When Life Gives You Lemons – Cooking Through Covid-19: A Culinary Survival Guide Part 2

Cooking Adventures (blog)

Before this whole thing went down, I kept thinking to myself “what would I do if I only had 90 days to live?” Though we’re not about to perish (everybody, breathe), I would visit my friends who’ve moved away since I miss them deeply. Though it’s not the same as actually seeing people, being socially isolated has brought my long distance friends and I closer. We’ve taken to chatting on the phone whilst cooking/cleaning – catching up on personal anecdotes, reminiscing times gone by, and providing each other with comfort in this uneasy time.

I had to wait in a long line to get into the grocery store. When I reached the entrance I was given a pair of plastic gloves, asked how I was feeling, if I was self-isolating, and if I’d recently returned from a trip. The precautions, though great, freaked me out, so I decided to buy some extra pantry staples in order to avoid another trip for a few weeks. Lots of frozen spinach and artichokes, extra onions and potatoes, and lemons and parsley. I’ve been thinking more about more about the things I do instinctively to boost flavor, and the ingredients I always have on hand for that purpose. Here are a few of my favorite things.

1. Flat-leaf (Italian) Parsley
2. Sweet Potatoes
3. Lemons

1. Parsley – is a war vegetable.
Not only is a large bunch less than a dollar, but it will keep in your fridge for around two weeks. You can go on vacation (ha ha ha) and come back to fresh parsley. Delicate herbs like cilantro, mint, and basil appreciate a little pampering in order to stay fresh – wrap in a damp paper towel, or place in a glass of water – much like fresh flowers – but parsley is fine stored as is in your vegetable crisper.

It is best friends with: sweet vegetables (red peppers, squash, sweet potatoes), mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, etc).

Chop and
– mix with a hearty grain like barley or faro, add a splash of acid and some toasted nuts (bonus points if you can add some sautéed mushrooms, baby spinach, or chopped fresh tomatoes/cucumber)
– mix into pasta; tomato sauce (add chili flakes, olives, and capers for a puttanesca sauce), aglio olio, or with sautéed mushrooms and garlic
– stir into bean soups (with a swig of something acidic) right before serving for a burst of freshness
– combine with roasted potato cubes/wedges (while they’re still hot)

Blend (I do this with my hand immersion blender) with garlic, lemon zest + juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
– freeze in ice cubes (if you do this in silicon trays they’ll pop straight out and won’t discolor your molds) and store in a zip lock in the freezer for the future
– combine with pasta (we like penne rigate), caramelized onions, and roasted sweet potato cubes

– if you’re making the “sauce” specifically for this reason, swap the lemon for balsamic vinegar

– use as a base for dressings (for salads or grains)
– mix into cooked brown lentils, and eat that with bread or grains and veggies
– brush onto baguette/ciabatta for parsley garlic bread

– up the garlic and oil factor big time and reduce the amount of lemon

– mix into mayo and use as dip for oven fries (thank me later)
– swirl into hummus or baba ganoush (store bought is fine)
– toss with roasted veggies (while they’re still hot) or sautéed tofu/chickpeas/protein of choice

2. Sweet Potatoes. Only recently have I started to enjoy sweet potatoes, but maybe that’s because I’ve been

– Cutting them into cubes, tossing with olive oil, salt & pepper, and baking at 400-425F for 35mins until they’re cooked through and a little crispy

– I love these as a side when I serve falafel or tacos. Combine mayo with lemon zest and juice, grated garlic, and a little s&p to use as a dip. Delectable.
– Toss leftovers with pasta, parsley sauce, and caramelized onions (see the parsley section)
– Serve with/put in an omelette or buckwheat crepes

– Roast whole

– cut in half and fill with lentil/black bean chili

– blend together soaked cashews, cilantro, lemon zest and juice, nutritional yeast, s&p and dollop on top (I refuse to call this “sour cream” because cashews do not taste like dairy)

Bulk up your: chickpea and tomato curry, chili, or lentil stew

– Use in a red/yellow curry base to add natural sweetness

– cube and sauté with your onions, then add garlic and ginger, curry paste, vegetable broth – bring to a boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes before blending (and then add coconut cream/lime/vegetables)

– Grate and make fritters crispy, crunchy, delicious – serve with a green salad or soup

3. Lemons. Adding acid to a dish brings brightness and elevates flavor. So fearful am I of not having fresh lemons available soon, that I bought a whole bunch of lemons, zested and juiced them, and froze in ice cube molds to ensure that I would continue to be able to add a pop of freshness to my dishes.

Add towards the end of cooking:

– Soup: dahl, Greek lentil, black bean
– Stews & chili
– Curries

– Make a simple salad that can be eaten on its own, on top of greens, or as a “salsa” for your main course. Combine your favorite mix of fruits/veggies, add a generous amount of salt & pepper, a glug of olive oil, and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

– mango, cucumber, and tomatoes – on top of tacos or burrito bowls
– thinly sliced onion and cucumber – on top of grains (barley is my fav)
– grated carrot and raw beets – on top of Indian style curry

In baking
– lemon zest adds a delicious lightness to baked goods

– in dough (for cinnamon rolls & babka), muffin & cake batter, vanilla icing, etc
– if a recipe calls for buttermilk, you can sub any milk (warm it up slightly) and then add a squeeze of lemon juice. Let this sit for a few minutes, and once the milk is curdled and looks narsty, it is ready to go.

Here’s what I’ve cooked since the last blog post:
– arepas with refried beans and an avocado, tomato & cilantro salad
– (frozen) berry muffins topped with pearl sugar
– pappardelle with frozen peas, mushrooms, garlic, and lemon zest. Topped with vegan walnut parmesan.
– tofu-vegetable stir fry with crispy fried garlic-ginger noodles
– farfalle in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce with capers and two kinds of olives
– crepes with sautéed garlicky frozen spinach and egg – with maple syrup
– crunchy romaine lettuce with homemade beet salad and segmented blood oranges

Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments down below and if there’s a specific ingredient or topic you’d like me to cover. Don’t forget to like my Facebook page, follow me on Instagram and on this site in order to receive a notification for the by-weekly content I’m posting here during the quarantine here. If you subscribe to my YouTube channel as well, I will love you forever.



10 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Lemons – Cooking Through Covid-19: A Culinary Survival Guide Part 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s