It’s not always easy to get inspired to cook. Even with a myr­iad of inter­net tuto­ri­als on grilling, sum­mer sautéing, and roast­ing, it’s some­times dif­fi­cult to muster any real cook­ing enthu­si­asm.

More meals are now being pre­pared at home dur­ing our stay in and stay safe pro­to­cols. There is no time like the present to dust off the stacks and piles of gifted or pur­chased cook books col­lected over the years.

Most have a trusted “go to” copy of Joy of Cook­ing or The Sil­ver Palate. Tat­tered, stained and gen­er­ally worn with pages lit­er­ally falling from the bind­ing, our most used ones are not in mint con­di­tion. How about the rest of the group? They are pris­tine, hardly cracked and wait­ing patiently for some kitchen love.

Now is the time to intro­duce your­self to the quiet of kitchen ther­apy. Recon­nect to fam­ily roots. Chan­nel the grand­mother or aun­tie in those more dif­fi­cult recipes we’ve always wanted to tackle.

Explore new places through the smells, plates and tastes of Africa, China, India, Mex­ico, Spain and Morocco. Go any­where in the world while con­fined to the com­forts of home.

There is also the mat­ter of mas­ter­ing cer­tain cook­ing tech­niques. Rolling, pinch­ing, knead­ing and brais­ing sur­prise us with pie, dumplings, bread or spicy veg­etable entrees and sides.

Read more: Cook the Books →

Food is cul­ture. Every­thing hav­ing to do with food — from cul­ti­va­tion and prepa­ra­tion to con­sump­tion, reflect cer­tain aspects of dif­fer­ent cul­tures.

Indian cui­sine con­sists of a vari­ety of regional and tra­di­tional dishes native to India. Given the diver­sity in soil, cli­mate, cus­toms, eth­nic groups, and occu­pa­tions, these cuisines vary sub­stan­tially.

A climb­ing food trend is the pop­u­lar­ity of Indian restau­rants. Depend­ing on the influ­ences of regional dif­fer­ences, spe­cific spices, herbs, veg­eta­bles, and fruits are used. These are based on what may have been avail­able in the home­land regions.

Indian food is heav­ily influ­enced by reli­gion, in par­tic­u­lar Hin­duism. The cui­sine is also shaped by cen­turies of Islamic rule, par­tic­u­larly the Mughal rule. Samosas and pilafs are exam­ples.

Exotic ingre­di­ents and a full range of fla­vors– spicy, sweet, sour and hot, make it a desir­able and excit­ing food explo­ration.

Famil­iar spices that are com­mon to many Indian dishes — cumin, corian­der, turmeric, and gin­ger, pro­vide numer­ous ways of using them and com­bin­ing them. There are at least thirty other spices behind those four.

Read more: Curry Curry →

Going “back to school” amid COVID con­di­tions is any­thing but nor­mal. As health offi­cials, par­ents and school lead­ers decide on what safe learn­ing looks like, there is the loom­ing ques­tion of “what’s for lunch”?

Through­out the past sev­eral months, many school dis­tricts have been able to pro­vide grab and go lunches and some­times break­fast to appre­cia­tive fam­i­lies.

In many cases, these meals are the only or most sub­stan­tial nutri­tion a child might expect that day.

The USDA funds sev­eral meal and nutri­tion pro­grams. These pro­grams oper­ate in pub­lic and non­profit pri­vate schools and res­i­den­tial child care insti­tu­tions. Most pro­vide nutri­tion­ally bal­anced, low-​cost or free meals to chil­dren each and every school day. The orig­i­nal pro­gram was estab­lished under the National School Lunch Act, signed by Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man in 1946.

Sev­enty four years later, food inse­cu­rity for school aged kids is even greater. Roughly, 30 mil­lion stu­dents eat school lunch every day and 22 mil­lion of these chil­dren rely on free or reduced-​price school lunch.

School lunch and break­fast are free for house­holds under 130% of the fed­eral poverty level and reduced cost for house­holds under 185% of poverty. The Fed­eral Poverty Line is $26,200 for a fam­ily of four in 2020.

Read more: Lunch Box Relief →

The Viet­namese noo­dle soup that fea­tures a rich, aro­matic broth and rice noo­dles is a light, sat­is­fy­ing meal fit for sum­mer.

Pho (sounds like “fuh) is tra­di­tion­ally made using whole spices, beef bones, and fish sauce. It’s easy enough to elim­i­nate the meat or fish com­po­nents and zero in on the fresh herb and veg­etable ele­ments.

This suit­able for sum­mer vegan broth derives its depth and char­ac­ter from whole spices, aro­matic veg­eta­bles, chile pep­pers, and mush­rooms. Shi­take mush­rooms are first in line. Oys­ter or cri­m­ini are excel­lent sec­ond and third place drafts.

Gar­nished with cilantro or basil, bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime, the essence of this sim­mer­ing bowl is fully present.

Home cooks are find­ing ways to cre­ate their own ver­sions of this sooth­ing broth when take out or deliv­ery is unavail­able. Com­fort is a byprod­uct of in-​home prepa­ra­tion and as well as the slurp­ing.

Build base fla­vors begin­ning with star anise, whole cloves, whole pep­per­corns, and cin­na­mon sticks. Fresh gin­ger root, gar­lic and onions get the soup pot going. Char the onions, gin­ger and gar­lic to max­i­mize their potency.

Tamari, soy sauce and water sub­sti­tute the fish sauce. Steep the ingre­di­ents over low heat to release the aromatics.

Read more: “PHO“nomenenal →

Ever since the start of the global pan­demic, cit­rus demand and vol­ume have been tremen­dous. Navel oranges, in par­tic­u­lar, have been in high demand.

Con­sumers have got­ten the mes­sage that vit­a­min C is a good immu­nity boost. Given any chance to fight COVID-​19 through health­ier food choices, cit­rus makes log­i­cal sense.

Typ­i­cally, veg­etable choices make their way to the gro­cery shop­ping list. We tend to build meals around veg­eta­bles or at min­i­mum, lay a foun­da­tion of fla­vor. Fresh fruits suf­fer the fate of being more of an “impulse” buy over must have items.

Onions, cel­ery, gar­lic, car­rots, mush­rooms and bell pep­pers fre­quent any tasty sauce, stir fry or sum­mer grilling dish. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine cook­ing with­out them. These pantry sta­ples are hardly out of stock.

Spe­cialty or eth­nic menu sug­ges­tions call for egg­plants, cab­bages, green onions, leeks, pota­toes and squashes. Turn­ing them in to a sump­tu­ous meal is only a recipe away.

Most fresh prod­ucts are being sold by super­mar­kets. In the United States and many other coun­tries, restau­rants are still closed or lim­ited on how much and what food is being served.

Less demand on cer­tain fresh pro­duce items and more demand on oth­ers makes it a very unpre­dictable sup­ply chain. Afford­able fruits and veg­eta­bles with a good shelf life com­mand shop­per atten­tion. In nor­mal mar­kets, fruits gen­er­ally get trac­tion from sea­sonal pro­mo­tions. Today’s empha­sis is geared towards stay­ing healthy.

Read more: Fruit Impulse →