WND – If I was stranded on a desert island . . .March 5, 2009
In a shocking turn of events I found myself watching the Food Network this weekend and ended up watching one of the new shows, “Ask Aida” while I ate my breakfast*. The premise of the show is that Aida, who is the Food Editor for Chow.com, prepares a relatively simple meal while answering questions emailed in from viewers. This is not a new concept, Sara Moulton did it way back when the Food Network first started, only she did it with the added terror of live calls from viewers and the possibility that they would ask a question she had no idea how to answer. Most of the time I find that people email in with questions they could have found the answer to if they’d spent five minutes with google, but this time someone emailed in to ask what ten staples she recommended everyone keep in their pantry.
I was a little annoyed by her answer since she gave ten food groups that she thought should be in every kitchen rather than ten specific ingredients. I realize that this isn’t a graded assignment and that nobody will take points off if you write three pages instead of the requested two, but it still annoyed me. I don’t remember her entire list – I was only part of the way through my cup of coffee when I was watching this – but I remember that it involved aromatics (onions, garlic, celery, herbs – and really this is about eight ingredients not one), and pulses (I know people say they do this, but have you actually ever met anyone who keeps bins of dried beans in their pantry?).
It’s an interesting question though, and it got me thinking about what I would buy if I was stocking a kitchen for the first time again. Upon reflection, the ten non-perishable ingredients I absolutely could not live without are:
If I was expanding the list to include a few long term perishable ingredients, and some baking supplies I’d add:
Spaghetti Sauce (in the freezer)
Chicken Stock (in the freezer)
I’d say that with those 20 ingredients I could make the majority of my standard recipes. Given that this is true, I’d like to be able to say that my pantry is a shining example of minimalism and order, but it’s been 10 years since I first started my kitchen and it simply isn’t true. I have at least five kinds of oil (olive, lemon olive, peanut, vegetable, and sesame) and upwards of eight kinds of vinegar (white, cider, white wine, red wine, champagne, pomegranate, rice wine, and balsamic). I have pasta in more shapes and sizes than I can ever remember. I keep a stock of sugar in four different forms (white, light brown, dark brown, and powdered as well as molasses, treacle and honey). And this is to say nothing of the boxes of cereal, crackers, cookies, dried noodles of every variation under the sun, cans of tuna fish, and unopened jars of jam that seem to be multiplying on the bottom shelf of my pantry . . . it’s possible I’ve just convinced myself to clean my pantry this weekend.
These ingredients aren’t, interestingly, exactly the same as a list of things you can be guaranteed to find in my house at any given time. That list would include buttermilk, a box of brownie mix, eighteen different kinds of tea, coffee, grits, and bourbon. They’re all nice to have on hand, but I could live without them. W ell, maybe not the tea and coffee, but none of the rest of them are something I’d absolutely want to have in my backpack if Iwas stranded on a desert island. Actually, if I did get stranded on a desert island the one thing I’d really want in my backpack would be a working satellite phone to call for help, but I’m sure olive oil and a frying pan would be helpful while I waited.
* Trying to read a book or check my email while I juggle a mug of coffee, a bowl of cereal and a cat demanding my attention is just asking for disaster, so the TV is my morning companion.
Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Grapes
First I was going to make fried chicken strips (same process as deep frying chicken, but with chicken tenders instead of bone-in pieces – faster and less messy), but that seemed like too much effort. Then I was going to make a roasted chicken because that’s about as low maintenance a meal as I can think of, plus I’m out of chicken stock and I need a chicken carcass so that I can make more. However, I was so bored with even the idea of eating roasted chicken that I just couldn’t bring myself to make it. As I stood there uninspired in the meat aisle of the grocery store, my eye lit on sausages and thus this is what we had for Dinner.
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
Very scant ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 lbs sausages
Heat the olive oil in a large pan, and brown the sausages on all sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Mix the chicken stock and balsamic vinegar together, and then add to the pan (it should come about a third of the way up the sides of the sausages – you may need more or less liquid depending on the size of your pan). Bring to a brisk simmer and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes, turning the sausages every 5 minutes or so. At this point the liquid should be reduced to a nice glaze, turn the sausages to make sure they are nicely coated and fully cooked and serve.
Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Grapes
I read a comment from someone recently where she said that one of the unexpected perks of becoming a vegetarian was that she no longer had to deal with trying to get meat fat off her hands. I disagree with this. I’ve had both lamb fat and squash guts on my hands this week and the lamb fat washed off just fine with soap and water, while a film from the squash guts stubbornly lingered even after a sink full of dishes and scrubbing my hands with soap, the rough side of a sponge and sugar (for grit) twice.
Recipe previously given: Cleaning Up the Fridge
I was craving a rhubarb compote, but I was stymied by a lack of rhubarb in the grocery store.
Recipe previously given: Bangers ‘n’ Mash