En español | Many people are opting for home rentals while vacationing during the pandemic. Why? Staying in a house makes social distancing easier and allows you to prepare your own meals — crucial when so many restaurants and bars are closed or offering limited service. Of course, in a strange kitchen you won't have your usual wide range of spices, oils and other basics on hand, which is why the key to vacation cooking is simplicity.
"All you need is a few secret potions, a bag of groceries, and a stovetop burner, and you can make amazing meals the whole week,” says David Joachim, author of The Food Substitutions Bible and The Science of Good Food, editor of AmazingRibs.com, and a specialist in making magic with minimum ingredients and fuss.
Your packing/shopping list
You can either buy your ingredients once you get there or bring items from home (smart for things you're not likely to use up, such as olive oil and spices). If you're going the BYO route, fill a cooler with ice packs for anything that needs to stay chilled.
Joachim suggests choosing your favorites within each of these categories to stock your vacation-home kitchen:
Jarred or canned goods: diced tomatoes, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts
Proteins: fish filets, pork chops, ground turkey, sausage, cheese, eggs
Produce: lemon, lime, onion, bell pepper, fresh greens, mushrooms
Starch/base: rice, pasta, potatoes, tortillas
Hot sauce and spice rub. Choose your favorite flavor profile (and of course you can bring more than one), sriracha or Tabasco sauce, for instance, and Italian herb or Cajun rub.
Other: garlic, bread crumbs, flour, olive oil (or another cooking oil), vinegar
For foodie bonus points: pesto and/or truffle oil ("Just a drizzle makes pasta, rice, eggs, and more go from ho hum to holy cow,” Joachim says.)
Five no-fuss, delicious vacation dinners
From David Joachim
1. Crispy Fish Fillets
Coat fillets in spice rub, flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs.
Heat pan over medium heat on stovetop and add a thin layer of oil.
Cook until they are golden brown all over and just opaque in the center when checked with a knife (about 3 minutes per side depending on thickness).
Remove, transfer to plate covered with a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
Season with tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon, and have rice, pasta, and/or salad on the side.
2. Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Slice meat crosswise into 1 1/2-inch thick medallions.
Sprinkle on spice rub.
Heat pan over medium heat and swirl in some cooking oil.
Place medallions in pan and cook to an internal temperature of 140°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Remove from heat and serve with pasta, rice, and/or salad.
Chef's tip: If you have white wine in the house deglaze the pan by pouring the wine in the hot pan and swirling around to loosen the flavorful glaze that has formed on the bottom of the pan and drizzle this pan sauce over the medallions. You can also use this method for chicken thighs, thin pork chops or beef steaks; cook beef to 130°F and chicken to 165°F internal temp.
3. Chorizo Potato Tacos
Cut potatoes into cubes and place in skillet with a tight- fitting lid.
Add 1/2 inch of water, cover, and cook over medium heat until potatoes are steamed and soft, about 10 minutes.
Add and sauté ground/crumbled meat of choice (chorizo sausage, beef, pork, chicken).
Add and sauté sliced onions, bell peppers, and garlic.
Season with spice rub.
Serve in tortillas with squeeze of lime and hot sauce.
4. Truffled Frittata
Sauté chopped bell pepper and mushrooms in a pan.
Add beaten eggs, truffle oil and fresh herbs.
Cook, stirring, until egg mixture starts to firm up but is still wet on top.
Sprinkle with grated cheese of choice.
Remove from heat and cover pan until the eggs cook through and cheese melts.
5. Dump and Stir Pasta
Cook pasta until al dente.
Mix in pesto, drained diced tomatoes, chopped roasted pepper, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, olive oil and a little truffle oil. Cubed fontina cheese makes a great addition.
Farmer's Market Dinner
You can also make vacation cook-in magic with the help of the local farmer's market (be sure to follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended precautions and local safety mandates). Stock up on fresh goodies like lettuce, fresh herbs, tomatoes, squash, bread, fruits, honey, cheese and meats, suggests chef Jessica Cerra, of Encinitas, California, who operates Fit Food by Jess and is the creator of all natural JoJé Bars. “If a farmer's market isn't available, look for a local natural grocers or co-op,” she adds.
Cerra's suggestion for a delicious vacation-house meal:
1. Mix oil and vinegar and seasonings for a quick vinaigrette for a simple salad of kale or lettuce, tomatoes and fresh herbs.
2. Roast or grill big pieces of squash, tossed with the cooking oil, salt and pepper and finish with a drizzle of local honey and the chopped fresh herbs.
3. Grill or pan roast the steaks or pork tenderloin, flavored with just a little salt and pepper.
4. Heat the bread in the oven or brush with oil and grill it.
5. For dessert, toss the berries with a little citrus zest, a drizzle of the local honey and a pinch of sea salt. Top with fresh cream or a local ice cream if desired.