Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ingredients & the pantry

To become a cook you only need a few essentials:  an appetite, some ingredients, a kitchen to work in, a few tools and a little inspiration.  The desire to eat good food is the motivation to become a good cook.  By taking pleasure in the process of thinking about food, imagining how it might taste, the flavors and textures you want to achieve, reading books and recipes are a great start.

You do have to spend time in the kitchen before your own ideas come easily, when cooking becomes instinctive.  Ideas on what to cook come from a thought process and from practice.  One of the best places to start is with ingredients; they have always been my best source of inspiration.

First and foremost you have to have something to cook.  One of the best places to look for the freshest most seasonal ingredients is from the farmers’ markets or markets that sell organic and locally grown foods.  Go to the market with an open mind before you decide what to cook, see what’s there.  Be open to what’s available.  I have learned a lot from talking with the farmer’s and those working there.  Ask questions like what variety is this?  How was it grown? How do you cook it?  How long is it in season?

When it’s not possible to frequent the farmers’ market and the supermarket is the only option, stick to the periphery of the store, where the fresh, unprocessed food is usually found and avoid the aisles upon aisles of processed food.

Ingredients for stocking a pantry I believe should vary with the season.  For the winter pantry items such as:

Olive oil
Black peppercorns
Dried and canned beans: cannellini, chickpeas, black, pinto
French green and brown lentils
Arborio and basmati rice
Assorted pasta
Dried mushrooms
Dried chilies
Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes
Imported oil-packed tuna 
Baking Powder and baking soda
Good chocolate

If your pantry is stocked with these ingredients, you can be secure in the knowledge that no matter what time it is, and no matter who shows up hungry on your doorstep, there will always be something to eat.


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