58°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Cooking during coronavirus times means be creative, flexible

Dustin Lewandowski, Las Vegas culinary director of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, is realistic about what home cooks have to work with these days.

“At this point, I think people need to take what they can get,” Lewandowski said. “The essentials, if you can get hold of them, are fresh produce; make great use of it for the short term. Use what’s available on the shelves.”

Also, don’t overlook your own pantry, because you may have forgotten what’s there. Lewandowski said a survey of his found some varieties of pasta he had forgotten, different types or rice and beans and some canned clams.

“Certain ingredients that you might have, like ham or salami, incorporate into a bean stew,” he said. “Stretch it out with chicken stock or water.”

Van-Alan Nguyen, co-owner of 595 Craft and Kitchen at 4950 S. Rainbow Blvd., said he’s been perusing his home pantry and thinking creatively. One thing he finds extremely useful is rice.

“It’s super-versatile,” Nguyen said. “You can cook it; you can keep it.” And he reminded that the day-old stuff actually is better when making fried rice, which can be a go-to at such times.

“You can make it with pretty much anything,” he said.”If people have frozen peas and carrots, they can add soy sauce, some garlic. Take the old rice, heat that up, add everything and keep stirring until everything’s mixed together. If I have spinach, I’ll wilt the spinach and add that. It’s super-simple. I think anybody can do that.”

If you have some vegetables in the fridge that are a little past their prime, he suggests pickling them: Combine 1 cup vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons salt, mix well to dissolve the sugar and salt, and submerge the vegetables in it.

“That should increase their shelf life for at least a month,” he said.

When you can get them, Lewandowski suggests stocking up on proteins that can be frozen, such as ground beef, chicken and turkey.

Jack Bishop, chief creative officer of America’s Test Kitchen, said to consider such meats as ground beef and poultry blank canvases.

“You can do almost anything with it,” he said. “It’s cheap. It’s Mexican one night, Italian the next night.” And a lot of times such things are at the heart of comfort foods such as pizzas and lasagnas.

“Make friends with beans,” Bishop said. “If you’re going to buy one kind of bean, buy chick peas. They work in anything from soups to pasta dishes, hummus.”

“Shelf-stable canned goods are very important,” Lewandowski said. “Beans, canned soups, canned vegetables to be used at a later point. Obviously pasta is a great thing; I know we loaded up at our house.”

“Garlic and onions,” Bishop said. “Most recipes use one or the other, and they keep for a long time. Olive oil; make sure you have an extra bottle on hand. It makes everything better. Make sure you’ve got butter in the freezer. Get a big hunk of Parmesan. Doesn’t it make everything taste better? And it lasts for months in the fridge.”

And salt.

“You’re going to be cooking more,” Bishop said. “It’s really basic, but you don’t want to run out of it.”

Most of all, they said, be flexible. Lewandowski said this is a good time to think about moving to smaller portions.

“I was training my kids this morning to put less milk on their cereal and not leave it behind,” he said. “We’re a society of convenience. We have everything at our fingertips, from convenience meals to eating out and leaving food behind. I think it’s something people are realizing they were taking for granted.”

Bishop and Lewandowski advised cooking in bulk, portioning out meals and freezing some for later, or maybe sharing with a friend of neighbor who needs assistance.

Be mindful, too, this this is not a time for strict adherence to use-by dates on packages; they’re more about food quality than food safety. Of course, be mindful of food safety, freezing or consuming while it’s still fresh.

“You’re going to make substitutions,” Bishop said. “That’s a given at this point. Even the simplest recipes, you may need to adapt to what you have on hand. That’s OK.”

“It’s a time of being resourceful and being creative and doing things out of your comfort zone,” Lewandowski said. “Turning your family on to new ideas and maximizing what’s available.”

If you don’t know where to start, he suggests Googling the ingredients you have on hand and “recipe.” America’s Test Kitchen also has posted a paywall-free resource of recipes and advice; visit americastestkitchen.com and click on the “Practical Home-Cooking Resources You Can Count On During COVID-19” banner at the top of the page. It also has videos. Another good source for information and videos is epicurious.com.

“Just relax and enjoy it,” Bishop said. “This is not a time to think about perfection. This is a time to think about cooking as a way to not watch the news and take a little break from all of it. It’s good for you.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Caesars furloughing about 90% of US workers
The furloughs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted all U.S. commercial casinos to temporarily shut their doors.
Bill Withers, soul legend and 'Lean on Me' singer, dead at 81 - VIDEO
Bill Withers' family said he died of heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles. Withers was a three-time Grammy winner. His other major hits include “Ain’t No Sunshine" and “Lovely Day.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas KatsWalk: From the Mandalay Bay to Excalibur - VIDEO
Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes walks and talks along the Las Vegas Strip, from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur. (John Katsilometes and Kevin Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Make Ivan Grant's Quarantini - VIDEO
Ivan Grant, a flair bartender at Long Bar at The D Las Vegas, makes his Quarantini. (Ivan Grant)
Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger dies from coronavirus - VIDEO
According to Variety, 52-year-old frontman and songwriter Adam Schlesinger has died, following a short battle with the respiratory illness, coronavirus. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
KATS WALK: A walking tour on south Las Vegas Strip – VIDEO
RJ columnist John Katsiometes takes a walking tour of the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. (John Katsiometes and Kevin Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiger King character has Las Vegas connection - VIDEO
Entertainment reporter John Katsilometes talks about the popular "Tiger King" and Jeff Lowe, a central figure in the Netflix documentary phenomenon who wanted to do business with the last Las Vegas Strip entertainer to use wild tigers in his act. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coranavirus victim Howard Berman playing the harmonica in April 2014 - VIDEO
Howard Berman, 66, playing the harmonica at a jam session in April 2014. Berman, who was active in the Las Vegas music community, died on March 24, 2020, from COVID-19. (Diana Andriola)
Boarded-up businesses in the Arts District add some color - VIDEO
Businesses in the Arts District have commissioned local artists to paint murals on the boards covering their doors and windows. When the boards are removed, they will be auctioned off to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sold-out Electric Daisy Carnival still scheduled for May - VIDEO
In a post on his social media platforms, festival founder Pasquale Rotella confirmed that EDC remains scheduled for May 15-17 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite coronavirus concerns that have sideline scads of other live music events. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
City of Las Vegas responds to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup
Alcohol is now allowed in curbside meal pickups in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas has responded to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup service to include alcohol in those meals. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga delays new album release - VIDEO
The pop star was planning to drop her sixth LP, "Chromatica," on April 10, but she's made the "tough decision" to push back the launch following the coronavirus outbreak. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ways to keep yourself from going crazy at home during coronavirus - VIDEO
Take art classes with your kids. Install a bidet. Practice yoga. Buy houseplants. Catch up your streaming queue. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas nightclub giant Hakkasan Group lays off 1,600 - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Strip’s leading nightlife company has let go of nearly its entire workforce, leaving about 1,600 staffers suddenly unemployed, due to the shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Disneyland closes in response to coronavirus - VIDEO
Walt Disney Company announced the closure of its Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Thursday afternoon. Known as the "happiest place on earth," Disneyland has closed its doors only three other times in 65 years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to temporarily close buffets amid coronavirus fears - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International will temporarily close its Las Vegas buffets, effective Sunday amid growing coronavirus fears. (Al Mancini and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto tackles Italian cooking at Eataly Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto showed off his skills in a slightly different context Thursday night, when he dropped by Manzo in Eataly to launch the Italian restaurant’s new Guest Chef series. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator leaving Mirage on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The 11-year Las Vegas Strip headliner is on a venue hunt, confirming Wednesday he is leaving his eponymous theater at The Mirage this summer for parts uncharted. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks to play first concert at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Country megastar Garth Brooks is the first non-football event announced for the $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Post Malone reveals his face tattoos are due to being 'ugly' - VIDEO
In a new interview with 'GQ,' the 24-year-old admitted his body art is linked to insecurity issues. [The face tattoos do] maybe come from a place of insecurity, to where I don’t like how I look .., Post Malone, via 'GQ'. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 Las Vegas chefs to watch - VIDEO
If you want to know what’s next for dining in Las Vegas, we suggest paying close attention to these five accomplished chefs. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Slanted Door in The Forum Shops at Caesars - VIDEO
The Slanted Door, Charles Phan's James Beard Award-winning modern Vietnamese restaurant, will open a Las Vegas location on March 2. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas REview-Journal)
Buddy V opens PizzaCake at Harrah’s - VIDEO
Buddy Valastro, aka Cake Boss Buddy V, is in town this week overseeing the soft opening of his new restaurant, PizzaCake, in Harrah’s Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making mist-shrouded tuna poke at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas - VIDEO
E.J. Estrella, banquet chef at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, makes tuna poke by mixing chunks of bigeye tuna with sliced green onions, julienned white onions and house-made poke sauce and serving it on a bed of seaweed salad garnished with lotus chips and suspended over melon-scented mist. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making baked goat cheese at Ri Ra in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Shea Wafford, sous chef and pastry chef at Ri Ra at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas, makes baked goat cheese served with honey-nut pesto, pickled red onions, peppadew relish and sourdough baguette. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bruce Kalman cooking at Ada’s - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Bruce Kalman will be cooking at Ada's in Tivoli Village in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making banana cream pie at Cut in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Nicole Earl, pastry chef at Cut at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, makes an updated banana cream pie by layering banana ice cream, custard and compote with house-made Cool Whip, vanilla wafers and 24-karat gold leaf in a milk chocolate sphere and drizzling it with warm banana-caramel sauce so it devolves into petals. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Chile Colorado at Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas
Javier Chavez, chef/owner of Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas, makes Chile Colorado by braising pork belly with three kinds of peppers and serving it atop stewed black beans with crema and pickled jalapeño, carrots and onions, with flour tortillas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap introduces its vegan CrazyShake - VIDEO
Black Tap at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip has a new CrazyShake that's vegan -- The Black ’N White CakeShake. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri reflects on the Las Vegas dining scene
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri talks about the Las Vegas food scene while in town celebrating his 52nd birthday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Las Vegas to allow restaurants to deliver alcohol

The City of Las Vegas has announced a new temporary permit program that will allow businesses with existing alcohol licenses and food service licenses to deliver meals with alcohol.