Flavors at Home: How to Cook Together Virtually

Cooking together miles apart just got a lot easier.  (Urmila Ramakrishnan / KQED)

In light of the shelter-in-place order, many of us have resorted to cooking at home, revisiting old recipes and getting creative with our pantries. Instead of our usual Flavors Worth Finding column with recommendations from restaurants, KQED staffers are sharing the meals they’ve been making at home to find some comfort and grounding during uncertain times.

Not sure why it took 30 years of life and five months of sheltering in place to figure out how to cook together with friends in different states, but here we are. Virtual cooking friend dates, FaceTime watch parties and video chats have taken up space as new “hobbies” to help keep in touch.

The latest co-cooking adventure was with Isabelle, a good friend of mine in Minnesota. After putting together a shared document listing the ingredients we each had in our pantries and fridges, cross-referencing them with recipes that could use said ingredients (or take variants) and narrowing down a brainstorm of links, we settled on one dish and one cocktail.

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We made this Japanese curry from Just One Cookbook, but with vegetables we had on hand. My version substituted green beans for asparagus, dried porcini mushrooms for oysters and shimeji, added a poblano to the pepper mix and nixed the kabocha. Isabelle’s also omitted the kabocha and added kale.

Without thinking, we both decided to mise en place before joining the call, a pro tip for anyone who wants to try a similar co-cooking adventure on their own. It helped save time and fingers (trying to dice and talk to a screen is not exactly an easy skill to master).

cocktail making
Making a coconut-lime-basil cocktail before eating. (Urmila Ramakrishnan / KQED )

The dish, overall, was quite simple to make. It was the first time either of us had made a roux for a curry. With the Indian versions I’m used to making, it normally starts with a paste of ginger, garlic, onion and tomato. We chatted while comparing our roux coloration on the screen. It was surprising how in-sync we were throughout the whole process. As we let our vegetables simmer in vegetable broth, we caught up on the latest perils of working from home and the different hobbies we’ve collected since the last time we spoke. We reveled in the novelty of being able to cook together with hundreds of miles between us.

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At the end of it all, we plated our curry over noodles, used more of our pantry staples to make this basil coconut cocktail (shaken not blended) and dug in swiftly.