From the kitchen of Chef Tse: Is takeout safe?

The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit during COVID-19. In one week, 90% of my former culinary students lost their jobs and are now struggling to pay their rent. But there seems to be a glimmer of hope and some of our local restaurants are getting ready to open back up.

Before this all started, we as Americans ate more than 50% of our meals outside the home. But with more of us cooking at home, restaurants are struggling to make ends meet and have been offering meal delivery, curbside and to-go orders to stay afloat.

To support your local favorites (and to give yourself a break from cooking), ordering to-go meals may be an option. Recently, I’ve had many people ask me: Is takeout safe? The short answer is yes. Here are some common questions and their associated answers.

Can I get COVID-19 by eating contaminated food?

The good news is that the CDC is not aware of any reports that suggest that the virus can be transmitted by food. That means eating food from your neighborhood restaurant is safe! If for some reason, you were to consume food with the virus, your stomach acid may even deactivate the virus.

Can I get the COVID-19 by touching food packaging?

Just like the question above, the CDC says food packaging containers are not a concern. Although the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours, it is not likely to be an issue for food packaging. If you’d like to be on the safe side, remove the delivery food from its containers and transfer it on your own plates. Then discard the packaging and wash your hands thoroughly.

What are restaurants doing to make sure takeout is safe?

I’ve been talking to many restaurant owners over the past month. Evidently customers tend to choose takeout based on how clean the restaurant is – not by the food! That means most restaurants have stepped up their cleaning and sanitation policies, even going so far as posting their cleaning routines on social media! Whether it’s wearing gloves while making your food, sanitizing your card after swiping it or asking delivery drivers to wear gloves and masks, they’re doing everything they can to ensure your safety.

Another measure many restaurants are using are tamper-proof seals -- a great way to ensure food isn't touched once it has left the restaurant. If this is important to you, don’t hesitate to ask your favorite restaurant if they can accommodate this request.

What can I do if want to support my local restaurant but I'm still not comfortable ordering takeout?

Consider buying a gift certificate online and using it at a later date. This gives restaurants some much needed cash to help them become fully operational.

--

So yes, in my opinion, it is safe to get takeout, and it’s great to support your local restaurant. Just remember to practice moderation since most takeout foods tend to be less than healthy! When you’re ordering, don’t forget a big green salad and vegetable sides. And save the leftovers for the next day!

If you still prefer to cook at home, here are some restaurant-quality recipes to spice up your weekly meal plan.

Recipes

Grilled Fish Tacos with Spicy Corn Salsa

From the kitchen of Chef Tse

Serves 6

Fish

1 1/2 pounds firm white fish such as halibut, rockfish or red snapper, skin removed

Olive oil

Salt

Corn or flour tortillas

Lime wedges

Red or green cabbage, shredded

Corn salsa

2 medium ears corn, husked or 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1/3 cup jicama, diced

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1 chipolte chile (canned in adobo sauce), chopped

1 teaspoon adobo sauce

1 pinch salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut fish into equal sized filets, about 2 inches wide. If using corn on the cob, cut off kernels using a sharp knife. In a medium bowl, mix together corn, red onion, jicima, and cilantro. In a smaller bowl, mix together lime juice, garlic, chile, adobo sauce and salt. Slowly whisk in oil. Pour dressing over corn and toss to coat.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Brush grill with olive oil. Season fish on both sides with salt. Grill until opaque, about 3 – 4 minutes per side. Flake fish into large chunks. Wrap fish into tortillas with salsa, cabbage and a squeeze of lime.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 327; total fat: 8g; cholesterol: 39mg; sodium (not including additional seasoning): 464mg; carbohydrate: 36g; total dietary fiber: 4g; protein: 27g

 

Creamy Cucumber Mint Salad

From the kitchen of Chef Tse

Serves 6

3 large cucumbers, peeled

1 tablespoon salt

20 mint leaves, chopped

1/2 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Pepper to taste

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Thinly slice cucumbers and place in a colander. Toss cucumbers with salt and let drain 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

In a medium bowl, mix together mint, yogurt, mustard and pepper. Add cucumbers and toss to coat. Divide among plates and serve.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 28; total fat: 0g; cholesterol: 0mg; carbohydrate: 4g; total dietary fiber: 1g; protein: 3g

 

Turkey Sandwiches with Olive Tapenade

From the kitchen of Chef Tse

Don’t be alarmed by the addition of an anchovy filet in the tapenade. It adds salt and an intriguing depth of flavor without tasting fishy.

Serves 8

1 cup large pitted black olives, drained

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1 anchovy filet, drained

2 teaspoons thyme

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

16 thin slices French bread

8 slices roasted turkey breast

8 slices tomato

8 thin slices fresh mozzarella

1 cup arugula

In a food processor, add olives, capers, anchovy and thyme. Pulse tapenade in processor until finely chopped, about 45 seconds. Scrape down sides of the bowl. With the processor running, pour olive oil through feed tube. Process until tapenade is smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Spread two teaspoons tapenade on 8 slices bread. Reserve remaining tapenade for another use. Top with turkey, mozzarella, tomato, arugula and second slice of bread.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 242; Total fat: 11g; Cholesterol: 23mg; Carbohydrate: 26g; Total dietary fiber: 1g; Protein: 12g

 

About Chef Tse

After 12 years in marketing and sales, Tse shed her corporate responsibilities and headed to France. There she studied both cuisine and pastry at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, finishing first in both disciplines. After graduation, she turned her sights on Parisian kitchens, completing a grueling internship at Le Restaurant Guy Savoy, a three Michelin-star restaurant. She then studied pastry at the internationally famous Pierre Hermé making macarons, cakes, and composed desserts.

When she returned to the U.S., Tse was a regular guest KATU Channel 2’s AM Northwest cooking seasonal ingredients with the hosts. Tse also became the Healthy Cooking Ambassador for Regence BlueCross BlueShield teaching cooking classes, filming videos, doing demos and creating recipes. She joined the Providence team in 2016, overseeing the operations at three cafes at Saint Vincent Hospital. Tse has also spent seven years teaching students at all three Portland culinary schools: The Art Institute of Portland's International Culinary Program, Le Cordon Bleu and Oregon Culinary Institute. She is now a Culinary Consultant for Sysco Portland where she helps restaurants with menu design, recipe development and staff training.

 

About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

More Content by Providence Nutrition Team
Previous Article
Reach out for support: We are here
Reach out for support: We are here

If you’re experiencing mental health concerns due to COVID-19, find help now.

Next Article
COVID-19: Good news to make you smile
COVID-19: Good news to make you smile

With all the heavy challenges so many of us are experiencing due to COVID-19, here's some good news that ma...