Homebound Cooking

photo courtesy of nasaAll the recipes I've been playing with for the forthcoming "Corner Store Entertaining" volume of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly seem especially pertinent as Hurricane Sandy shuts down New York City. If there are stores open, they are mom and pop delis where the proprietors live upstairs. I'm not the only one thinking about how to make good meals out of canned goods and pantry staples right now–what else is there to do besides cook, drink, and obsessively scan social media for storm pictures?

Here are two recipes you shouldn't have to leave the house (or at least the block) to make. Improvise a hurricane cocktail, see what's in the pantry, and get cooking before the power goes out.

Grandma Joan's Pimento Cheese

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • ½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • two 4-oz jars pimentos, finely chopped
  • 25 shakes Tabasco

Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. It should be thick but spreadable. Add more mayonnaise if it’s too thick, and more Tabasco if you like it spicy. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl.

Serve with Ritz crackers, baguette slices, or beer bread.

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375, and grease a bread pan (fold one out of doubled up aluminum foil if you don't own one).

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Dump in the beer and brikly mix together to moisten the flour but leave it lumpy. Transfer the batter to the pan so it's somewhat evenly distributed, and pour the butter or olive oil over the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or fork comes out mostly clean. Remove it from the pan to cool for about 15 minuted before slicing.

Notes: Avoid using a bitter beer, something cheap and light is ideal. Substitute up to 1 cup of the flour with wheat flour. Add spices or shredded cheese for fun.



Ohanami Onigiri おはなみのおにぎり

Onigiri are easy to make, and all the ingredients are available in most American supermarkets. Hand formed balls of rice with a savory filling, wrapped in nori seaweed, these are a perfect picnic snack. My favorite filling is ume-boshi, Japanese pickled plums. Canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise is a popular filling, and one that doesn’t require a trip to a specialty grocer.

Onigiri Recipe

sushi rice
of your choice

Cooking good sushi rice in a pan requires patience and precision, a rice cooker makes it easy. In whichever vessel you’ll cook it in, rinse the rice in several changes of cool water, until the water runs clear. Cook the rice. When it is done, spread it on a plate to cool slightly.

Mix a few spoonfuls of salt into a bowl of cool water. It should taste like sea water. Dip your (very clean) hands into the water: to season the rice and keep it from sticking to your hands.

Cradle a small handful of rice in one hand. Make an indentation in the middle. Place a teaspoon or less of your filling in the indentation. Press another small handful of rice on top.

Traditionally, onigiri is shaped into a triangle. Bend your hands into right angles, and press the rice into the angle of your hand. Rotate and squeeze the onigiri to form its corners (nigiri means squeeze).

Wrap a small piece of nori around the onigiri. To preserve its crunch, wait to add the seaweed until you are ready to eat.

*Japanese markets and some grocery stores carry small strips of seasoned nori, perfect for onigiri. If you can’t find those, cut sheets of sushi nori to a manageable size (to make them extra delicious, you can brush them with soy sauce and toast them for a few seconds under a broiler).