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Cooking in the time of corona and self-isolation is getting interesting. Hopefully you have what you need or more importantly, need to get by. I hope you’re digging into the depths of your freezers for long forgotten treasures and your pantries, finding those lost bags of beans and jars of things you bought a while back for something. I am unusually well stocked and have been diligently working my way through all my stuff and am doing pretty well. I’m taking on long, involved cooking projects because I have the time – sourdough (who isn’t??), fresh pasta, kimchi, lasagna, bagels. Why not? Perhaps you’re like me and made some curious choices on your last grocery trip. Case in point: I am perplexed as to why there is not one, but two, whole heads of cabbage in my refrigerator right now. One red, one green. Why? That is 50% more cabbage than I purchased in the 2019 calendar year. I suspect my instincts took over while shopping; cabbage is a good keeper and at least one was certainly a St. Patrick’s Day inspired purchase but why two? Regardless, I have a lot of cabbage taking up too much space for one person and it needs to go. Time to get creative.

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There’s no question we are in strange times. Sheltering at home, 6-foot social distancing and working from home are the very least we can do right now to flatten the curve, protect the vulnerable and get through this. As they say, stay the $%*& home people. And for crying out loud, be kind to the working people you encounter. Do you really think they want to be there listening to you bitch about how they don’t have the rigatoni you want? (Something I actually witnessed. Don’t be an asshole.) I’ve been self-isolating for over a week and have been on lockdown orders since Saturday and I’ve been strangely busy. It’s weird. I’ve discovered live dance classes and concerts on social media to keep me moving and entertained. I’m blasting through my various ques – podcasts, Netflix, Hulu, you name it. Some educational, some absolute crap, all very satisfying. I’m working on my mediocre watercolor skills, for better or worse. I’ve rediscovered the joy of finishing a book. I’m immensely enjoying virtual happy hours with my friends and family for much needed social interaction and belly laughs. I nap every day. Not surprisingly, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I’m going to cook, what I’m going to eat. Now that I have the time, I kicked my sourdough starter into gear and I’m taking on other time intensive projects – made ravioli yesterday in fact. But here’s the thing with self-isolating as a single person … it’s a lot of food and I don’t like leftovers. I give away some but that’s harder than usual right now. So, I’m creatively repurposing. Or trying to anyway.

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Not long ago I met a few friends for breakfast to catch up and it turned into an all day affair. We started with pancakes, spent a big part of the day in a coffeeshop and ended with wings and beers. It was a damn delight. At one point somewhere in the middle of it all, I was waning a bit – it happens – and needed a boost. It was fortuitous that I was sitting in a coffeeshop. I’m not generally a coffee drinker so I ordered a chai, made with oat milk because yes, I am on that bandwagon. Throwing caution to the wind I had the barista throw in a shot of espresso to perk me up. Yes, I ordered what is known as an oat milk Dirty Chai. Never before has a more trendy hipster drink been ordered. Never before have I ordered such a trendy hipster drink. But hear me out: it was absolutely delicious. Yeah, I had a few. It was a long day.

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Happy New Year! I’m moving a bit slowly into this one, taking my time, taking a while to get up to 2020 speed. A few weeks ago before my godsons went back to college, we cooked dinner together. Homemade wonton soup and a simple noodle stir fry dish. They’re young and learning how to cook and I coached one through the basics of a stir fry: screaming hot pan, everything cut to the same size, cooking in batches starting with the firmest vegetables. They did a great job and we enjoyed a delicious dinner made almost entire by them and their younger sister. I learned that having 3 young agile hands forming won tons, none of which were mine, is 100% the way to go.

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Every year, while home for Christmas at my mother’s, I buy a quart of eggnog. Every year, I forget to drink it. Every year, after I’ve returned home she calls me up and yells at me for not drinking said eggnog. I’m not too sure what happens but essentially, I forget. This year though, I made a pretty good dent in it. I didn’t finish the container but I did make a conscious effort to drink it, starting with a large glass Christmas Eve morning with a healthy shot of bourbon in it. Maybe that’s the secret: booze. I’ll keep that in mind.

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This is it: Day 12 of The 12 Days of Crackers and the final in the olive oil cracker series. When I was coming up with ideas for flavoring all these crackers, I took stock of my spice selection. To put it bluntly, it is a vast assortment; the accumulations of multiple development projects, travel adventures and an irresistible urge to buy interesting things. Digging through a cabinet, I noticed I had 4 or 6 different bottles of Japanese seasonings, the majority in the togarashi family. I should probably use them.

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Ten down, two left and the third of four in the olive oil group. Whew. Crackers, crackers and more crackers! Like the last post that featured za’atar, I’m bringing another unusual spice into the mix, one near and dear to my heart. Piment d’Esplette. As za’atar is the cornerstone of Levantine cuisine, piment d’esplette is the cornerstone of Basque cuisine. It is a variety of not too hot chile pepper that is cultivated in the northern territory of the French Basque, that magnificent southwest corner of France that is a little French, and entirely Basque.

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Got the hang of an olive oil cracker? Good. Because now we’re getting interesting. This one has za’atar, that cornerstone seasoning of Levantine cooking. If you’ve cooked from any of Yotam Ottolenghi’s books, chances are good you’ve got a jar sitting on your spice shelf. (Probably some sumac too, right?) So let’s use it, shall we?

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Part Three … here we go. We’ve done four cheese crackers, we’ve done four savory shortbread crackers and now, for the final installment in the 12 Days of Crackers, we have the most crackery of the bunch: Olive Oil Crackers and the first one is a particular favorite … Everything Spice Olive Oil Crackers.

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Alright. We’re at the end of phase 2 of this series, the fourth savory shortbread recipe and eight of twelve down. Next up we’ll move onto rolled olive oil crackers but for today, we’re using one of my very favorite herb combinations: herbes de provence. It’s a blend of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region of southeast France and typically includes savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and for some reason only in the United States, lavender. Personally, I like the lavender addition here as it’s such a slight, complimentary flavor and in no way tastes like potpourri or soap as can often happen. Add some salt and pepper and maybe a little lemon zest and you have the best lamb dry rub ever. But I digress.

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