Friday, May 21, 2010

loving that larder

This week the Married with Dinner homework is as follows: (1) Write a post about at least 5 items in your pantry, and why they’ve earned a permanent spot on your shelves. (2) Buy yourself one splurge-worthy ingredient...and cook with it, using at least two existing pantry ingredients that you’ve let languish.

Yesterday Michael had to work late, so I thought I'd reward his efforts with a special supper. I combined the two prongs of Anita's assignment, to make my life easier. (That is the whole point, right?) I took one splurge item and combined it with five things I ALWAYS have on hand. Here's what we (me and the pantry) produced:

quail with preserved lemons
dry mushroom risotto with wild onion
salad with feta and pickled beets
plum cake

The QUAIL was my splurge item, although I confess it was already in the freezer. Penni Buchal (Barryville Farmers' Market) sells quail, and I stock up in October to get me through to the market opening in June.

How did I live without preserved lemons? I'd heard about them for years, but never tasted them till Cayce and I spent a San Jose afternoon preserving her neighbor's fruit. Now I use them in salads, pasta, hamburgers, on quail. Can anyone tell me why every recipe says to use only the rind and discard the flesh? I can't bring myself to do it...I use the whole thing.

Some of you may remember I become entirely obsessed with mushrooms in the fall. My pantry currently includes foraged honey mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chicken of the woods, and hen of the woods both frozen and dried. I dole them out parsimoniously, sharing them only with the closest of friends, or people I really want to impress.

This is a new pantry item for me. Last year Mark and I picked wild onions and used them in a fantastic foraged feast. This year I thought it would be fun to forage, dehydrate, and hoard enough for an entire season.

When I joined my CSA I was inundated with beets; figuring out what to do with them was a real challenge. (Beet wine, anyone?) Friend Leda Meredith shared her pickled beet recipe and I'm hooked. The plainest leaf of lettuce becomes a superb salad when topped with a few pickled beets.

The beauty of a CSA share is getting fruit and vegetables when they're at their peak. But how to make the most of so many plums (or beets) before they go bad? The NYT plum cake recipe is a stand by in my family; I make several every weekend during plum season, then wrap and freeze them. Too tired to bake? Pull a plum cake out of the freezer...instant dessert.

One of the best things about doing a big dinner like the above is that you have leftovers for days. Nothing like cold quail for lunch.


At May 22, 2010 at 7:25 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Okay, you've made me really, really hungry! Sounds fabulous.

At May 22, 2010 at 9:34 AM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Ooh, beautiful - and the perfect reminder to tell you that your preserved lemons are fabulous. We've been using them frequently but stingily, so they'll last forever.

I love the idea of expanding what we can pull together from languishing pantry staples. R is brilliant at cooking with the fresh and immediate, so this will be my challenge. I'll let you know!


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