#CoronaCooking: What Would Juan Sánchez Cotan Do

Dear reader, I wonder if you've gotten to the stage of this self-quarantine business—13 days and counting for me—where you are running out of energy for cooking? Or maybe you never had it? You open your fridge and your cupboards and see all of that food you bought, things you imagined would be very PRACTICAL and NUTRITIOUS and SENSIBLE and think: but what I really want is take out?

I know lots of people are enthusiastically ordering take out, as a way of sending business to restaurants that are at risk of shuttering entirely because of various municipal and state-wide shelter in place laws. And certainly, this article by J. Kenji Lopéz-Alt in Serious Eats—one of my most trusted food sites—suggests there's no coronavirus risk in eating food prepared outside the home. But I'm nervous about it, and in any case I'm not craving anything from around here. I want to order dumplings from Dim Sum Go Go, or dosas from Saravana Bhaavan, or aujou chicken from Grand Szechuan—all in New York City, about 200 miles from here.

So I cook at home. Even when I don't feel like it.

The other day, I asked my FaceFriends what they had in their pantries, and Lisa Guido posted the most gorgeous picture of her packed fridge. It reminded me of my favorite still life painter—Juan Sánchez-Cotan, a 17th century Spaniard who clearly knew how to infuse the humble with the dramatic. I don't know if what I threw together tonight—a pantry pasta full of umami goodness and a dressed cauliflower salad—rises to the level of the dramatic, but it certainly rose to the level of the extremely delicious, easy, and quick, so perhaps that's good enough.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Anchovies

Serves 2-3

If you're making these two dishes together, start the pasta sauce, and while it simmers make the cauliflower salad. Then, when you take the cauliflower out of the boiling water, add the pasta to the same water—saves much time and retains some nutrients, too. If you're only making the pasta, put the water to boil as soon as you start.

2 TB olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovies, rinsed and minced
1 dried red chili, crumbled, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 c canned tomatoes, diced
a handful of parsley, minced
8 oz dried penne

1. In a cold pan, place olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and chili. Turn the heat on medium low, and allow the oil to warm. The anchovies will "melt" into the oil. At this point, turn heat up to medium high, and allow garlic to become fragrant.

2. Add tomatoes to the pan, along with the parsley. Turn heat to medium so that it stays at a steady simmer, but doesn't splatter all over the place. Allow to simmer for around 10 minutes or so. (If you're making the cauliflower, it's a good time to do that.)

3. When it's time, add the pasta to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Cook till just shy of al dente (10-11 minutes or so). Drain pasta, and add to sauce so it can finish cooking. Serve. (NO CHEESE!)

Warm Cauliflower Salad with Capers and Red Onion

Serves 4 reasonable people, and 2.5 cauliflower lovers

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 red onion (or yellow, if that's all you have), minced
a handful of parsley, minced
a handful of chives, if you have them, minced
2 TB capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 TB olive oil
1 TB red wine or sherry wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 TB salt and the cauliflower. Bring back to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until just tender. 

2. While cauliflower is boiling, add minced onion, herbs, and capers to a serving bowl. When cauliflower is done, scoop it out of the water with a slotted spoon and into the serving bowl. (Don't dump the water out of the pot if you're also making the next recipe.)

3. Add olive oil to cauliflower and toss ingredients together. Add vinegar and toss again. Check for salt, and add pepper to taste. Toss again, and serve.