Many of us are cooking at home more than ever. And with most restaurants on reduced hours — and all closed for dine-in service — many East Bay chefs and restaurateurs are making, or at least eating, more meals at home, too.
For some, home cooking is a way to bring the creative spirit to the home kitchen. For others, it means making simple dishes they can practically make with their eyes closed, using whatever they happen to have on hand, often leftovers from their restaurants’ kitchens. And for some, this downtime means getting to enjoy food cooked by someone else.
Nosh asked a few local chefs to weigh in on what they’re cooking — or just eating — during a time when food is one of the few permissible means of escape. Some of them have even shared simple, loose recipes for their favorite shelter-in-place eats.
Nelson German, Alamar Kitchen & Bar, Sobre Mesa
As a chef, there’s nothing better sometimes than to leave the cooking to someone else and appreciate their cooking. With the quarantine in place, I am blessed to be able to spend more time at home with my wife and my mother-in-law. Typically, I don’t make it home in time for dinner, but lately, I have, and my Chinese mother-in-law has been spoiling me with some delicious classic Chinese dishes. We have had egg rolls that aren’t like the ones I’ve had at Chinese restaurants. Hers have mushroom and vermicelli, minced pork, cabbage, carrots and a hint of sesame oil. She also spoiled me with homemade wonton soup the other day when it was rainy and cold, so it was a perfect soup day. She also spends hours making braised chicken drumsticks that fall right off the bones and braised pork belly. I will really need to hit the gym once this quarantine is over.
Emily Winston, Boichik Bagels
On the whole, I’m getting takeout a whole lot, since I want to support my fellow food businesses (and I’m also not much of a cook to begin with). My new favorite staple is Finn and Stella — I’m getting their fabulous lunches delivered three days a week. Oh, also I’m a big fan of Pomella (the new Ba-Bite). It’s a great change from bagels!
Maggie Blyth-Klein, Oliveto
This is sort of a new thing for us, to eat every dinner together. Being restaurant people we’ll eat together at the restaurant, or I’ll come home at 11 and [husband and co-owner Bob Klein] will have eaten and I won’t have, and so on.
Right now I shop every two weeks, because I don’t think that shopping is safe. I’ll get things like pot roast. At home, I’ve always been all over the map. Well, no not all over the map. I’m not a good cook of Asian cuisines, but since shelter-in-place started I have discovered a new flavor for my cooking: tamarind. I’ve been throwing it in with my pot roast, and it gives a lovely tang.
Pot roast: Brown the meat well in a skillet, then move to a pot and cover in broth. Add tamarind, garlic, onions, carrots and whatever other vegetables you like. Cook extremely slowly, 220-225ºF for a couple of hours. Reduce the sauce on the stovetop. As a side dish, steam cut yellow potatoes with the peels on, then smash crudely with a lot of butter and olive oil, ladle some of the reduced tamarind stock on top.
Russell Moore, The Kebabery
I’ve been tending to cook rice almost every night of the week — I’m half Korean — and I’ve made a couple giant vats of kimchi because I was nervous about having enough to eat. So rice, kimchi and some other vegetable make an easy dinner. I typically make too much rice, and then the next night I make fried rice. We’re also getting an occasional CSA from Radical Family Farms, and we also get a weekly Sea Forager CSA.
Once I have kimchi in the fridge, I kind of only make Asian food. And I make rice every night because after I get home from work I’m tired and I can make rice in my sleep.
Almost every morning, my wife [co-owner Allison Hopelain] and I have leftover Kebabery bread with peanut butter and jam or honey, or with cheese.
Napa cabbage and oyster kimchi: “Most kimchi has a fishy element to it,” said Moore. “A lot of recipes have salted shrimp or shrimp paste, but I’ve always used oysters. I really enjoy the flavor it gives to the kimchi. I might make it some day for The Kebabery if the mood strikes.”
Salt the cabbage overnight, the following day wash out the salt, then add scallions, garlic, and ginger, at a ratio of twice as much garlic as ginger. Add some julienned daikon and ground chiles. Shuck oysters directly into the batch, then leave it to ferment on the counter for three to four days.
Grégoire Jacquet, Grégoire
We don’t go to the store as much, but we try to do everything from scratch. My wife and I do the cooking. We live next to Monterey Market. Normally, we go there and to Berkeley Natural almost every day, because it’s very easy. Now, we have a schedule, [shopping] for nine to 10 days. You have to have a schedule. We use a lot of leftovers. We reuse a lot of stuff. We’re really aware of our food habits, now more than ever.
I have two teenagers at home who are pretty savvy in food. My son likes Asian food, Japanese specifically. And my daughter is not like that at all. She prefers eggs, simple Mexican. So I have to satisfy all the flavors. What I try to do is to do some Asian, do some Mexican, some stew, some simple food — always to have my kids in mind.
Burrito bowls are a pleaser. Sauteed ground pork seasoned with salt and pepper, and on the side, rice and black beans. I build everything with avocado, jalapeños, jack cheese and then some salsas and sour cream. My kids would be happy if I cooked that every day. But I need more variety.
Shredded pork burrito bowls: “I had never done this before, but last time I used shredded pork shoulder instead of ground pork,” Jacquet said.
Put the pork in a Le Creuset with a little bit of water, then add paprika, cumin, onion, garlic powder and chile flakes. Cook for two to three hours in the oven, or on the stove at a slow simmer. Shred when finished. Serve with beans and rice.
Amy Murray, Revival Bar & Kitchen
For home meals, I tend to cook a lot of high-quality vegetables from the farmers market. I like to get bits of everything — English peas, snap peas, mushrooms, spring onions, baby carrots… and make big pots of stews and soups. It’s really nice to eat locally, use all the stems, and the greens, kind of Depression-era thinking of “use every last piece.” And it’s a fun challenge for me to see how I can put the season’s bounty together in different ways that satisfy and taste good together.
I go to the North Berkeley Thursday farmers market. I just like to see what everyone has. I like to support everyone. There are so many good farms, and now with everything being pre-bagged, I think it’s great to take the package that they give me and to force myself to find ways to use it, versus me going in there and touching 20 different turnips until my fingers choose which one.
Farmers markets always feel like a healthy pastime. Meeting all these amazing farmers who are doing so much to keep our food supply boosted with all this fresh organic produce. You can supply your fridge with food that has all this incredible vitality because it’s just been picked. Fresh-picked food has more vitamins. I’m a big fan, I think it’s a good way to eat. It’s a big blessing for us here in California.
Vegetable soup: “Soup is soup. It all goes well in soup,” said Murray. Spring onions, spring garlic, carrots, turnips, fava beans, peas, broccoli, kale, whichever vegetables are on hand.
“Do the classic mise-en-place, starting out by having everything clean and cut to size, to map your strategy, your intervals, your cooking. I just lay it out, get everything sized right, then I preheat the pot and start sauteeing in zone 1, zone 2, zone 3. First aromatics, then firm ingredients, then soft ones.
“I’ve been leaning heavy on ginger, turmeric and garlic because of the desire to keep my immunity boosted. And I’ve also been guilty of some comfort food eating. So I like having a big pot of soup because then I’m using all the vegetables, getting some alkaline food in my body when I’m done with all the chocolate chips. Not that much, but I think a lot of us have been gaining a little weight.”
Supasit “O” Puttikaew, Funky Elephant
As my wife and I mostly spend time at the business during the pandemic, my food is usually made from whatever scrap ingredients are leftover from the evening’s menu. It’s most often fried rice that I cook for myself after my shift, with leftover garlic, ginger, rice, beef trimmings, egg, tomatoes, scallions, Thai sorrel leaves, Fresno chiles, cilantro, then seasoned with soy sauce. I add a side of little lettuces sometimes to add some nutrition, since it is often my first full meal of the day.
I named the dish “Khao Pad Gu” // ข้าวผัดกู which mean “whatever fried rice.”