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Breakfast, lunch, and dinner…in quarantine 

The age of COVID-19 has most of us cooking more at home, cleaning out cupboards and pantries, and making the most of what we have on hand to avoid going out to the stores. In the spirit of D.I.Y. self-isolation cooking, here are three easy-to-make dishes made with common pantry items and ingredients that can be swapped out and substituted as needed. Stay home. Stay healthy.


Breakfast: Olive oil cake

Basic, simple, and great with coffee. The citrus component can be swapped out or omitted, and while all-purpose white flour is best, any flour will work. Traditionally made in a round baking pan, the dish could be baked in a bread pan, spring form pan, or even muffin pan, although doing so may change cooking time. Serves 4 to 6.

click to enlarge Olive oil cake, with its subtle burst of citrus notes, is basic, simple, and great with coffee. - PHOTO BY J. NEVADOMSKI
  • PHOTO BY J. NEVADOMSKI
  • Olive oil cake, with its subtle burst of citrus notes, is basic, simple, and great with coffee.

You will need:

2 ½ cups all-purpose white flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
4 eggs (beaten)
1/4 cup half and half (or heavy cream/milk)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil (plus more to grease pan)
4 tbsps. lemon juice*
*Can substitute with orange juice, lime juice, citrus zest, flavored olive oil, etc.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the “dry” ingredients in a mixing bowl (flour, baking powder, sugar and salt). In a separate bowl, combine the “wet” ingredients (eggs, milk, olive oil, lemon juice). Using a hand mixer, electric mixer, or stand mixer, slowly combine the “wet” ingredients into the “dry.” Once fully combined, mix until the texture is smooth.
3. Lightly grease a baking pan with olive oil and pour the mixture into the pan, filling the pan about 3/4 full with room to expand. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted and removed dry from the center.
4. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar (optional).


Lunch: Shakshuka (Chakchouka)

This North African and Middle Eastern classic of eggs poached in tomato sauce comes in infinite combinations of spices and different cheeses. My version calls for smoked hot paprika, but cumin, nutmeg, hot chili powder, or curry powder are all acceptable. The cheese component is also variable; I like Oaxaca or Manchego, but feta, mozzarella, or white cheddar are also good. Really, any cheese will work. Serves 4 to 6.

click to enlarge A North African and Middle Eastern classic of eggs poached in tomato sauce, Shakshuka comes in infinite combinations of spices and different cheeses. - PHOTO BY J. NEVADOMSKI
  • PHOTO BY J. NEVADOMSKI
  • A North African and Middle Eastern classic of eggs poached in tomato sauce, Shakshuka comes in infinite combinations of spices and different cheeses.

You will need:

3 to 4 eggs
1 can tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 cup cheese (chunks or shredded, Manchego is the classic)
3 cloves garlic (fine dice)
1/2 medium onion (small dice)
Smoked hot paprika (to taste)
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Parsley (optional)
Fresh bread

1. Using a nonstick or cast iron pan over a medium heat add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, then add in the onion and garlic. Sauté for roughly 5 minutes until nicely colored.
2. Add in paprika, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.
3. Add the can of tomatoes, break apart any chunks and bring the mixture to a simmer, let reduce for five minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, evenly spaced around the pan, then disperse the cheese between the eggs. Cover and simmer for five minutes or until eggs poach to your preferred consistency and the cheese melts.
5. Uncover two minutes before serving, garnish with parsley (optional). Serve with fresh bread.


Dinner: Baked pasta

Baking pasta is a simple way to add variety and texture to what for many of us is probably becoming an everyday staple. It can be made in a variety of ways with a variety of ingredients and pasta shapes. This recipe calls for ziti, but could just as easily be made with penne or rigatoni. It can be made as a vegetarian dish by adding things like chunks of zucchini, or meat can be added to give it a little more density. Canned olives are also a great option. Serves 4 to 6.

click to enlarge Baking pasta is a simple way to add variety and texture to what for many of us is probably becoming an everyday staple. - PHOTO BY J. NEVADOMSKI
  • PHOTO BY J. NEVADOMSKI
  • Baking pasta is a simple way to add variety and texture to what for many of us is probably becoming an everyday staple.

For the red sauce you will need:
1 can tomatoes (28 oz.)
4 tbsp. tomato paste
3 cloves garlic (fine dice)
1/2 medium onion (small dice)
2 tbsp. fresh basil (or 1 tbsp. dry basil)
2 tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tbsp. dry oregano)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
1/2 cup red wine (optional)

For the pasta you will need:
1 box dry ziti pasta (par-boiled in lightly salted water for 6 to 8 minutes, drained)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup topping cheese (such as mozzarella, parmesan, or romano)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Olive oil
Red sauce (previously prepared, or canned)

The red sauce:
1. Using a large pot over medium heat add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot, then add in onion and garlic. Sauté for roughly five minutes until nicely colored. Add in the tomato paste, red wine, salt, and pepper, stir to combine and cook an additional five minutes.
2. Add in the can of tomatoes, break apart any chunks and bring the mixture to a simmer, let reduce for five minutes. Once the mixture has reduced, add in the basil and oregano and allow to simmer for roughly 20 minutes until the color of the sauce is a deep red, stirring
regularly.

The Pasta:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Using a large, lightly greased baking pan, mix together the par-cooked pasta and ricotta cheese with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly spread the pasta along the bottom of the pan, then top with the red sauce.
3. Bake at 375 degrees for roughly 35 to 45 minutes or until the pasta is bubbling and crispy on top.
4. Remove from the oven and add topping cheese evenly over the pasta, and return to oven for an additional five minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let rest on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.

J. Nevadomski is the author of the long-running "Highlife for Lowlifes Guide to Cooking" series (2013-present) and is a food and culture contributor to All WNY News and CITY Newspaper. Also a veteran of the Rochester art and music scene, he lives in the Park Ave area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden, and regularly hosts dinner and tasting parties for friends and foodies. Feedback on this article can be directed to Rebecca Rafferty, CITY's arts & entertainment editor, at becca@rochester-citynews.com.

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