Home cooking when you don’t leave home

When I used to say “I love to cook,” I was saying that with the understanding that I’d only be cooking half the dinners in the week. Work events and social outings would have me out of the house most of the rest of the time, so I would never feel stuck in a rut.

Well, I’ve now gone three and a half months in which I’ve had every single dinner at home. And while we have treated ourselves to takeout or delivery once a week or so, I’ve cooked most of the other dinners.

What have I learned, aside from profound respect for my mom who did that work for far longer and for a larger family?

The importance of leftover-friendly recipes–soups, stews, chili, stir-fries, risotto, quesadillas–is even more obvious. But cooking a main course that can become a side (risotto, again) helps a lot, and so does making sides that I can use up later on.

It’s also important to have one extra-easy-but-still-homemade option, which for somebody of Italian ancestry like me means pasta. This time of year, that becomes a canvas for whatever herbs I can grab out of the garden and throw into a garlic and olive oil sauce.

But the one thing I didn’t quite expect was how much I would still want to try something more challenging once a week–in terms of ingredients I haven’t used, a cooking technique that’s new to me, or a particularly challenging set of directions. So I’ve tried my hand at deep-dish pizza, hollandaise sauce, and chicken parmesan, among other recipes from which I’d shied away in the Before Times.

And I still look forward to that challenge, which suggests I’m not burned out on home cooking. That would be good, because a return to my old lifestyle seems farther off than it did three and a half months ago.

After the jump: Some recipes from the Post’s Food section that I’ve found particularly useful since March.

Quick-Braised Swiss Chard, White Beans and Chorizo: This is a great eat-down-the-fridge dish that you can accentuate with random leftovers–sun-dried tomatoes or olives add some wonderful umami notes.

Chili Verde: An easy vegetarian recipe, although hominy won’t be on the shelves at every grocery store.

Warm Sweet Potato Salad With Chorizo: Cheap, quick to prepare, and it works as a main course or as a base for a main.

White Bean Chicken Chili: I usually halve this recipe and still have enough for four servings, certainly if they’re on top of rice.

Wok-Fried Black Pepper Beef and Celery: The shallot-garlic mixture gets this started right.

Chicken Stir-Fry With Mango and Peanut Sauce: It’s fine to sub in other vegetables for the scallions and sugar-snap peas.

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