Things I cooked during quarantine…

Before quarantine, all of my friends knew me as someone who couldn’t cook to save her life. Living in a studio apartment for three years that only had two burners and a mini fridge didn’t lend much for me to practice with. Besides, I was always out.

Yet, as I get settled in the new place that I luckily moved into before the city was shut down, I find myself experimenting. After all, there’s an oven, four burners, a microwave, and a REAL fridge. There’s also Foodkick, which I have been using to have groceries delivered to me.

Now, I don’t claim to be a chef and this blog is certainly not going to turn into a food blog anytime soon. After lockdown is lifted, I imagine myself again having little time to cook anything of my own because I’ll be back on the restaurant/social scene. For now, however, I just wanted to share what I have learned…

I started out with taco night. For that, I bought some Old El Paso taco seasoning mix and stirred it into some ground beef. I chopped up some lettuce along with a red onion that really made the difference. I managed to procure some guac and limes. With the leftovers, I made fish tacos with a tuna steak that I seared the next day. While this is basic fare for most, this, to me, was a major breakthrough:

Then, I had quite a bit of leftover lettuce. Seeing that I am not a particularly creative chef, I just ended up making a salad:

Then, I remembered one of the recipes I used to eat growing up. Again, it was simple, but it was very good and easy to store. I then cooked up some pasta, chopped up another cucumber and tomato, and then threw them in with some Italian dressing to make pasta salad. After putting it in the fridge for a few hours, it was absolutely delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I never got a picture of it….

These baby steps into the world of cooking then led me to try making my own rendition of spaghetti and meatballs. Now, I won’t buy or eat spaghetti cause it’s just not a pasta that I’m particularly fond of, but I did have some extra fusilli from my earlier pasta salad adventure. I used that, frozen meatballs, and some canned sauce to make a decent meal. After all, I wasn’t trying to get too adventurous. I just wanted dinner.

The weekend soon came around and I sadly reminisced about the Eggs Benedict that I normally ordered at weekend brunch. I then discovered that you could make that too at home. I had just ordered an egg poaching pan from Amazon and Foodkick allowed me to get ahold of some English muffins and Canadian bacon.

I dropped an egg into one of the buttered egg cups in the poaching pan and cooked it for five minutes. While that was in progress, I fried up the Canadian Bacon. Yet, I was too hesitant to try my hand at Hollandaise sauce the first time I made this. I realized that this was what I really missed. For my second attempt, I whipped up four egg yolks in a dish and threw in a tablespoon of lemon juice before adding melted butter. I had Hollandaise sauce, but was obviously too excited about it to take a picture of that rendition.

Then I tried my hand at roasting up some Niman Ranch pork chops. They luckily arrived pretty-seasoned. From these, I made a pasta dish, two types of ramen, and some tasty fried rice:

In the last picture, I had already eaten the pork before having the sense to take a quick shot, but the egg made this extra delicious.

Feeling confident, I then moved on to salmon. I then messed the whole thing up by over-seasoning the fish and cooking it a bit too long. It left me with the dilemma of either wasting food (something that my grandma refers to as one of the Deadly Sins) or figuring out a way to make it tasty again. I then discovered that you can hide many mistakes within a frittata.

The egg mixture had made and salmon moist again and allowed for the seasoning to disperse. I was back in business.

I bought some Korean bbq sauce and skirt steak, along with some lettuce, hellbent on recreating another one of my favorites – Korean BBQ.

I simmered the steak in the sauce for a bit before putting it on an extra large cookie pan and broiling it in the oven at 425 for five minutes. I sliced it into strips when it was done and placed each piece in a lettuce leaf with some kimchi on top. It was another success that was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture to prove it to my friends.

My cooking confidence was like a rollercoaster this entire time, with its highs and lows. I was back at a peak though and decided to try again at salmon.

How then would I season it without over-seasoning it? What were you really supposed to season it with in the first place?

The internet led me to Honey Garlic Salmon. I didn’t trust myself enough to cook it on the stove, so I followed the seasoning tips but instead used these instructions to bake it in the oven.

It was again an overwhelming success without a picture to prove it.

Feeling confident in my roasting abilities, I then moved to lamb chops. You can tell by my lack of pictures that I had obviously improved.

I returned to the stovetop with Chinese eggplant with garlic, a dish I loved while I was overseas but only trusted one restaurant here to make. I took a stab at it, replacing the hard-to-find chilis with sriracha sauce.

I was again gathering steam.

I then moved to something challenging. Scallops. Following this recipe,I managed to wonderfully succeed at the scallops, but failed at trying to make cheese-less pasta sauce. I saved it by combining my attempt with the scallop sauce. Nonetheless, it was a close call.

For some reason, I had bought leeks and fennel. Having no idea what to do with them, I Googled and successfully created an Italian-inspired meal with the fennel. It luckily needed time to both prep and cool so I was able to take some pictures:

It was perhaps the best creation yet.

After all of this, I now have enough confidence to try cooking for guests when the pandemic is over, using the seating that will someday arrive at my apartment to host friends that I will someday hand a plate to. Not something that I ordered, but something that I created myself.

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