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A piping plover at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook on May 26. Photo by Jay Gao
Mother Nature’s Wrath

   By Ellen Mason, Stony Brook

Mother Nature is angry

And she’s showing her wrath. 

We’ve destroyed her best efforts,

Walking down this wrong path. 

 

Our health is at stake,

And the health of our earth. 

But we’ve not done enough 

To make up for this dearth. 

 

Water pollution,

Severe climate change,

Endangered species,

There’s a whole range

 

Of needed improvements

For what we have wrought.  

We’ve squandered our riches,

And look what we’ve bought!

 

Yes we’ll get through this,

She’s stern but not cruel. 

But we must pay attention

And live by new rules.

Foods that comfort the mind and body protect you from chronic diseases in the long term. Stock photo
Focusing on real ‘comfort food’ will improve your outcomes

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

I think it’s fair to say that our world has been radically altered by the current COVID-19 pandemic. If you are at home weathering this storm, it can feel like you are in a literal silo. 

So naturally, we need to find things that make us feel “better.” Many of us reach for food to help comfort us. Guess which food item has had the largest sales increase in the U.S. from 2019. Here is a hint: it’s not broccoli. It’s frozen cookie dough, where sales are up 454 percent (1). 

But there is a difference between food that comforts just the mind and food that comforts both the mind and the body. What is the difference? Let’s look at two recent examples from my clinical practice. 

Food that comforts the mind and body 

Stock photo

First, let’s look at the results of a 71-year-old male who stopped eating out during COVID-19, like so many of us. Apparently, for this patient, eating out meant indiscretions with his diet. While at home, there was less temptation to stray from his dietary intentions. The results speak for themselves. 

In a month, his nutrient level improved, measured using serum beta carotene levels. His inflammation, measured by c-reactive protein (CRP), was reduced 40 percent. What is the importance of inflammation? It is the potential basis for many of the chronic diseases that are rampant in the U.S. (2). His kidney function increased by about 14 percent with an increase in his glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which helps remove waste from the kidney, from 51 to 58. This patient, who suffers from gout, also found his uric acid dropped. Finally, and most importantly, his symptoms improved, and he garnered more energy. He described himself as enjoying food more.

I am not suggesting you don’t order out, but do it wisely. Diametrically opposed is our second example. 

Food that comforts the mind only

Stock photo

This 72-year-old female decided to embrace ultra-processed foods, adding cookies, cakes and sour-dough breads to her diet. Her kidney function decreased by more than 15 percent, with the GFR shifting from 88 to 63. Her inflammation, measured by CRP, went up by 75 percent. Her LDL, “bad cholesterol,” increased by more than 20 percent. Her allergy symptoms worsened. She described herself as more sluggish and, to boot, she gained five pounds.

What makes these examples even more interesting is that both patients are deemed in the high-risk category for getting severe COVID-19 and being hospitalized. COVID-19 is associated with elevated CRP, which may increase the risk for more lung lesions and the risk of severe disease (3).

What is the moral of the story? Use this time to focus on foods that comfort both the mind and the body. Make food work for you and against the common enemies of COVID-19 and chronic diseases that are putting people at higher risk for viruses.

What about exercise? 

Just because we are cooped up indoors most of the time does not mean we can’t exercise. Time and again, exercise benefits have been shown. Yet, we are sitting more and, with social distancing, we have less incentive to go outside or opportunities to socialize, go to the gym or do many of our usual activities.

However, not to fret. There was a recent small study with eight volunteers equally split between men and women. Results showed that four-minute intervals of exercise throughout the day that interrupted continuous sitting led to a substantial improvement in triglycerides and metabolized more fat after high-fat meals the next day, compared to continuous sitting for eight hours uninterrupted and then eating a high fat meal the next day (4).  

The participants used a stationary bike, exercising intensely for four seconds and then resting for 45 seconds, repeating the sequence five times in a row. They completed this four-minute sequence once an hour for eight hours. Their daily intense exercise totaled 160 seconds. This bodes well for very short bursts of exercise rather than sitting for long periods without movement.

Not everyone has a stationary bike, but you can do jumping jacks, run in place, or even dance vigorously to your favorite tunes once an hour.

Ventilator vs. Incentive Spirometer

As I’m sure you’ve been reading, some with severe COVID-19 require ventilators. Unfortunately, the statistics with ventilators are dismal. According to a recent study of 5700 COVID-19 patients in the New York region, 88.1 percent of patients died (5). Hospitals are trying alternate approaches while using oxygen masks not ventilators, such as proning (turning patients on their stomach instead of lying on their backs in bed) and having them sit up in a chair in order to help with oxygenation in the lungs in those who have low oxygen saturation.

However, the ultimate exercise for the lung and the ability to improve oxygenation is an incentive spirometer. This device expands your lungs as you inhale. The more you do it, the better your lung functioning. One study, which I mentioned in previous articles on lung function, involved inhaling a total of 50 breaths a day which in two increments (6). 

The brand of spirometer used was a Teleflex Triflo II. This costs less than five dollars online at medicalvitality.com

What about incentive spirometer in sick patients? There was a small study with patients who had COPD exacerbations (7). Those who were given an incentive spirometer plus medical treatment saw a significant increase in the blood gases over a two-month period. Also, the quality of life improved for those using the incentive spirometer. 

Remember, one of the factors that may be a sign that someone is at high risk for severe COVID-19 is very low oxygen saturation. If you can improve oxygen saturation with incentive spirometer that is readily available, how can you pass this up? 

While it is tempting to gorge yourself with food that comforts the mind, DON’T! Foods that comfort the mind and the body protect you not only in the short term, but also the longer term from the consequences of chronic diseases.

Therefore, focus on DGLV (dark green leafy vegetables) that raise beta-carotene, which in turn lowers CRP. This can be achieved with diet by increasing consumption of beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables while limiting consumption of beta-carotene-poor ultra-processed and fatty foods. Interestingly, it is much easier right now to get DGLVs than it is to get certain ultra-processed foods. Add in exercise and an incentive spirometer and you will comfort your body plus your mind.

References:

(1) CNBC.com April 23,2020. (2) Front Immunol. 2018; 9: 1302. (3) Med Mal Infect. 2020 Mar 31;S0399-077X(20)30086-X. (4) Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Online April 17, 2020. (5) JAMA. 2020 Apr 22;e206775. (6) Ann Rehabil Med. Jun 2015;39(3):360-365. (7) Respirology. 2005 Jun;10(3):349-53. 

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.     

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Derek has eaten more pizza in the past six weeks than he has in the previous three years. Heather feels like an insect, trapped late in the night in the electric glow of her screen. Steve drinks too much Coke Zero and Eliene stays up way too late and wears the same pants too often.

In response to email questions, several Long Islanders shared their healthiest and least healthy habits during the lockdown.

Derek Poppe, who is a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has been able to work off some of the pizza he’s eating at lunch by running outside, which he started doing after the gym he has attended for seven years closed seven weeks ago.

“I have also tried my hand at meditation which has been incredible since, really, from the time we wake up to when we go to bed, we are surrounded by all things COVID-19,” Poppe wrote in an email.

Bellone, meanwhile, rides his Peloton stationary bike early in the morning or late at night. The county executive also sometimes runs at 10:30 p.m. before beginning to prepare for the next morning’s meetings and radio calls.

Bellone’s least healthy habits include ramping up his consumption of Coke Zero.

Sara Roncero-Menendez from Stony Brook, meanwhile, walks around her neighborhood on sunny days. When the weather gets rough, she does YouTube yoga. She’s also been crocheting and cross-stitching, getting a head start on holiday gifts.

“It’s been a good way to keep busy and actually have something to show for it at the end,” Roncero-Menendez wrote.

Like many others in New York and around the world, Roncero-Menendez has spent too much time glued to her screens and also hasn’t been sleeping well.

Karen McNulty-Walsh from Islip does 30 minutes of yoga, takes her dog for walks, and gets out of bed regularly between 6 and 7 a.m. each morning.

Pete Genzer from Port Jefferson Station has been cooking dinner every night, which is “good in terms of eating healthy food, and I also really enjoy cooking so it’s mentally stimulating and relaxing.”

Genzer’s least healthy habit is “sitting in the same, non-ergonomic chair all day long doing work and attending virtual meeting after virtual meeting.”

Larry Swanson and his wife Dana, who live in Head of the Harbor, enjoy their daily walks with their aging Chesapeake Bay retriever Lily. Dana is growing food in the yard and has found it a “new, interesting and nice experience being with her grumpy old husband for so much for the time,” Larry Swanson wrote.

Indeed, in the 56 years of their marriage, the Swansons have never spent as much time as they have together during lockdown.

Dana’s unhealthiest habit is watching the news.

Heather Lynch from Port Jefferson said she feels like the insect trapped in the glowing screen. On the positive side, she continues to work out every day, which she describe as more of an addiction than a habit.

Eliene Augenbaum, who lives in the Bronx and works on Long Island, has eaten home-cooked food and had deep conversations with friends. On the unhealthy side, she stays up too late, wears the same pants, and shops for vacations and shoes that are of little use during lockdown.

A friend from New York City, who makes her own meals and walks her dogs, takes her temperature several times a day, has eaten her emergency, huge bag of Chex mix in one sitting and obsesses over why everyone else has medical-style masks on the street while she’s seeking viral protection behind a pillowcase wrapped around her head.

SBU Professor Malcolm Bowman teaches an online course from his 'office' in a camper in New Zealand during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ultimate in remote teaching: 9,000 miles from the classroom

By Daniel Dunaief

Halfway between where they grew up and their home in Stony Brook, Malcolm and Waveney Bowman had a choice to make: venture back northeast to New York, which was in the midst of a growing coronavirus crisis or return southwest to New Zealand, where the borders were quickly closing.

The couple chose New Zealand, where their extended family told them not to dare visit. The Do Not Enter sign wasn’t as inhospitable as it sounded.

Malcolm Bowman, a Distinguished Service Professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, recognized that he could continue to teach three courses from a great distance, even a camper on a small stretch of land in the northwest part of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.

“We could be anywhere on the planet,” Malcolm suggested to his wife. “Why don’t we see if we can set up camp?”

Climbing aboard the last plane out of Honolulu before New Zealand closed its borders, the Bowmans didn’t have much of a welcoming party when they arrived at the airport. Their family told them, “We love you, but you can’t come anywhere near us,” Malcolm recalled. “Coming from the states, you could be infected.”

If his family took the American couple in, they would have had to report the contact, which would have forced Waveney’s brother and his wife, Derek and Judy Olsson, into personal isolation for two weeks.

Derek filled the trunk of an old car with food and left the key under the front tire. The Stony Brook couple set up a temporary living space in two campers on a small piece of land in the middle of the night, where they have been living for over a month. All told, their 235 square feet of living space is about 12% of the size of their Long Island home.

The country has been in lockdown, where people are practicing social distancing and are limiting their non-essential outings.

Malcolm realized he had to “rise to the challenge” which, in his case, literally meant climbing out of his bed at all hours of the morning. New Zealand is 16 hours ahead of New York, which means that he had to be awake and coherent at 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning in New Zealand to teach a course that meets at 10 a.m. on Monday morning on Long Island.

With a cell tower up the hill behind their camper, the Bowmans could access the internet. While they had shelter, they still needed electricity. Fortunately, Malcolm’s brother Chris, who is an engineer, provided solar panels to generate electricity.

Living south of the equator means the Bowmans are heading into winter in New Zealand, where the days are shorter and the sun is lower in the sky, which makes the solar panels that provide electricity less effective. Malcolm describes the biggest challenges as the “time difference and mosquitoes.”

In a typical day, the professor rises at 4 a.m. or earlier local time to teach his classes, participate in online seminars, attend University Senate and other committee meetings, continue his research and take care of his students, all through Google Meet and Zoom. He co-teaches Physics for Environmental Studies, Contemporary Environmental Issues and Polices and Advanced Coastal Physical Oceanography.

Malcolm’s favorite part of the day occurs at sunrise, when the cloud formations over Mercury Bay serve as a canvas for the colorful red and orange rays of the sun that herald the start of another day down under.

He recognizes that he and his wife’s current indefinite time in New Zealand provides them with a comfortable connection to the land of his youth, where he can enjoy some of the beaches that have made the country famous and hear the sounds of flightless birds near his camper home.

Given the focus on work early in the day, Malcolm can choose his activities in the afternoon, which include catching up on emails, reading the New York Times, cleaning up the campsite and fishing for the evening’s meal.

Even from a distance of almost 9,000 miles from New York, the Bowmans agonize with their neighbors and community members in the Empire State.

“It’s very difficult watching all the suffering, sickness, death, inadequate availability of life-saving equipment, the enormous stress health care workers are under and the loss of income for many families,” Bowman explained in an email. “Our eldest daughter Gail is a medical worker at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead so she is fighting at the front line. Very exhausting work.”

The Bowmans, who are naturalized American citizens, have no idea when international flights will resume from New Zealand.

A retired elementary school teacher who taught at the Laurel Hill School in Setauket for 34 years, Waveney wears a mask when she visits a large supermarket that is 12 miles away once a week. Malcolm, who also goes to the supermarket, said the store only allows one family member per visit.

As New Zealand natives, the Bowmans can live in the country indefinitely, but their intention is to return to Stony Brook as soon as possible.

Even though the shorter daylight hours and rainy days lower the amount of power the Bowmans can collect from their solar panels, the couple loves the outdoors. They have camped with their four children during summers in the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont and have both been involved with scouting activities, which emphasizes self sufficiency and living close to nature.

As a former amateur radio enthusiast, Malcolm is also adept at setting up communication systems in remote settings. He offers a message of hope to Long Islanders, “You can weather this storm. If possible, work and stay home and stay isolated.”

The Bowmans have followed the advice of the 37-year old Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who urges people to “be especially kind to each other.”

All photos courtesy of Malcolm Bowman

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I am a journalist, which means I know a tiny bit about numerous subjects, but I am out of my depth once the questions dive below the surface. Oh, sure, I can play the journalistic game, where I throw around some terms, but I’m certainly not qualified to answer the best questions I could ask. Nonetheless, given the quarantine and the difficulty of getting people who are informed, funny, or funny and informed on the phone these days, I’m going to interview myself about the state of the world.

Question: How do you think we’re doing?

Answer: Well, that kind of depends. If we’re talking about humans in general, I would say we’re struggling. We were struggling before, but this virus has pushed us deeper into our struggles.

Question: Are we any better off today than we were yesterday or maybe last week or the week before?

Answer: Yes, yes we are.

Question: Do you care to elaborate?

Answer: No, no I don’t.

Question: Come on! You can’t just ignore me. I need to know.

Answer: No, you don’t. You’ll read what I write and then you’ll move on to the comment section of other articles, where clever people share their witticisms.

Question: Wait, how do know about the satisfaction I get out of some of the better comments?

Answer: Are you really asking that question?

Question: No, let’s get back on topic. If we’re better off today than we were yesterday or last week, will that trajectory continue? If it does, are we going to be able to live our lives with a new normal that’s more like the older normal, or will we have to wear masks and practice the kind of safe distancing that makes people long for the days when Jerry Seinfeld was annoyed on his show by a “close talker,” who, in the modern era in New York, would probably get a ticket for his close talking habit?

Answer: You had to pander with a TV reference, didn’t you? Don’t answer that! Anyway, yes, the trajectory looks better than it did, but there’s no guarantee it won’t change. You see, it’s a little like the stock market. Just because a company’s past performance is solid or impressive doesn’t guarantee anything about its future.

Question: Right, right. So, do you think my kids will ever get out of the house again?

Answer: You buried that question down low, didn’t you? Well, yes, I think they will return to a version of school that may also be different, but that also has some similarities to what they knew.

Question: Oh, good. Wait, so, you don’t really know, do you?

Answer: I do know that schools are pushing hard to solve the riddle, the conundrum, the enigma, the total ##[email protected]!$ fest that has become the modern world. I know that parents the world over would like to go to the bathroom without someone following them into the room. I know that people would like to talk on the phone without worrying that their kids are listening, that people need adult alone time, and that the Pythagorean theorem isn’t going to teach itself.

Question: What does the Pythagorean theorem have to do with anything?

Answer: It’s out there and it’s on the approved list of things to learn. Are we almost done?

Question: Yes, so what do you think about the election?

Answer: I think it’ll happen in November and it’ll be an interesting opportunity to exercise our democratic rights.

Question: Who do you think will win?

Answer: An old man.

Question: Which one?

Answer: The one who yells at us through
the TV.

Question: They both do.

Answer: Then I’m going to be right.

Vegetarian Chili

By Barbara Beltrami

I feel like Old Mother Hubbard going to the cupboard and finding it bare or nearly so these days. As I sit and try to order groceries online and find “no delivery slot” or miraculously manage to order online but have to wait a week or so for delivery, I go to the fridge and find an expired container of yogurt, a bottle of ketchup and half a can of cat food. In the vegetable drawer I find a few slimy unrecognizable leaves, a lone scallion and a totally collapsed cucumber and the stark reminder that the fridge could use a long overdue cleaning. I go to the freezer to find nothing but an ancient package of phyllo dough and half a cake from my birthday a year ago. I turn in desperation to my pantry. 

I inherited from my mother the practice of stockpiling multiple cans and jars and packages of staple items so what I do have is lots of cans of beans, tomatoes and tuna, a couple of boxes of pasta, a box of rice and a whole shelf of pickles I put up last year. 

Now the challenge is: What can I concoct out of these few things? I could do a Pasta Puttanesca with the tomatoes and tuna. I could do a Tuna and Bean Salad or I could make a Vegetarian Chili. Here are the recipes I came up with. Things being what they are, all measurements are approximate, main ingredients are generic, and if you don’t have some of the secondary ingredients, no big deal. You’ve got more important things to worry about these days. Be safe, be well, be grateful.

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

Two 14-ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can tomatoes with juice

Salt and crushed hot red pepper flakes to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In large heavy saucepan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add  onion, pepper and chopped garlic and cook over medium heat until slightly softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic chili powder, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring once or twice about one minute. Stir in beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper flakes. Serve hot with rice, tortilla chips and a salad or green vegetable.

Pasta Puttanesca

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pound pasta

1/4 cup olive oil

One 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon each dried parsley, basil, oregano

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup black olives, pitted and chopped]

One 7-ounce can oil-packed tuna, drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Put pasta water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat; add tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes; add capers, olives, tuna, salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a dry white wine.

Tuna and Bean Salad

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One 7-ounce can tuna, drained

One14-ounce can beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons minced pickles

2 tablespoons minced onion or scallion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl mix all ingredients together. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Serve with lettuce or arugula and rustic bread. 

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

By Barbara Beltrami

Times being what they are, I have chosen to more or less ignore the holidays specifically and tried to concentrate on comfort foods which often are the stuff of celebrations anyway. Because most of us are self-quarantined and keeping social distance even from extended family if they are not part of our household, I am focusing instead on the unique togetherness that we’ve come to experience these past few weeks. 

The addition of a festive ham or matzo balls is nice, even if it’s just the immediate family, but it’s the idea of being together around the table, getting reacquainted with ourselves, each other, home cooking and mealtime ritual that supersedes even the most traditional and festive of dishes, that turns the cooking and partaking of even the most ordinary and mundane dishes into a special occasion. In that spirit I hope that you all will make this a time to not just eat together, but plan a menu and cook collaboratively because we can all forgo many things, but not food. 

So if we’re all in this together, we might as well do it and enjoy it together. The following are a few of my favorite recipes that I think make any dinner special.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 large hard-boiled eggs

4 ounces Nova Scotia smoked salmon, minced

1/3 cup snipped chives

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and minced

2 tablespoons minced fennel

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: 

Halve eggs lengthwise; place on plate and gently scoop out yolks. Place yolks in a medium bowl and mash. Add salmon, chives, mayonnaise, onion, capers, fennel, lemon juice, lemon zest and pepper. With wooden spoon, vigorously beat to combine. Heap mixture in cavities of egg whites; sprinkle with dill; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with cocktails or wine.

Zucchini Ribbons with Artichoke Hearts and Cherry Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds yellow and green zucchini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

One handful flat leaf parsley, and minced

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Using a vegetable peeler cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons from all sides; when you get to the seeds, stop and either discard the core or save for another use. In a large nonstick skillet heat half the oil over medium-high heat. When it is nice and hot, add half the zucchini ribbons and some salt and pepper. Cook, gently stirring and tossing the zucchini, just until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to keep warm; repeat with second batch. Lower heat to medium; heat remaining oil; add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and parsley. Stirring frequently, cook until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place zucchini ribbons in serving bowl; scatter artichoke hearts and tomatoes on top, and cheese, if using. Serve hot or warm as a main dish or side dish with fish or poultry.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped

8 ounces unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 pod espresso powder

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8” round cake pan; line with a round of wax paper, then butter paper. In double boiler melt chocolate with butter over barely simmering water; stir until smooth. 

Remove top of double boiler from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture; add eggs and whisk well. Sift half cup cocoa  powder and espresso powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Pour batter into cake pan and bake in middle of oven until top has formed a thin crust, about 25 minutes. 

Cool cake in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan and invert onto serving plate. Dust generously with remaining two tablespoons cocoa powder. Serve with sorbet, fresh raspberries or vanilla ice cream.

Roast Chicken. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

I never thought I’d be living through a time of pandemic virus and quarantines. In light of that, writing about food seems rather frivolous.  Or does it? After all, we still have to eat and build our resistance, and we have to eat well.  

With cabin fever, boredom and fear occupying our very existence, there seem to be very few pleasures left to us. So why not turn to food, the comfort that never quits. If your pantry, fridge and freezer are well stocked, and I hope they are, it’s a good time to take to the stove and oven and revitalize your cooking and baking skills, your appetite and your spirits.  

This is a time for comfort food. Make some soups and freeze them; skim off some broth for future use (just in case). Use up leftovers in casseroles and stews; revert to the habits of our ancestors who wasted nothing. Bake a batch of cookies or brownies and whip up some soothing puddings and custards. Clean out the pantry, fridge and freezer to make room for new additions. Use long forgotten items, if they’re still okay, as the inspiration for creative concoctions. 

Here are two recipes for the ultimate in comfort food, Roast Chicken and Pot Roast.

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 3 to 4 pound chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed and patted dry 

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 475 F. Remove innards and rub inside cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, herbs (sage, rosemary and parsley work well) and salt and pepper. Drizzle half the oil mixture over chicken, then turn so breast side is up and drizzle remaining mixture over it. 

Roast until breast starts to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F. Baste with pan juices and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 to 165 F, about 50 to 60 minutes. 

When chicken is ready, tip pan so juices run from cavity into pan, remove bird to platter or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer juices to small saucepan and skim off as much fat from juices as possible. Reheat juice and pour over carved chicken. Serve hot or warm with rice or potatoes and a salad or green veggie. (Reserve carcass for chicken soup.)

Pot Roast

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 3 1/2 to 4 pound beef brisket

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup oil

4 smashed garlic cloves

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

6 carrots , peeled and cut into large chunks

2 celery ribs, cut into quarters

1 bay leaf

2 cups dry red wine

3 cups beef or vegetable broth

One 14 ounce can whole plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juice

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a large Dutch oven heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the brisket with salt and pepper and add it to the pot, fat side down. Cook until dark brown, about 5 minutes; turn and cook 5 more minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent and start to brown, about 10 minutes. 

Return brisket to pot, add wine, broth and tomatoes, cover and place in oven. Cook, turning once, for 3 hours. Remove brisket, remove celery and bay leaf from pot and discard. Mash vegetables in pot, then over medium-high heat, cook veggies and liquid until reduced and somewhat thickened, about 10 minutes. Return brisket to pot; over medium-low heat, cook in liquid until heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove brisket from pot, slice, place on platter and smother with liquid. Serve immediately with noodles or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.