Food chat: Fight food burnout by relaxing, trying new things

THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I’ve been isolating since March, limiting trips to the grocery store and delivery, cooking almost every day, and I’ve just lost any interest in it.

It’s so much work to make food happen – think of what to eat, buy ingredients, re-plan from scratch when three key ingredients are inevitably missing from shelves, chop, cook, eat alone in my apartment, do it again tomorrow. I can’t even get excited about my usual junk food loves, like french fries or pizza. What do you find helps reignite your interest in food?

A: This happened to me a fair few times in the past. Honestly? Give yourself a break!
You don’t have to be excited about what you’re eating. You might be putting some pressure on yourself to find joy and meaning in something that’s starting to feel really mundane.

Don’t force yourself to come up something brilliant or find bliss. Just relax, eat without thinking too hard about it, and find something else to focus on. The spark will come back. -Kari Sonde

Q: Hello, I’d like to make a basil pesto, but wondering how I can get the nutty flavour without nuts.

My son is allergic to most tree nuts, and pine nuts are way too expensive right now. Any suggestions?

A: I think it is delicious with basil, garlic and Pecorino Romano. You might try a few Kalamata olives to see if that adds a depth of flavour. – Ann Maloney

Q: I’m making paella (José Andrés vegetable version) for a family party next week.

I’ve made the dish a couple times before, and the cooking part is pretty straightforward, but there is a LOT of slicing and dicing and grating. Can I safely do some or all of the vegetable prep the day/night before? There’s cauliflower, baby squash, peppers, etc, in the recipe.

A: Absolutely. Those will hold up just fine overnight. The only thing I might wait on are any alliums (onion, garlic), which tend to lose punch once they’re cut. – Becky Krystal

Dig into some cookbooks to renew your passion for quarantine cooking. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST