Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Three Food Items I Don't Buy

1. Breadcrumbs. Exception: panko, or Japanese breadcrumbs. Rationale: I never use a whole container before they "expire." It's much more cost-effective in my kitchen, right now, to just make breadcrumbs as needed. Procedure: Toast up a slice or two from the whole wheat loaf you have in the pantry that you use for sandwiches, and throw it in the food processor. Season to taste: salt, pepper, Italian dried herbs, parmesan, you get the picture.

2. Salad Dressing. Exception: Ken's Blue Cheese, if Dean & Donna are coming for dinner, as it's Dean's favorite (D&D are Dave's parents/my parents-in-law) (and they're cool). Rationale: seriously, you still buy salad dressing? When you have tasty extra virgin olive oil and multiple vinegars, mustards, and seasoning agents in your pantry? Homemade salad dressings are so, so so so much tastier than store-bought, and they're more fun, too, because you can make them yourselves. And, they have no preservatives, which equals healthier. And, you are in complete control of the flavor, and amount of fat. Procedure: dressings usually involve a fat (think: oil, mayonnaise, bacon grease) and an acid (such as vinegar: balsamic, red wine, white wine, champagne, vanilla fig balsamic, rice wine; mustard: dijon, grainy dijon, plain ol' yeller mustard; or citrus: orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice). Two additional must-have ingredients in ALL of my dressings: salt and pepper. Now, even within the pepper category, you have plenty of options: black pepper, cayenne, chili powder, Chinese five spice, paprika, wasabi, ginger, horseradish.... Next, because I have a sweet tooth, I generally prefer some sort of sweetener in my dressings. This takes the form of: plain sugar, honey, simple syrup, or a jam/jelly (raspberry, blackberry, plum, orange, strawberry). Top it off with any other fresh or dried herb to fit the meal or salad. Whisk together in small amounts, tasting as you go to get the flavor profile just right. And voila. Kitchen brilliance and creativity. Tell me people aren't impressed the next time you serve a salad with your "homemade wasabi vinaigrette" or dip that sandwich wrap in a "homemade Italian lemon and basil vinaigrette."

3. Soups. Exception: Campbell's cream of chicken/mushroom, ONLY for chicken, tuna, or hashbrown casseroles. Rationale: once you start making your own soups, you won't go back to canned soup again. Homemade soups are (a) easy, (b) cost-effective, and (c) simply divine. I hear there are tasty canned soup options these days, but I can't bring myself to try them. Just looking at them in the grocery store kind of makes me cringe a little, and feel bad for people who don't make their own soups. Procedure: think of your favorite soup. Look for a recipe for it, or just ask me; I probably have a recipe to share. Follow the recipe exactly, and enjoy the meal. Soups follow an easy procedure: sautee some sort of aromatic in oil/butter (like onion, celery, carrot, leeks), create some flavor with salt, pepper and dried herbs, add other proteins (chicken, beef, tofu) and vegetables as necessary (potatoes, tomatoes, zuccini, beans), create a soup in which to simmer the vegetables/meats (chicken broth, vegetable broth, beef broth, milk/cream, water, splash or two of wine or vinegar), top with something (tortillas, crackers, sour cream, avocado, grated onion, melty cheese) and eat.


Jessy said...

I really need to start make my own soup. I take great care to pick ones that are tasty and organic for my husband to take to work for lunch but I'm just not a big soup person. I don't think about them unless I'm sick or cold (or cold and sick with a cold) so I end up buying chicken noodle soup. In fact I bought some Campbell's chicken noodle soup today, in a packet (*gasp*). I am embarrassed to be skilled in the kitchen and say I've made three soups: Creamy Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Cumin (he loved it), Chicken Tortilla Soup (excellent), and loaded baked potato soup (yummy!). That's it. But you've got me inspired! Thanks!

LBD said...

Oooooh... all those sound delicious Jessy! If you can do those soups, you can do any soup. I made lots more soup when I lived in Lexington, because it's way colder than it is in Atlanta, especially in the winter. And, I'm lazy, and my soups usually take about 15 minutes to prepare. I'm sure the organic ones are way better than regular canned stuff, too.