Good morning. The West is still on fire, and coronavirus continues to stalk the nation, particularly the Upper Midwest. Political tension vibrates in advance of the coming election. Everywhere the effects of systemic racism have been laid bare. Social isolation, meanwhile, has led to increases in overdoses, to declines in mental health, to loneliness so intense as to be personified: a new roommate, silent and angry. So many are out of work.
And I’m here to sell you on a pan-fried eggplant with chile, honey and ricotta? Really? I suppose I am. I think it can make things a little better for those weighed down by the state of the world: to cook something delicious, to serve it with care, even if you’re just serving yourself. I think deliciousness is an antidote to the neurotoxins of social media, to the effects of doomscrolling in the dark.
More than that, I think it’s important to cook, wherever you are and whatever you’re experiencing, at whatever step on the economic ladder you find yourself now, to cook with what you have in front of you, with what you can scrounge, and to cook it to the best of your ability, to make it lovely in your own eyes, to your own palate. I think that cooking is a gift to yourself and to the world beyond yourself.
So stick with me here, even when there are storm clouds above, when all you want to do is scream, or put your head in a pillow, or walk until you can’t walk any longer. A sobering truth about life right now: You should get comfortable being uncomfortable. And know that roasted sausages with grapes and onions can be a day-saver. As can crisp gnocchi with brussels sprouts and brown butter. (If that’s too much, too expensive, out of step with where you’re at, a simple can of beans with pasta and beurre blanc can resuscitate happiness, nearly every time.)
I’ve got loads of ideas for what to cook this week, even amid the gloom. Try corn polenta with baked eggs (above) on Monday, for instance, and see if that doesn’t make you smile. Try a Tunisian shakshuka with shrimp on Tuesday, same.
You could do so well with a midweek spicy spaghetti with caramelized onions and herbs. And embrace a Thursday night meal of farro with mushrooms, which I like with a strong chicken stock or a sprinkle of MSG.
And then, come Friday night and its promise of the weekend? It’s time — past time, this early in the season — for a honking big pot of old-fashioned beef stew.
There are thousands and thousands more recipes to consider waiting for you on NYT Cooking, recipes to delight, to cheer, to console. Go take a look at them and see what appeals. Then save the recipes you like and rate the ones you’ve cooked. You can leave notes on them, as well, for yourself or for the benefit of others. (Yes, you need a subscription to do all that. Subscriptions support our work. They allow it to continue. Please consider, if you haven’t already, subscribing today.)
And we will be here, in turn, ready to help if you get caught sideways in the kitchen or find yourself adrift in our technology. Write us: [email protected]. Someone will get back to you.