We are all feeling the amount of time we have on our hands and are wondering how to spend it. Let’s face it, there is no “right way” to quarantine. One thing I know for myself is that food brings me joy; cooking is worthwhile, especially when the days at home are endless. These past weeks have been the moment to try to make my home cooking, zero-waste, fermentation fantasies come true. Diving into food-related projects that I didn’t think I had time for before and challenging my creativity in order to minimize food waste have both been incredibly rewarding.
I used to make oat or nut milk every so often, but the practice slipped away from me when life was too busy. During quarantine, I have been able to get back into the habit of buying oats in bulk and making oat milk twice a week. I then use the left over oat pulp to make vegan chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal, or add them to my smoothies. Each batch takes under five minutes to make (no over-night soaking!) and lasts me 3-4 days. I am also pleased to reduce my consumption of single use packaging, decrease food waste, and save money, as oats alone cost a fraction of the price. I can make 8-10 batches of oat milk for the price of one store bought container. This has now become a staple in my home and I will continue to make it after confinement is over.
Another project I started nearly four weeks ago is growing a kombucha scoby. I have made my own kombucha before, but growing the scoby is an even more temperamental project that requires patience. In the meantime, I have started a ginger bug that is bubbling on my counter top, and I have used it to successfully make ginger beer, amongst other fizzy drinks. Fermenting is a great activity when stuck at home because it takes time and you get to watch it grow and change. The first bubbles merit celebration… fermenting is magic, in my opinion.
Fortunately, even in a time like the present, we are able to explore with our taste buds. Maybe I am not allowed to go outside to enjoy the flowers in bloom, but I have been able to bring spring’s seasonal ingredients into my home and cook with them. A couple of weeks ago, I spent an hour shelling, cooking, and peeling fava beans for the first time. Although I wasn’t crazy about the beans themselves, I found a recipe in my copy of The Zero Waste Cook Book that called for the pods only. Usually they will just get thrown away, despite being 100% edible and delicious. When blanched then baked parmigiana-style, the result is a tender, perfect fit for this traditional Italian dish. This book also includes a recipe for making a soup out of left over artichoke leaves. After eating an artichoke, I saved the starchy, thick leaves as well as some fresh pea pods that had been leftover from another dish, and turned them into a lovely velouté. What a victory it was to make meals out of what I would usually throw away.
Another victorious cooking activity that I cannot help to mention is when I cooked in my fire place for the first time. I had been wanting to grill in it for a while, but it seemed like a hassle and I thought there was a higher chance of ruining whatever I was cooking rather than succeeding. However, I found myself with an eggplant, a bell pepper, and some sausages: all forgivable, low-risk ingredients that I could turn into baba ganoush and grilled sausages. In the end, it was quite simple, undeniably amusing, and the food turned out great. This will also be something I do again. I could truly go on and on about all that I have been making during these past weeks. Instead, I will leave a list of my favorite recipes for you down below.
Seven weeks in, I can say I am starting to suffer from a culinary creativity block, but at least my fermentation projects are bubbling and I have the time to write. I have become inspired by the challenges of confinement, and from the online cooking “community”, and I want to promise myself to keep up the habits I have developed during this time, because they are sustainable and worthwhile. I do have time to integrate these practices into my normal life, I will just need to make conscious space for them.
- Oat milk
- Oat pulp cookies
- Kombucha scoby
- Ginger bug
- Ginger beer
- Fava pod parmigiana and artichoke soup from The Zero Waste Cookbook
- The best way to cook ANY beans
- Pita bread
- Lamb shoulder with rosemary
- Fennel and anchovy pasta
- Pasta alla puttanesca
- Risotto with any garniture
- Tomato sauce
- Focaccia from The Zero Waste Cookbook
- Chicken schnitzel
- Cod carpaccio
- Mixed greens salad with any and all fresh herbs you have on hand
- Candied grapefruit* peel
- Tahini chocolate chip cookies