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Kitchen therapy: rolling lumpia and baking pie

Filling thin spring roll wrappers to make crispy lumpia Shanghai.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

This week, our coronavirus newsletter addressed the very real and prevalent mental-health effects of the pandemic. Cooking and baking are not medical prescriptions to heal anxiety and depression, but they can be calming and uplifting experiences. I find hands-on projects with some repetitive motion to be especially therapeutic.

Quarantine baking always delivers pleasure, and savory dishes that require rolling, pinching or lots of fine dicing do too. Put on your favorite playlists, take a few deep breaths and slip into a meditative mode while preparing something delicious to eat. These options are ideal for end-of-summer produce and can be stashed in your fridge and freezer when you don’t have the energy to make it into the kitchen.

Summer Herb Meatballs with Avocado Dip

Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4
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Rolling meatballs by hand will get you in zen mode, as will the grassy scent of fresh herbs.

Stuff these crunchy lumpia with loads of vegetables. You can freeze any you don’t plan to eat before frying and crisp them up in oil whenever you’re ready for them.

Mole tamales

Time 2 hours
Yields Makes about 20 tamales.
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If you want an all-day escape in the kitchen, start by making Bricia Lopez’s mole recipe, then use the sauce in handmade tamales. (Or you can take a shortcut and buy jars of mole from Guelaguetza.)

Sweet cherry pie

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

Use the last of summer’s sweet cherries in this pie filling and relive your Play-Doh days lacing this lattice crust.

Cucumber Watermelon Mojito

Time 5 minutes
Yields Serves 1
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And if what you really need is a drink, you’ll love this crisp, cold mojito full of summer produce.

Virtual food events

The Los Angeles Times Dinner Series kicks off Sept. 5 with a three-course collaboration meal between Jon Yao of Kato and Mei Lin of Nightshade; the menu includes dry scallop porridge and pork belly ssam. Dinners will be picked up on the day of the event, and my colleague Lucas Kwan Peterson will host a video chat with the chefs while participants dine together online.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl, usually held as a monthlong series of events in May, is being held this fall in virtual form, with World Central Kitchen and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank as partners. Events include a cook-a-thon fundraiser Oct. 17; cooking editor Genevieve Ko, cooking columnist Ben Mims and senior food writer Jenn Harris will co-host 30 chefs and celebrities from Los Angeles, the nation and the world. The Food team compiled an accompanying guide for the year’s theme, “Takeout and Give Back.”

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