Winter Quarantine Kitchen

When they were closing the old grocery building to open the new one next door they didn’t want to bring any of the old food over, so they marked everything down to get rid of it. They marked the seafood down to criminally low prices. I swung by the seafood counter after my shift on the last day and picked up the last piece of wild sockeye salmon and a lb of wild shrimp. I also stocked up on batteries. The salmon was just beautiful. No fishy smell and the piece was a deep rich red color. I was giddy with excitement. I hadn’t eaten seafood all year! It wasn’t exactly on the menu in penny pinching pandemic times. My mother and grandmother had bought me canned salmon in my birthday grocery boxes back in august and i savored every last bite of it but this was going to be next level deliciousness; fresh fish. Fresh sockeye fish. 🤤 It was absolutely the tastiest fish i have ever savored in my life. It was a fresh and beautiful piece of fish but i am fully certain that the bulk of the flavor was born out of appreciation during this weird year. I had some watermelon, an avocado, and some radishes i had baked sprinkled in lemon juice from imperfect foods so i made a little meal of it. I had a shrimp recipe that was to die for; Smoked paprika citrus shrimp. You marinate them in this smoked paprika and orange juice liquid mixture with the shell on and a slit cut into it. Then, you put the shrimp on a cookie sheet and spoon more marinade over them. You put a little pat of vegan butter on each shrimp and pop it in the oven, taking it out once to spoon more marinade on them, and then finish cooking them. It comes out so sweet and buttery and smoky and its wonderful. Well, i had neither orange juice nor smoked paprika so the shrimp would have to be done with lemon and curry powder instead. It was not legendary but i loved it for the sheer fact that it was shrimp and i couldn’t believe i had gotten them at 3.99 a lb. The next picture was me using up the last of my mother’s home-made soup stock powder. There wasn’t enough to make a soup of any decent size but there were a couple more spoonfuls in the jar. I put the remainder of the powder in the liquid when i was cooking soaked chickpeas and brown rice. It came out so good! The herbs and spices in the soup stock flavored the rice and gave it that taste as if it had been cooked in chicken broth even though there was no chicken involved. One day imperfect foods offered a bag of mock chicken chunks made from vegetable protein. I bought them. They had a good texture; kind of like dense chicken but very little flavor of any kind. I had been to my friend’s house for thanksgiving and she had sent me home with the left over bok choy which was amazing, caramelized in its own juices in their oven. I had a jar of italian herb pasta sauce from imperfect foods. I also had some leftover rice. I put the bok choy, rice, and mock chicken in a skillet and cooked it in some of the italian herb pasta sauce. It was to die for. That same friend gifted me a bunch of her thyme before the hard freeze of winter set in and killed off the last of her herb garden. I was delighted to get my hands on some fresh herbs and used the thyme in everything i thought of that might tolerate or benefit from its flavor. I put it on some potatoes in the skillet and they came out amazing. Fresh thyme smells so good when cooking! Imperfect foods began offering acorn squash mid-winter. It was an absolute treasure and they always arrived in pristine condition. I bought one or two every week. The key to cooking a good winter squash is to rub it in oil so it wont burn, turn it face down when cut in half, and bake it for a long time on a low heat. The best thing to do is caramelize it in its own sugars rather than add extra sweetness in the form of sugar or honey. If done right the squash will come out of the oven with a nice brown caramelized side where it touched the cookie sheet and the flesh will be sweet and hearty. Living on a homestead, especially during a pandemic, you learn to use every little bit of food available to you. This year, not a squash came through the door where i did not roast the seeds. It doesnt matter what kind of squash it is. The seeds can be roasted and eaten. I pick out all the squash strings that can make the seeds soggy and prevent them from crisping up if left in. I spread the seeds on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and spices. I watch them closely in the oven. It only takes around 10 + minutes and they are a golden color. They come out crispy like chips. Then i scrape them up with a spatula and they are ready to eat.

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