a can of crushed tomatoes, spices, and a few cans of white beans — ideally great northern beans or cannellini. Get everything simmering in a pot for about 15-20 minutes before loading the kale on top to wilt and you won’t believe how delicious it gets! The beans soak up the unctuous flavor of the sausage, but don’t worry about the meal being too heavy — the acidity of the tomatoes and the freshness of the kale cut right through every bite. If you want something simple that everybody will love, you can’t go wrong with this dish — it’s a staple in our house.
Masa ball soup
I’m a big, huge, enormous fan of the Bravo TV cooking competition series Top Chef — eagle-eyed readers might even be able to spot me in the background of a 2013 episode — so when I learned that former cheftestants have been offering Zoom cooking classes, I simply had to sign up. A few weeks ago we spent an evening with two-time competitor Nini Nguyen to make one of her signature dishes from the show: Masa Ball Soup, a play on the traditional Jewish penicillin-in-a-bowl with some very non-traditional ingredients. Although it shares a few ingredients and basic cooking techniques with my mom’s knoedel recipe (starting with homemade chicken stock and resting the dumpling dough before dropping into the broth), the flavor profile is definitively southeast Asian. The lemongrass, ginger, chili powder, coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves are reminiscent of a Thai tom kha soup while the masa dumplings will remind you of the most tender, decadent tamale you’ve ever tasted. The most surprising aspect of the soup? Beech mushrooms quick-pickled in coconut vinegar add a sweet-sour-acidic tang to every spoonful, elevating this soup to another level altogether.
Quarantine has probably meant lots of sitting around on the couch watching movies — and let’s be honest, we like doing that no matter what’s going on in the world! And when you’re sitting around binging Netflix, you probably want a snack, right? I can’t think of anything better than a dip — and I can’t think of any dip better than homemade baba ghanouj, a smoky and rich Lebanese appetizer made with eggplant and tahini. If you’ve never worked with eggplant before you might be a little intimidated, but this is actually even easier to make than hummus — you don’t even need a food processor to mash everything together! If you don’t have a grill for your eggplant, simply roasting in your oven will do the trick (though you’ll want to substitute smoked paprika to make sure you keep that iconic charred flavor). Top with fresh parsley, the fanciest olive oil you can find, and a squeeze of lemon juice before hitching a ride to pita-dipping paradise.
I could keep listing recipes for days but I’ve been warned that I could crash the company servers if I was truly thorough when describing my favorite dishes — so hopefully this is a good start! What has been some of your favorite pandemic food? If you’ve got something you think we’d like, be sure to let us know!
As soon as he's vaccinated, Copy Editor and Community Manager Zach is going straight to a Szechuan hot pot restaurant to eat his weight in wagyu beef and exotic mushrooms. You are invited!