On a recent evening, I sliced a few cloves of garlic, grated some mozzarella cheese and opened cans of white beans and tomato paste to prep a pantry recipe for my latest attempt at quarantine cooking. Like most people, I am limiting my trips to the grocery store during the coronavirus outbreak and choosing items with a longer shelf life, which sometimes means experimenting with ingredients I don’t commonly use. The chopping and prepping was a calming activity, and the result was a nutritious (and deliciously cheesy) meal that served as leftovers the next morning with an egg fried over it.
I wasn’t always someone who had a bunch of parsley, a knob of ginger and a head of garlic on hand. And the fact that I can move somewhat confidently between the pantry and the refrigerator while assembling ingredients, knowing where to reach for what, still surprises me. (Once, a roommate caught me staring at frozen vegetables in a pan with pasta, dumbfounded.) Over the past few years, I began to discover the inherent creativity in cooking and appreciate the way it could help me de-stress and nourish myself better. Today, with stay-at-home orders in place, I’m especially grateful for the solace cooking provides.
Whether you’re like me, pursuing “creative cooking” and finding extra comfort in the process, or you’re stretched thin and in need of ideas to prepare yet another meal for the day, quarantine cooks have one thing in common: “Despite everything, we still need to eat,” says Helen Conza, a clinical nutrition supervisor at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. So what are the best items to stock in your pantry? What’s important for beginner cooks to know? And what are some recipes worth trying? Conza shares with Health Matters how she is grocery shopping, cooking and eating well during the crisis.