I can make those who live spontaneously on the brink of the moment uncomfortable. I am a planner. I’m not sure if it’s a natural tendency or whether I’ve taken it on as a survival skill over the years. I’m a working mom and regardless of the help you have or the systems that are in place or how perfect your children might be, it’s a challenge.
I’d like to do a full post on how I plan in the kitchen but today I want to talk about a few tricks that can eliminate the need for trip to the grocery store whether or not I have kids in tow. Your ally? A well stocked pantry and mine is.
I began thinking about this several years ago when Michele Scicolone wrote The Antipasto Table. Michelle began a list – some of which I agreed with and that I’ve added to. I set out to write my top ten and frankly, I keep coming up with more; spices, rice, sauce, stock – my list goes on. Regardless of what’s on the list, I’m hoping for a robust dialog since I recently learned that “grated beets” are on the list of The Only Cin.
- Beans – Black, red, white, green, small, round, large, local – you name it. Maybe just out of deference to the two years that I lived on nothing else, I keep an ample variety on hand. See how the pintos are growing on a Colorado Farm.
- Stock and Broth – Broth is such an easy thing to make from vegetable peelings and onion tops. Freeze it. Freeze it in ice cube trays if you only use a little at a time. If you eat poultry or other meat, boil the bones and make stock. By the way, that is the technical difference between those two terms even though they’re used interchangeably. Stock is from bones.
- Capers – They’re not local but I’m in love with them. Where do they come from? They are the unopened flower bud of a Caper bush. Each bud is picked by hand in the early morning hours before it can open. After sun drying, they are pickled in a vinegar brine. Julia Child suggested replacing half of the brine with vermouth to improve flavor.
- Garlic – If you don’t use it up when it’s fresh, there are several ways to preserve it. Although it gets a bit mushy, frozen garlic retains all the flavor. Many people attempt to store it in oil, which again, is okay as long as you use it up. Otherwise freeze it in the oil also. For those with a dehydrator, garlic dries beautifully.
- Anchovy filets – I recognize I lose the vegans on this one but I adore these little creatures. They melt perfectly in olive oil and add such a salty rich flavor to sauces or just olive oil. So many people tell me that they don’t like them yet they have no idea how often they’ve consumed them in my kitchen.
- Parmesan – I wish I could remember who first suggested to me that I save the rinds and use them in soup but I’m going to credit Maggie at Whisked Away.
- Olive oil – Whenever I travel to the far Southeastern part of our metropolis, I dash by the olive place. We use so much of this fruity substance that it’s often on the shopping list.
- Olives – Same story, second verse. Although I have five olive trees and have put them up, I love that our local grocery has an olive bar. Chopped with pasta, rice, veggies, on bread. Mmmm.
- Frozen fruit – This is for smoothies and fun fruit drinks for the kids.
- Nuts – Pecans, pistachios, almonds and pine nuts are local for us but I do love most varieties. We’re fortunate not to have nut allergies in our home. I love nuts in salads, in rice, and on the off chance that I bake something, I put them there also.
What’s on your list that might be a key contributor to developing a dish or a meal that gets you through a crazy day?