15 Recipes Meant to Be Cooked at Home, With Love, During the Pandemic

Photo credit: Courtesy From Esquire Photo credit: Courtesy The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the restaurant

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Esquire

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the restaurant and bar business is severe and will be long-lasting. First, back in March and April, a lifetime go, came the layoffs. Millions of them. Waitstaff, bar backs, hosts, dishwashers—no longer needed, no idea how long.

Around that time, Esquire started gathering recipes from laid-off bar and restaurant workers, and the stories behind them. They aren’t chefs—well, one is—but everybody’s gotta eat. The person who served your meal or mixed you a drink a few months ago is most likely dining at home tonight, as you most likely are.

We look forward to the day when we can go to restaurants without caution or fear. In the meantime, here are fifteen recipes and stories from people who lost their jobs in the hospitality industry after their places of business were shut down or hampered by COVID-19. All were paid for their contributions; most are freelance writers in addition to their day (or night) jobs.

The recipes are resourceful, economical, easy, and delicious. We know—we tested and tasted every one. —Ryan D’Agostino

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Shekarchi left her job as a chef at a Catskills inn and moved to Los Angeles to pursue freelance work and search for a fulltime job. Just a couple of weeks after her move, the shutdown squashed her plan.

It was my birthday a few days ago, and I really wanted cake. I wanted to appreciate my little good fortune, and the abundance of love and generosity in my life. I’d just moved back to Los Angeles with basically a truck-full of hope, few belongings or tools, and no job just days before the lockdown. I was so glad to be home and reconnected with family, friends, and the amazing community of chefs and farmers I know, and planned to freelance until I got a permanent job. I had a checklist of goals and looked forward to finally putting my energy into food justice and climate work. I felt inspired.

Unfortunately, my intentions got sideswiped. I’ve found myself in a minefield of confusion like many in my profession, and I’m doing what we all do best… I’m cooking! This birthday, I was cooking for a little respite from my thoughts, and sweetness to remember that things won’t always be this way. I didn’t have many ingredients, and wanted to make something unfussy and delicious. The scarcity of ingredients has made me more keenly mindful of waste than ever before. The idea of this bread was born from my craving for cake and some leftover chocolate stout, which I refused to throw out. It’s delicious with coffee.

Here’s to days when we can celebrate together and hug the people we love. Makes 1 loaf

The Recipe

Position rack to middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Coat 8.5 X 4.5 loaf pan with a tiny bit of neutral oil (don’t waste your butter!) and dust with a bit of flour. In one bowl, mix together 1.5 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, .25 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and .25 tsp salt. In another bowl, cream 4 Tbsp softened unsalted butter and .5 cup granulated sugar. Slowly mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs until incorporated. Mix 1/3 cup chocolate stout into the flour mixture (can also be made with any amber or brown beer), followed by the egg mixture. The batter will be very thick, almost like paste. To that, add a scant .5 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. Scrape into pan and bake until cake tester or skewer comes out free of wet batter, 40-45 minutes.

Syrup: In a saucepan, simmer 1 cup chocolate stout and .5 cup granulated sugar until the mixture begins to thicken like maple syrup, about 12 minutes. Cool bread for 10 minutes, and pour the syrup over it.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Frantsena lost her bartending job at 200 Proof, a catering company in Los Angeles, after it closed “until further notice.”

Under normal circumstances, my Saturday night would be spent working behind the bar. Instead, these Saturdays, I gingerly move from my “news reading section” of the couch to my “sitting and thinking” spot. I contemplate whether cutting my own hair would be crazy in a fun sort of way, or just nuts. I think about how I really should add some structure back into my life.

The catering company I work for staffs bartenders and waiters for birthday parties, weddings, concerts, and events. Sometimes I served mocktails at graduation parties. Other times I made 200 drinks at a concert. I’d like to say that the key ingredient in these events was my bartending skills, but it turns out it was mostly just people gathering in groups to have fun.

In addition to flexible hours and income, my favorite part of the job was the ever-present love of my life: snacks. My favorite was when we were allowed to sample food catered by yummy taco trucks—this made for a delightful end of shift. In the absence of the group gatherings and jobs, I tried to establish a resemblance to my work at home. And when my boyfriend refused to tip me for bringing him tea, I decided to make tacos instead.

What I like about this taco recipe is that it’s all made in one pan, which means easy cleanup. I used tilapia, but any flaky white fish will work. You can also use different kinds of veggies. If you don’t have taco shells or tortillas in your pantry, use lettuce leaves to create taco cups. Or spread the whole deal over rice and enjoy it as a taco bowl. No judgment here. I can’t see you from my couch, after all. Makes 6 tacos

The Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 F, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place a 1-pound tilapia filet (or other flaky white fish), 2 peppers (one red, one orange), sliced, and 1 small onion, sliced, in a single layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, 5 or 6 grinds of cracked pepper, one eighth tsp chili powder, and then squeeze the juice of 1 lime over all the ingredients. Place in preheated oven and bake until fish is cooked through and looks opaque when flaked with a fork, about 10 minutes. Heat six 4-inch corn tortillas the way it says on the package. Distribute tilapia, peppers, and onion equally between tortillas. Garnish with sliced jalapeño and cilantro.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

LeRoy converted his food truck, LeRoy and Lewis, into a drive-thru to take orders online, and started a Patreon.

It’s no surprise restaurants and small businesses are struggling. Our little food truck is still open but our revenue is down more than 50 percent during a time when we would normally be up due to festivals, weddings, and other events. We converted the truck to a drive-thru, are pushing online pre-orders, and have started an instructional Patreon to help with income. Luckily we haven’t had to lay anyone off, but we did have one employee from Singapore who went back home to his family.

We’ve been really busy at the truck lately after an Eater video featuring us went viral. The drive-thru is rocking and we have had a few different Sunday pick-up events that have brought us a line of cars.

Doing our part at home to support local eateries, we’ve been buying extra meals at restaurants instead of taking another trip to the grocery store. Barbecue is particularly well-suited for repurposing, because it’s ordered in bulk and can be substituted into almost any dish that calls for meat. This is a recipe we put on our menu regularly when we have extras floating around. It’s a good way to support your local restaurants, avoid the grocery store, and have a great meal all at the same time. Makes 1 large or 2 small servings

The Recipe

In a medium skillet or wok, heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil on high heat. Add in about .25 pound rough-chopped barbecue meat along with 1 clove garlic, minced, 2 scallions, sliced, and 1 Tbsp minced ginger. Sauté until meat begins to brown and the aromatics soften. Throw in a few chopped up cooked carrots, a handful of greens, or any other cooked vegetable from another meal you made earlier in the week. Cook for about a minute just to warm it through. Make a well in the middle of the meat and veggie mass and crack in 1 egg. Scramble until fully cooked and mix to incorporate. Dump out the meat and veg mix into a bowl to reserve.

Wipe out the pan and put it back over high heat and let it get really hot. Once the pan is smoking, add a few drops of sesame oil to the pan. Swirl around to coat and add in 2 cups cooked and cooled rice. Cook the rice, stirring constantly, until all the clumps have broken up and it has just begun to brown and take on color. Add back in all the cooked meat and veggies and mix together.

At this point, I like to add about 2 Tbsp soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, or any other salty/acidic Asian condiment taking up space in the fridge or pantry. Taste for seasoning.

If you’ve got them, top with fresh herbs (I like Thai basil, mint, and cilantro) and crispy fried onions.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Goldberg’s role as the director of marketing and communications at The Jefferson in Washington, D.C., was reduced to part-time while the hotel is temporarily closed.

I’ve lived in downtown Washington, D.C. since 1996, and had recently graduated college when 9/11 happened. Because I lived about a mile from the White House, the National Guard and a military tank took up residence in front of my building for the following week, and like every other person in the country, I grew increasingly anxious. I was only 22 and had yet to discover the powers of Xanax, so I started to bake. Constantly. I’d call my grandmother Ruthie, who was an incredible home cook, to extract recipes from the Rolodex in her head—like most grandmothers, she never wrote anything down. From her apple cake to her zucchini bread, my kitchen was covered in a thin film of AP flour for a month. I’d scribble down her recipes, not knowing when I’d be able to go back to New York to see her and the rest of my family. Making her desserts made me feel connected during a time when an actual connection wasn’t possible.

My grandmother passed away in 2004, but my parents are still in New York, and all the Xanax in the world has not helped the intense fear and helplessness I feel having them so close to the epicenter of this pandemic. To help with my anxiety, I’m back in the kitchen, revisiting many of Grandma Ruthie’s recipes, but this time around, I’ve been leaning savory over sweet. The one recipe I return to is her roasted chicken. It’s been modified by my mother and me over time; Ruthie would never put butter under the chicken skin—a shanda (disgrace)! Still, the smell of this meal transports me back to Long Island, back to Ruthie’s kitchen, and for a moment, the only thing I worry about is which TV show to stream while I eat it… Serves 2 to 3

The Recipe

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of a 3-3.5 lb. chicken (Kosher, if you can find one) and either discard or save to make chicken stock. In a large roasting pan, create a bed for the chicken with 3 or 4 large carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise, and 3 or 4 large celery stalks, quartered. Lay the chicken, breast side down, in the center of the pan. (There will be some vegetables visible on either side of the chicken, which is what you want.) Alternating between 1 navel orange or lemon, halved, and 1 medium-sized onion, halved, fill the cavity of the chicken. Apply 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into little cubes, under the skin of the chicken. It’s okay if you break through the skin in some parts, just try to cover as much chicken real estate as you can.

Drizzle about 2 Tbsp olive oil over the chicken and the vegetables, and add .5 cup water to the bottom of the pan. Use .25 tsp salt and 3 cracks of pepper over both the vegetables and the chicken; add a dash of paprika to the top of the chicken.

Transfer to preheated oven and set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, flip the entire chicken over. You should see some of the juices start to fall from the chicken onto the vegetables. With a baster or a large spoon, coat the vegetables and the top of the chicken with the juice from the bottom of the pan. If you aren’t seeing the gravy starting to take shape, add another .5 cup water to the vegetables. From this point on, baste three more times at 10-minute intervals. After 30 minutes, check to see if the chicken is cooked through. An instant read meat thermometer inserted into one of the breasts should read between 162F and 165F. If you don’t have a thermometer, check to see if the leg of the chicken wiggles easily and make a small cut into the leg. If the juices coming out of the chicken are clear and the leg feels like it can easily be pulled off, you’re good to go.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest for 10-12 minutes before transferring the chicken to a cutting board. Next, spoon out the vegetables (which at this point should be cooked through and fork tender), and the gravy into a separate bowl to serve alongside the chicken. Once the chicken has rested, remove the citrus and onion from the cavity and you are ready to carve and serve.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Tran lost her server job at PhoBar in Greenwich Village, New York, after the restaurant was forced to close.

My roommate once asked how I survived college without “learning how to cook,” and I told her it was much like how I survived college in general: by doing the bare minimum. I’ve always considered myself more of an assembler than a cook, stacking sandwiches as quickly as possible, mixing pasta with tomato sauce, or pouring dressing into a bag of lettuce and shaking it up. It didn’t help that I also worked at a restaurant, and subsisted almost entirely on staff meals and rice I stole from the kitchen at the end of shifts. During the first weeks of quarantine, after my restaurant closed, I enjoyed testing my metabolism’s limits with various frozen foods. Now that we are more than a few weeks in, I’ve been searching for more comforting recipes that still require little effort.

My dad, who is quarantined on the other side of the country with my siblings, was worried about my diet and sent me his recipe for cơm canh đậu hũ, a Vietnamese dish that literally translates to rice soup tofu. He used to make it for us when we were kids, and the smell of the simmering broth would beckon us from behind our rooms’ closed doors. We gathered in the kitchen and squirmed while he ladled the tomato-stained soup into our bowls, the cubes of tofu shivering when they broke the surface. I could be mushy and say that making the recipe now connects me to my family, or that sharing food is a way for my dad to express love, or that it makes me feel less alone when I eat it in my basement apartment with only a view of the ground. All this is true, but it is also just very easy to make. Serves 2

The Recipe

To start, cook 2 cups white rice according to package directions, and in a separate saucepan, heat 2 cans of chicken broth (approximately 4 cups; preferably the Nước Cốt Gà brand). Once the broth is simmering, add 2 or 3 tomatoes, sliced, and continue cooking until the tomatoes are thoroughly boiled and give the soup a slight reddish color. Cut 1 pack firm tofu (14 ounces) into cubes and add it to the soup, along with additional vegetables if desired. I like adding bok choy, but you can also use snow peas, Napa cabbage, or Chinese broccoli. Add some fresh dill, then scoop rice into bowls, ladle the soup over it and season at will.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

A hospitality team member at Mendocino Farms in Marina Del Rey, California, Craig’s hours were cut, then he was furloughed.

My interest in cooking was born out of my love of movies. Specifically, Jon Favreau’s 2014 film Chef. More specifically, a one-minute scene in which Favreau cooks a pasta dish so delicious it seduces Scarlett Johansson. That was enough for me. The very next day, I went out and bought a chef’s knife (the rite of passage for Favreau’s son in the movie), and started researching how to conjure this Italian sorcery. Thanks to the YouTube channel “Binging with Babish,” which has become my guide in learning how to cook, I found a step-by-step walkthrough for this pasta agilo e oilo.

I also quickly learned I was not alone. Babish’s video has nearly 8 million views. In truth, agilo e oilo is one of the most popular dishes on the internet, and among the millennial generation, likely the single most common gateway dish into home cooking. It requires only seven ingredients, and just a few simple steps to create. Yet it looks and feels and tastes like something out of a professional kitchen. Even the title sounds impressive, Italian for “garlic and oil.”

I’m not sure whom to thank for igniting my passion for food: Jon Favreau, for making Chef; legendary L.A. chef and culinary advisor for the film Roy Choi, for bringing the dish to the big screen; Andrew Rea, for teaching me how to make it and many other things on his YouTube channel; or maybe Scarlett Johansson, for being the woman who launched eight million home cooks. I got to meet Rea and Choi on the “Binging with Babish” book tour and express my gratitude. Still waiting on that meeting with ScarJo. Serves 2 to 3

The Recipe

Mince one bunch Italian parsley (also called flat-leaf) and thinly slice 8-10 large garlic cloves (razor-blade style from Goodfellas optional). Heat a large pot of salted water and cook 10 oz. dried spaghetti to al dente (8 to 10 minutes, check the box for timing directions). Save 1 cup of pasta water, and then drain the pasta through a colander. Pour enough olive oil into a large nonstick frying pan to fill the bottom with a shallow pool (maybe .5 cup) then place over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Throw in sliced garlic and stir until golden brown, roughly 90 seconds. Add red pepper flakes (amount based on heat level desired), plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir. Add drained spaghetti and splash of reserved pasta water to the pan, then toss until pasta is coated. Kill the heat. Add the parsley, and squeeze the juice of one lemon on top. Toss well, transfer to serving dish and top with shaved parmesan.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Seeto was the manager at Crepe-Madame, a catering company in San Francisco. She stopped working on March 12, after clients began cancelling events.

My boyfriend and I have both been out of work since March 12. He’s a professional musician. I’m in catering. Sadly, we haven’t ordered any takeout to support our fellow service industry workers, because our household currently has no income. So we’ve been cooking (and drinking) a lot. The bf ( his name is Justin) is what I call a natural vegetarian: He has never liked meat. So imagine his horror when all the Impossible and Beyond burgers started edging out his beloved garden burgers at his veggie restaurants. He hates the texture of meat, real or fake.

So we recently whipped up these veggie burgers. It’s a flexible recipe that anyone can easily modify. This version is based on what we had in our kitchen at the time. We also have it on this ongoing menu planning for Justin’s imaginary vegetarian restaurant called Rock’s Box (his last name is Rock). Can you tell who does most of the cooking in our household? Anyway, it’s been a healthier, cheaper, and more creative endeavor to become mostly vegetarian during shelter-in-place. I’ve been sneaking in my bacon and Spam rations during breakfast. Serves 4

The Recipe

Preheat oven to 425F. In a food processor or large bowl using stick blender, combine one can black beans and one can chickpeas (appx. 15 ounces each), rinsed and drained, 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped, 1 red bell pepper, chopped, 3 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 large onion (half chopped for patty mixture, half sliced and reserved for topping option), 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax meal + 2.5 Tbsp water) or 1 chicken egg, 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped, 1 tsp. liquid smoke, 1 tsp.salt and 0.5 tsp. ground pepper.

Process until mixture has come together enough to form patties—although it’s nice to keep big chunks of veggies in the patties for a more textured bite. Make 4 equal-sized balls of veggie-bean mixture and flatten into circles on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake about 30 minutes, or until patties seem solid—tops will appear dry, but they will still be soft. If you don’t use them in the grilled sandwiches, the patties pair nicely with some quick sauté shoestring fries, fresh green salad, or roasted cruciferous veggies, such as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

This is how I like to serve them: Vegetable Patty Melt w/caramelized onions and melted cheese on sourdough bread with Thousand Island dressing.

Put a few glugs of olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the reserved sliced onions, stirring to coat with the oil. After onions turn translucent, lower heat and continue to cook until a caramel color, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes. Monitor the heat, lowering it if onions are starting to burn. Preheat a pan (preferably a grill pan) on medium heat, with a little butter (or olive oil) and prepare 8 slices sourdough sandwich bread to make four sandwiches. Spread Thousand Island dressing on all 8 slices and then sprinkle 4 pieces with shredded cheese of your choice—we had mozzarella and cheddar. Carefully transfer each patty to each side with cheese. Top each with caramelized onions, more cheese, and other slice of bread, dressing side down. Transfer to grill pan and toast each side until cheese is melted and bread is golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Slice in half on the diagonal to see your beautiful work and arrange on plate in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Fischoff worked as a server and bartender at Girasole in Pittsburgh, where most of the front-of-house-staff was furloughed.

When I left for Copenhagen in 2007 to research my graduate thesis on the squatter community of Christiania, I had one purpose: to write about the concept of freedom as told through the histories of its people. What was pegged as a car-free, hash-trading, alternative tourist attraction in every European guidebook was a community who had risked everything to maintain a semblance of a “free town.”

In Copenhagen, I biked past a bakery at every corner, relished fresh and pickled varieties of fish, and layered freshly buttered toast with thinly sliced chocolate. And pork in every form that rivaled any I’d ever tasted—my friends joked that there were more pigs in Denmark than people. I loved the delicacies of a world I was desperate to be mine.

I was not raised in a family of chefs. I had no legacy of secret recipes passed down from great-grandparents. In my college apartment kitchen, I experimented as if I was a biology major entering the lab. I stuffed meats with seasonal vegetables, sliced cheeses whose names I couldn’t pronounce, and flavored sauces with whatever spices my roommate perched on the cupboard shelf.

I wanted to share my world—my cuisine—with the Danish twenty-somethings who welcomed me into a community that was wary of outsiders. Together we got tear-gassed at police protests and skinny-dipped in the Stradsgraven, and with impeccable English they taught me that philosophy was to be discovered not just in books but through living. Without an heirloom dish or perfected American staple, the only dinner I could think to cook was one I created. So with on a student’s budget and a tiny grocery store the size of a single American aisle, I threw together a basket of chickpeas, spinach, walnuts and bacon—a shortlist of ingredients that became a moment of my own Danish history. (Which can be made without the pork!) Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

The Recipe

Place a large (12- or 15-inch) sauté pan over high heat (cast iron works wonders, if you have it). Chop up a package of bacon into inch-sized pieces (6-8 slices of thick-cut works best) and add to the pan, cooking until they start to become slightly browned, about another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the lovely renderings in the pan. Add 1 Tbsp minced garlic and half a white onion, diced. Saute until onions become translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 large handfuls of raw unsalted walnut halves and once they start to glisten a toasted brown, add one can chickpeas (appx. 15 ounces), drained, and generously season with about 1 Tbsp each dried paprika, oregano, and thyme. Sprinkle 3 large pinches of salt across the mixture. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes. Mix in 5 or 6 giant handfuls of fresh spinach and cook for another 2 minutes until the leaves start to appear wilted, stirring as you go so that all the ingredients mix together. Add the bacon back in. Toss once more and remove from heat. Serve over rice, quinoa, or as is.

*Danish for “cooked.”

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Grier was a bartender at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon, which was shut down on March 16.

Springtime in Portland arrived about a week into our shutdown, and aside from my daily bike ride, I’ve been experiencing it mostly from my window. With everything in bloom, I associate honey cocktails with the season. Honey syrup is easy to make and brings an extra dimension of flavor that you don’t get with standard simple syrup. It’s also extremely versatile in basic three-ingredient cocktails, by combining it with citrus and a base spirit. The most well-known of these is the Bee’s Knees, which mixes gin, honey, and lemon, but it can work with just about any bottle you have on hand. Substitute bourbon for gin and you have a Gold Rush; rum, lime or lemon, and honey makes a Honeysuckle. With aged rum and a splash of sparkling wine, you’ve got an Airmail. Tequila, cognac, aquavit… pick a spirit and you can probably make a tasty cocktail by shaking it with honey syrup and citrus juice. Serves 1

The Recipe

The first step is making the honey syrup. Because honey straight from the jar is sticky, difficult to pour, and too thick to mix easily in a cocktail, thinning it out with hot water makes it a lot easier to work with. Mixing two parts honey to one-part water by weight yields good results, and this works out to about 1 cup honey to .75 cup boiling water.

Place honey in heat-proof container. Boil the water, then slowly add it to the honey, stirring to combine. Let syrup cool, pour into bottle, and store in refrigerator, where it will last for a few weeks.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and 2 oz rum. A light white rum is the classic choice, but I like blending in some aged rum or funky Jamaican pot still rum, too. Then add .75 oz each honey syrup and freshly-squeezed lime juice. Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and you’ve got the perfect springtime sour.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

A freelance recipe developer and caterer who splits time between Nevada and Canada, Siem lost clients as companies slashed freelance budgets and events were canceled.

As a chef, people always ask me, “What’s your favorite thing to eat? Truffles? Foie Gras? The perfect Paris baguette?” Nope. It’s always been my mother’s lasagna, made with my great grandmother’s bolognese. It’s not a fancy dish; most of the main ingredients can be found in the canned food aisle, and not one of the three kinds of cheese is artisanal. And yet it’s the only meal I ache for, the one meal I still ask my mother to make when I visit.

I spent my culinary career in New York City, working long, demanding hours. One day off a week was a luxury, holidays a concept for other people. But once or twice a year I scraped together a few days to go home. Before I got on the plane, my mother always asked, “Do you want a lasagna?”

I never seemed to go home when things were going well. Every visit came with an exhausting crisis: deciding whether or not to go to culinary school, figuring out how to live in Manhattan on a cook’s salary, opening up my own bakery and later, deciding to sell it. I’d work through these issues with my mother, the pan of lasagna, and a long nap.

Now, along with everyone else, I find myself navigating another crisis. All I seem to want is a few pounds of cheese, the smell of bolognese simmering on the stove, and to scratch a primal itch to nourish in a time of uncertainty. So I dust off a few cans, brown a little meat, and drink cupfuls of wine in the process, all in the hopes that with a little global rest and reflection, the answers will come. Makes 12 servings

The Recipe

Get ready: In a food processor, pulse 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered, with 1 clove peeled garlic until the onion is finely minced and a little watery. (You can also dice by hand.) Warm a glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add onion mixture, 1 lb. lean ground beef (or 1 lb vegetarian substitute), 1 small can tomato paste (5.5 oz), 1 standard can tomato sauce (14.5 oz), .5 cup red or white wine, one jar sliced mushrooms (6 oz), including liquid, 1 Tbsp dried rosemary, 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp ground cumin or cumin seeds, and a teaspoon or so of salt and pepper. Stir everything together, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile: Slice 1 lb block Jack cheese and 1 lb block mozzarella into quarter-inch thick slices. When the sauce has simmered, preheat the oven according to the lasagna noodle’s package directions.

To bake: In a 13x9x3 inch baking pan, spread a little sauce across the bottom of the pan—just enough so the bottom of the pan isn’t dry. Lay the lasagna noodles across the bottom of the pan so they are touching but don’t overlap. Add a single layer of Jack, spreading a hefty sprinkle of parmesan and a few spoonfuls of sauce over the cheese. Repeat with another layer of noodles, mozzarella, parmesan, and sauce. Continue layering the lasagna, alternating mozzarella and Jack layers until you’ve used all the cheese. (Depending on pasta brand, you may have leftover noodles.) Top the lasagna with any extra sauce and another sprinkle of parmesan. Cover with foil and bake according to the noodle’s package directions, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes. Let the lasagna cool for another 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Massie worked as a bartender at a country club in Virginia. After initially seeing her shifts disappear, she worked at a beverage cart for golfers at the club and assisted with take-out orders for curbside pickup.

When I was younger, I would follow my mother around the kitchen while she cooked. I wanted to soak up her knowledge because she was, still is, the best cook I knew. My mom prepared food to have multiple servings for leftovers, which in turn made me resent having to eat the same meal again and again. The rule was that we had to eat whatever my mom prepared—if we didn’t like it, too bad. So I had a love/hate relationship with food. While I enjoyed eating, growing up bigger than my siblings made me very conscious of every bite I took. This led to a variety of fad diets and even bouts of starvation, and unfortunately turned me into quite the picky eater.

As an adult, I’ve learned to love my body and to give it food that I not only enjoy, but is good for me. I’ve become obsessed with Asian-inspired cuisine. There are so many flavors to experiment with, and it makes being a pescatarian who tries to steer away from dairy simpler. Usually I’m in a rush, so I like to be able to prepare my meals in less than 45 minutes, which I know makes no sense right now considering I have unlimited time stuck at home. But I also want to prepare for when this is over. Serves 2

The Recipe

Slice 1 green bell pepper and 1 red bell pepper (or whatever colors you have—it’s a pandemic) into strips, and dice 1 yellow onion. Set all that aside. Begin the curry sauce by adding 2 Tbsp red curry paste, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp fish sauce and one can coconut milk (appx 13.5 ounce) to a small saucepan and whisk to combine, bringing to a low simmer over very low heat. Now pour about a capful of olive oil into a large skillet and sauté the vegetables over medium heat until they are softened and maybe even picking up a little color, about 3 minutes. Add 1 lb precooked shrimp and warm through, just about a minute. Mix in the red curry sauce and bring this mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a fully cooked quick rice (like Minute brand), pop two servings into the microwave for 90 seconds, transfer to serving dishes, and spoon red curry over the top.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Hood, a bartender at Paddy Long’s in Chicago, was out of work when the bar closed.

Chicago winters are roughly six months, which, for a floral designer like my wife, is about five months too long. For us, these first warm days of spring are spent roaming the sidewalks of our favorite neighborhoods with a hidden to-go cup of wine or a cocktail.

From home, my wife continues to design the weddings we all hope will happen this year. As all bars and restaurants in Chicago are closed, I’ve kept my bartending muscles exercised by inventing or tweaking a cocktail a day. The first day it got above sixty, I opened the apartment windows, surveyed the bar for inspiration, and sitting next to the rye was a half-drunk bottle of Merlot from the previous night. Serves 1

The Recipe

Grab a cocktail shaker, add 2 oz Rye, .75 oz lemon juice (fresh if you have it), and .25 oz simple syrup. (To make simple syrup: Boil 1 cup water, take off heat and stir in 1 cup sugar to dissolve and let cool in the refrigerator.) Add ice and shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. Double strain into a rocks glass, add large ice cubes leaving enough room at the top, and slowly float* about 1.5 oz red wine over a bar spoon.

*To float the wine, invert a wide spoon over the rocks glass (so the bowl faces down, like a little cap), then gently pour wine over the back of the spoon so it waterfalls onto the top of the cocktail. This creates a cascading effect from the light ochre of the shaken cocktail to the deep earthy red of the wine. Enjoy your Season Changer.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Detroit’s Apparatus Room, where Burk was the bar manager, closed on March 15.

This recipe has been passed down from my Babcia, who learned it while standing on the stepstool, her head barely reaching above the soup pot, in her mother’s kitchen in Poland. And while every household in my family knows how to make our family’s beet borscht, there are slight variations. But the general consensus is the soup needs to be really red, and the last few bites enjoyed on a dunked-in potato-and-cheese pierogi.

Because it calls for such simple ingredients and can be made in such large batches, it’s a soup I’ve been making constantly with beetroots from Eastern Market in Detroit and delivering to friend’s doorsteps. For me, beet borscht is reminiscent of large family get-togethers with large portions of sausage, pierogi, and crusty bread. It’s the first soup we make at the turn of the season in Michigan. We fill pitchers of it from large stock pots in my aunt’s basement during big holidays, and place them at the center of the groups of tables. It’s the first soup to be poured after Dzjaju recites a long Polish prayer, giving thanks for all of us being together. It’s a soup that kept my family warm, happy, and together during the famines of war—and one that now fills my home with warmth as we face the struggles of being displaced from our jobs and distanced from other loved ones. Serves 4-6

The Recipe

Rinse 3 medium beets (skins on) and place them in a pan of boiling water until tender. I stick a fork into the beets to test, and when the fork slides in and out with ease, they’re ready. Strain beets from water and peel with a potato peeler. (Gloves are encouraged during this step to avoid beet stained fingertips for a few days.) Bring one quart chicken or veggie stock and one quart water to a boil, and while you’re waiting, thinly slice the beets with a mandoline (using a 2cm blade). Add them to the stock. (You can also slice by hand—aim to slice them about the thickness of a quarter.) Add 3 pinches of salt and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.

At the end of the 15 minutes, the soup will be a deep red, almost purple. Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and add 6 medium red-skin potatoes, cooking until tender. Strain the potatoes and set aside. In a small bowl, combine .25 cup flour and .25 cup water and whisk until smooth. This is called a roux and it is used to thicken the soup. Add roux to the beet soup, stirring frequently to avoid clumping, and simmer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, the soup will have shifted from the deep purple-red to a slightly lighter shade. Add 4 Tbsp white vinegar, stir, and remove soup from heat.

Cut the cooked potatoes in quarters, place in a medium bowl (or use the cooking pot) and add 1 cup sour cream, 1 Tbsp each dill and chopped chives, and mix until evenly distributed. Ladle a generous amount of herbed potatoes into a bowl and pour soup overtop.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Cohen had left his job as a barista at Nobu Malibu to care for his newborn son, and planned to return to Nobu or a new restaurant in March.

Friends, family, and most outdoor activities were removed from our lives this year, and even as they start to trickle back in, some things (water parks, sweaty dance clubs, contact improv) might not. So in these uncertain times, I’d like to present us all with a simple constant. Banana pancakes.

Since the pandemic started, my partner has been working long hours from home every day, trying to help keep her small company afloat. I spend every moment of the day with an adorable and demanding baby boy glued to me, as I contemplate the shaky future of the restaurant industry.

Why are pancakes important right now, you ask?

Why are vacations important? Why are sunsets important? Because they make your life fuller. The more good moments that each of us gets, the better we’re able to be to each other. If the day starts out with moments like feeding your toothless, beaming baby a little disk of joy, then I’d say you’re set for success. (Note: In case you’re constantly holding another human being as well, this entire recipe can be prepared one-handed.)

This recipe is free of gluten, dairy, and eggs—I gave up the animal products, and my soulmate is violently allergic to gluten—so the pancakes’ll sit light, meaning you can eat way too many and still feel okay. So go forth, my friends. Proliferate some Sunday morning vibes. Serves 4

The Recipe

First, go wash your hands a few more times. Next, melt .25 cup vegan butter or coconut oil and pour it into a mixing bowl with 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (the drinkable kind, not canned—but any milk substitute should work fine here; even regular milk and regular butter will work). Next, add 1 cup unsweetened applesauce and 2 ripe bananas, and mash them with all the aggression that social isolation has given you, mixing your batter until it’s nice and creamy.

Now for the oats: Take 2 cups rolled oats and grind them into a fine powder using a blender or food processor. Pour oats into batter along with a pinch of salt, 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp flax meal (Our goal is to get a nice thick mixture, so if you haven’t got any flax, add an extra .25 cup of ground oats and let the batter sit a little longer during the next phase. This will allow the oats to absorb more of the moisture before you start cooking). Mix your batter into a beautiful and evenly beige paste, and if you’re really trying to impress people, toss in some frozen berries and/or dark chocolate chips (dairy-free, if you want to keep them vegan). Do nothing to your velvety smooth batter for about 10 minutes (or 15, if you’re missing your flax).

Crank the heat up high on your stove, grease a nonstick pan with some of that vegan butter/coconut oil, calm the flame down to medium heat, and go make some magic. Using a small ladle or tablespoon to drop the batter onto your pan lets you control the size of your pancakes and provides you with a creative outlet for a little artistic expression.

When your pancake has little bubbles all over, it’s ready to flip. When it’s caramel brown on both sides, it’s ready for you.

I like to top these with jam, maple syrup, or smashed fruit, and sing Jack Johnson songs as loudly as I can during the entire process.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

A graduate student at Northwestern University, Moberger was bartending to help pay his bills, but he lost his job during the shutdown.

Thank the booze gods that liquor stores are considered essential—for now, at least—during this COVID-triggered lockdown. And since many people are furloughed or working from home, now is the time to get creative with home cocktailing. The simplest way I get crafty with my mixed drinks is by throwing a little something extra in that simple syrup. Wing it. Seriously. Syrups are hard to (totally) screw up.

Start by bringing equal parts sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then, mix in whatever is in the fridge, freezer, cabinet, or spice rack. Frozen fruit works great. Try vanilla extract left over from your one baking experiment. To get more complicated, lightly toast some whole spices like cinnamon and cloves and anise, being very careful not to burn them, and then add them to the syrup. Accidentally dumped in too much fruit or vanilla extract? Cut it with more sugar. Too sweet? Add a little water. You only have to please yourself, so make everything to taste. Simmer the syrup on low heat for about 15 minutes so the flavors have plenty of time to infuse. Let the syrup cool, pour it through a fine strainer to remove solids, and start experimenting with cocktails. Serves 1

The Recipe

To get started, try my riff on the old fashioned that uses a vanilla syrup. Stir 2 oz mezcal (something smoky and smooth; I like Sombra), .25 oz vanilla syrup, 1 dash Angostura bitters, and 2 dashes grapefruit or orange bitters with plenty of ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass. Drop in fresh ice or a big cube, if you have it (silicone big cube trays are only about $8 and worth every penny). Garnish with an orange peel.

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