Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bittman's Pantry Recovery Plan Update

I have a few updates on my attempts to conform my pantry to the New Year's edict of Mark Bittman, a.k.a. Mark Bittman's article, "Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen," from Tuesday, January 6th's New York Times (Does that sentence immediately evoke the scene from The Royal Tenenbaums where Bill Murray's character testing Dudley with two sets of blocks says, "Make yours like mine"?). Thus far I have addressed my initial attempts regarding lemons & limes, bread crumbs, parsley & basil, beans, and vanilla.

Lemons & Limes

Citrus prices in North Orange County are crazy low, so replacing bottled lemon and lime juice is a very cost effective pantry policy. Well, it's a very cost effective pantry policy if you either use the juice right away or you have a storage strategy. In my previous post I mentioned Mom's method of freezing lemon juice in an ice cube tray. We're not big ice people, so I had to buy an ice cube tray. This was almost as challenging as finding vanilla beans. Eventually I found an ice cube tray at IKEA. Even then I couldn't find your standard cube-shaped ice cube tray, which has apparently gone the way of the Dodo. But shape snobbery aside, each compartment holds exactly 1 tablespoon of liquid, which is super convenient. I now have a reusable container full of frozen lemon fish and I just bought limes to make some lime fish.

Bread Crumbs

I dropped a couple of steps on this one. Bittman recommended toasting or browning in olive oil. I've just been freezing the ends of the bread loaves and running them through the Cuisinart with the shredding attachment (often after shredding cheese, which is a handy way to clean out the cheese from the Cuisinart). Well, honestly, I was toasting between the freezer and the Cuisinart, but then I forgot they were in there and nearly set the house on fire. So I started skipping that step and no one seems to notice the difference.

And I took Rebecca's advice and made The Flying Biscuit's mac & cheese recipe to show off my homemade breadcrumbs instead of hiding them in meatloaf. Three out of three independent tasters were impressed by the breadcrumbs on the mac & cheese - and that was totally without breadcrumb specific interrogation techniques.

Parsley & Basil
I used the last of my dried parsley and have switched to buying fresh parsley from Henry's until my container plant gets going. Any suggestions on how to quickly chop up parsley without getting too much stem? Or are parsley stems culinarily acceptable? I had to buy more dried basil as fresh basil is rather pricey around here. But again, my basil did sprout nicely, so I'm hoping for a home-grown source soon.

Most handy bit of knowledge gleaned from this micro-obsession: the conversion chart over at Spice Advice including one tablespoon of fresh basil or parsley is equivalent to one teaspoon of the dried herb.

Beans
I've had great success with The Flying Biscuit's White Bean Cassoulet recipe using dried white navy beans from Henry's. I've also had success making black beans and refried black beans from dried black beans from Henry's. I have yet to find a recipe using peruano beans. And I have an irrational fear of lentils. Anyone have any good recipes to help me confront that fear?

Most handy bit of knowledge gleaned from this micro-obsession: In a comment Rebecca suggested I check out Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone which includes cooking principles and general techniques for addressing vegetables. If you've joined a CSA this year, you need this book.

Vanilla

This has to be the change that caused the most significant difference (well, the basil and parsley plants aren't up and running yet, so we might have to revisit this in a few months). While the scraped vanilla bean in the NYTCCCs was effective, the difference between that and vanilla extract wasn't sufficiently significant to justify the effort.

But my cupcakes have never been so awesome. Not only did I do all the vanilla friendly stuff to the frosting that I talked about in my previous post, I also doctored the batter. I steeped half a vanilla bean in the milk required for the cake batter. I followed Terri's advice to put used vanilla beans in a jar with sugar and used the resulting sugar in the batter. And on top of all that I did like the recipe told me and added the seeds of half of vanilla bean. The resulting cake and frosting were noticeably more vanilla-y and got rave reviews from two independent testers.

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3 comments:

Thalia said...

"Most handy bit of knowledge gleaned from this micro-obsession: In a comment Rebecca suggested I check out Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone which includes cooking principles and general techniques for addressing vegetables. If you've joined a CSA this year, you need this book."

Hey! That's me! *I* need that book!

*footsteps running off into the distance to buy book*

Sarah said...

I originally typed, "Thalia, you need this book." But then I thought a more generally applicable description of why one might need the book would appeal to the one or two non-Thalia readers we have. :)

BTW, don't have an aneurysm when you see the price tag on that book. Check out the number of pages. If you consider it in terms of dollars per page it's actually a pretty good deal.

Thalia said...

You know, it looks familiar. That may have been a gift from the ex's parents that ended up with him. Not sure. Will check.

It was interesting to see people so enamoured of food, especially heavy cream and steak, to not know what to do with their vegetarian son.