Corona Cuisine with Scott Rawlins


- with Scott Rawlins

SRawlins_Author_CookMany of us are no longer able to work as illustrators— either because there is no work coming in or we have been prevented from accessing our usual workspaces (and necessary equipment). Without the usual work incentives to persuade us to illustrate, we are finding a variety of ways to exercise our creativity. In addition to dealing with our need to create, these activities are a way to combat depression, anxiety, and stir-craziness. They also allow us to feel more independent, more self-sufficient, and in greater control of our lives.


A psychologist coined the term “fruitful boredom” to refer to the drive to explore ways to engage ourselves when we are unable to “carry on as usual.” Many of us already spend a great deal of time in front of computer screens—working on digital illustrations or (more recently) participating in numerous online classes and meetings. So, instead of watching films online and playing computer games in our “free time,” what can we do that is more active, appealing, and (potentially) constructive—that is, activities that could produce some satisfying, tangible results? Some people write to fill their time. Others compose music, garden, or in my case: cook. There is actually a name for it—Quarantine Cooking, which generally refers to savory dishes thrown together that can be eaten as an entire meal, such as soups, stews, and stir-frys. (A subset of this phenomenon is Quarantine Baking that focuses on sweet creations.) Quarantine cooking generally involves “real” food that meets nutritional needs. Though things are opening up a little throughout the US (and world), people are still staying at home, limiting trips to the grocery store, and having to deal with the realities of a quarantine mindset such as hoarding supplies. I limit my shopping to twice a month, which requires a certain amount of planning ahead, and there’s no guarantee that what I want will be on the grocery store shelves. Online grocery shopping might seem like a good idea, but items are often on backorder, involve complicated delivery procedures, and/or are overpriced. For example, a five-pound bag of flour I ordered online cost me $18. I decided that I needed to set some goals for my Corona Cuisine. Number one was to use ingredients that have been in my cabinets/refrigerator/freezer for lengthy periods. I also wanted to be creative, so I decided to devise recipes for items that might not normally be combined. In other words: to play, but still be productive.

Gardening and Foraging

Wild Garlic_CoronaGardening can be thought of as another example of “fruitful boredom.” Less reliance on what is available in grocery stores can be achieved by growing your own fruits and vegetables but this is not something that yields immediate results. I will have to continue to rely mainly on grocery shopping for a while, but did manage to do some local foraging.

Allium vineale

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are common weeds in my neighborhood. Conscious of the “produce problem,” I decided to use nettles in a number of recipes, generally substituting them for spinach. And thinking about all of those tufts of wild garlic (Allium vineale, a.k.a. onion grass, crow garlic, and stag’s garlic) that are popping up all over lawns in my neighborhood, I was wondering if I could figure out how to combine these weeds in one recipe.


Nettle_CoronaIn addition to the usual ingredients for an omelet, I substituted nettles for spinach and wild garlic for onions. Both of these plants were growing in my yard—or my neighbor’s yard (I didn’t ask, but I don’t think she minded me harvesting her weeds).

< Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica



Voilà—the Stinging Nettle, Wild Garlic, and Feta Cheese Omelet: 

Omelet Recipe_Corona

Aside: I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to make omelets for years using olive oil until I encountered an Arcadia chef who, without knowing what my problem was, immediately offered a solution: butter. (Butter seems to be the solution to a lot of things in life.) So—use butter in the pan.










Creative Combinations

What to do with an excess of carrots? Those warehouse stores can be time and money-savers, but everything seems to be available only in large quantities. I adapted a classic glazed carrots recipe using chopped praline pecans that by themselves are so sweet that they make your teeth hurt. Fortunately, when mixed with the carrots, a nice balance was achieved. Along with the carrots, I received a large quantity of celery. Cream of Celery Soup seemed like a good way to use up the excess! The grocery store was out of “regular” rice, so I purchased a bag of jasmine rice. Using leftover flaked coconut, golden raisins, mango chutney, carrots, and various curry spices, Corona Curried Rice was born. Two wrongs can make a right! Those excessively sweet pecans and some overly dark (i.e., very bitter) chocolate, when mixed together, resulted in a perfect combination of flavors in a sweet treat: Corona Chocolate.

Spaghetti_CoronaI can’t recall how long I’ve had a container of dried morel mushrooms in my refrigerator but decided that now was the time to use them. The result: Spaghettini with Mushroom Sauce.


I tried to buy some sweet potatoes online, but the system would not allow me to purchase more than one. What can you do that is interesting with just one sweet potato? I found a recipe for sweet potato casserole online and made some additions and substitutions: fresh wild garlic for garlic powder, agave syrup for maple syrup, chopped pecans (yes, those overly sweet ones!) for chopped walnuts, olive oil for butter, Italian seasoning for fresh thyme and rosemary, and “regular” seasoned breadcrumbs for unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs. The result was quite acceptable.

Some Notes on my Quarantine Baking

I’m not a very experienced cook (though maybe that will change before things get back to “normal”). However, I do have experience baking, so I have done quite a bit of that. The challenge was not how to bake what I wanted, but how to use ingredients I’d been storing for years and where I might make substitutions for ingredients that were unavailable. In addition, for some reason, I decided to use the heat from my fireplace to help the bread dough to rise. This increased my sense of self-sufficiency. Some concoctions I tried included:

• Pandemic Applesauce Bread (what to do with uncooked apple pieces—from my own tree!—that had been in my freezer for at least a decade…)

 Applesauce Bread Rec_Corona 

• Cranberry and Pineapple Biscotti (what to do with leftover dried cranberries and pineapple)

Cran_Pineapple Biscotti


•Excess of Sprouts Stir-Fry

Below: Excess of Sprouts Stir Fry
3 In this case, I used pecans—but cashews would be better, if available!
4 In general, this means to bring the rice to a boil, cover, turn down the heat, and cook for about 20 minutes—or until the water is absorbed. Stir occasionally.


• Marmalade Cake (I don't like marmalade but couldn't just throw it out! The cake was OK—and probably very good if you like marmalade.)

Below: Coconut & Orange Marmalade Cake
5 Adapted from a recipe in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, 2012

Marmalade Cake_Corona

 Marmalade Cake_Rec_Corona

• Death by Chocolate Brownies

Below: Death by Chocolate Brownies
6 Modified from a recipe in The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, 1995
7 For example, chocolate wafers (the kind used by chocolatiers) from El Salvador with a cacao content of 97%. These were broken up into chip-sized pieces.


•Yellow Cake with Raspberry Sauce (what to do with last year’s frozen raspberries)

• Cupcakes (what to do with some Russian cocoa powder I “discovered” in one of my cabinets)

• Oatmeal Bread (what to do with agave syrup that had been around for several years)

• Basic Biscuits (what to do with some old buttermilk powder)

All things considered; I think my experiments with “Corona Cuisine” have been successful. The process has certainly been productive—and instructive—and I’ve been able to exercise my creative energy. An added bonus is that I now have a lot more room in my refrigerator, cabinets, and freezer! You know what they say—when life gives you lemons… make something interesting with what you have in the refrigerator.

Featured Recipes:

Curry_Corona 1. Vadouvan is another type of curry powder often used in the Puducherry region of India.






 Choco Pecans_Corona







 Sweet Potato Casserole_Corona





Above: Pandemic Pasta




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