Archive for January 2009
Look, I’m fully aware that I just put up a post about all the healthy shit that inhabits our kitchen, mudroom and basement, so it may seem odd that my next post is about preservative-laden, meat-ish product Spam.
What I failed to mention in that last post is that our vice of choice isn’t really bacon, or candy, or even ice cream, but it’s beer, and wine. We live in a lovely little area on the Central Coast that produces incredible wine, and some of the world’s best beer. And, sometimes we overindulge. And sometimes the only cure to a long, lazy Sunday of wine tasting, beer tasting, cheese tasting, sherry vinegar finding(!!) and bike riding is junk food.
Hence, a breakfast of Spam Musubi. Deliciousness in a portable package.
Just make some sticky rice in your rice cooker, fry some Spam in a pan and add a little sugar and soy sauce at the end. Cut your nori sheets in half, and press some rice into your musubi maker that your favorite brother’s girlfriend gave you for Christmas. Sprinkle in some furikake, lay on the Spam, more furikake, more rice and roll. And nom.
I served it with sliced avocado in sherry vinegar. Mmmmm. The sherry vinegar is just as delicious as I imagined. It will be appearing here on the blog soon.
I’ve been contemplating the new pantry staples list Mark Bittman had out last week in the New York times, and decided I should have let you all in on what keeps us from starving.
We try to make an effort to cook from scratch as often as we can. We like to cook, and we like to be at home, xenophobes that we are, so we make a big effort to keep pantry staples on hand so that we don’t have to venture out into the cold world very often.
Our kitchen breaks down like this:
The cool drawer: This drawer always contains onions (red and white,) shallots, garlic, and usually potatoes. Most meals in our house start with onions and garlic. Hell, just the other night we roasted 50 cloves of garlic to go with roasted chicken thighs, chicken stock and wine sauce. It was incredible. You’ll be smelling the garlic on us for some time. That reminds me, I think we’re out of garlic.
One cupboard stores all the vinegars, oils, and spices we need. You all know the drill on this cupboard. We have the workhorse olive oil that we use every day (from Trader Joe’s) and the expensive local stuff, which is great for drizzling on salads. There are several vinegars, but I can’t find sherry vinegar to save my life, and there are bowls of lemons and limes sitting close by too. My favorite item right now: fleur de sel for finishing dishes. I like the crunch. I think Sean is more partial to the smoked salts, but they’re not really for me.
The pantry: We have a tiny pantry, situated behind our wine cooler. It’s hard to get into, and cramped but it manages to keep the items I feel we should always have on hand. Inside you’ll find standard baking goods. White sugar, brown sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, corn meal, masa, and various dark chocolate stashes. You might not think you need all that flour but we bake a ton of bread. Pizza dough, no knead bread, ciabattas, even crackers can usually be thrown together from stuff that’s in our pantry. Most breads aren’t hard to make, they just take some time. So, we plan ahead. There’s also a shelf with some actual store bought canned goods. Mostly canned fish, such as tuna, and anchovies, and then there’s tomato paste (canned,) and coconut milk for Thai recipes. There are also several curry pastes in there. Just in case.
In some of the other kitchen drawers: you’ll find grains, like quinoa, polenta/grits, barley, couscous, Isreali couscous, brown rice, white rice, jasmine rice, arborio rice, and then there are the legumes (mostly dried) garbanzos, pintos, pinquitos, black beans, borlotti, vaquera, lentils, and various others with missing labels. There are also a few pastas on hand, for super quick meals. We like to have spaghetti and penne in our stash of dried goods, but I really like to make my own tagliatelli, linguine or lasgana noodles. Hence, the flours.
Then there’s the mudroom: we have a big metal rack out there that holds various pots and pans, glass jars for canning, and most of our vintage Pyrex collection, but also stashes of dried peppers including, chiles de arbol, anchos, guajillos, New Mexicos, etc. We don’t buy many pre-made salsas or enchilada sauces any more. We make our own. Also out here, any extra beans or grains. There seem to be a lot of those.
Then there’s the basement: My favorite room. The basement is where we keep all of our canned goods, and also any overflow on beer or wine. We try to can our own goods when the are in season, rather than relying on store bought canned goods. That way we know where our food’s coming from. We make jams with the next door neighbor’s apricots. There are a lot of pickled jalapenos from the local farmer’s market last summer. Also, pickles, salsas, pickled green beans, tomato jams, and the tomatoes. We canned hundred of pounds of local tomatoes last year. I am the first to admit that I am prone to exaggeration, but I literally mean hundreds of pounds of tomatoes. And, they have been delicious in all manner of dishes. It was worth spending many of our free days over the summer in a sweltering kitchen skinning and pressure cooking jar after jar of tomatoes. Remind Sean of that next summer when he secretly hates me for coming home with hundreds of pounds of Romas at a time.
Which brings me to the freezer: Some of those tomatoes were roasted. Slow and long in the oven. 225 degrees F, four hours, drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil, a few smashed garlic cloves, salt, pepper and thyme. We made tray after tray of these delicious, still sort of oozy, dried tomatoes last summer. And then we froze them in bags to dole out to over the long, cold winter months and brighten any dish. Even if we just smear them on a piece of toast, they are wicked good. Also in that freezer you’ll find stock, sausages of various sorts from the local butcher, thai chiles, nuts, and other odds and ends. Frozen homemade tamales are one of my favorite finds.
In the fridge: There are so many pickled and feremented items. My favorite fermented item is kimchi. (Followed of course by beer. Not homemade, yet.) We make the kimchi ourselves, and it’s good. Kimchi, rice and a fried egg are a perfect breakfast in my eyes. There are all manner of homemade pickles in that fridge. Also, whole sections on the door of Asian sauces (fish sauce, miso, ponzu, garlic chili paste, Sriracha, chile oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, tamari, tamarind, the list goes on) a section for jams (which really don’t get used much) and hot sauces. Like I said, usually homemeade hot sauce, but Tapatio and Frank’s red hot find their way in there. There is always a bottle of instant yeast in the fridge for bread. I tried to make a sourdough starter, but failed. I’ll try again. There are always tortillas in the fridge. Sean bought me a tortilla press, but I broke it on the first use. So, he bought me another. I have yet to use it, as I obviously have an issue with failure, but I’ll get there someday.
So, my point in all this is to say, if you keep a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer, grocery shopping is easy. We go to the Farmer’s Market for veggies, the butcher for meat, the local Food For Less, because they’re cheap and most of their veggies and meat are sourced locally, and Trader Joe’s for a few odds and ends like cheese, olive oil and eggs. You’d like eating here. The food is pretty simple, but it’s generally delicious and mostly homemade. (That does not mean semi-homemade.)