What’s in your pantry?

It’s been over a year since I went to my local farmer’s market, which happens conveniently on Thursday evenings and is a mere 10 minute walk from home. I am embarrassed and ashamed, and there is no good excuse. There, I said it.

Cooking at home is a lifestyle, and it has to fit your schedule and your routine in order to work. And while we haven’t made enough time for the farmer’s market, we’ve made do with the four good stores that are within a five minute walk. We can even get farmer’s market-grade produce at one of them–at a premium.

And still, at the end of a long workday, toward the end of a long work week, Karl and I often regress to whatever’s in the pantry. We know this. And until we get our act together and head to the farmer’s market, we’re trying to make the pantry nicer. We have Indian simmer sauces, Italian bean soups in jars, really nice tins of trout fillets in oil for simple rice bowls with nori. Add in frozen paneer and naan, frozen scallops and veggies, frozen stock, and a few things we always have in the fridge (eggs, milk, scallions, kimchee, miso, etc…) and it’s possible to pull together a delicious, sometimes nutritious, meal quickly.

And when we’re really lazy, there’s pasta. Here we draw a line in the sand: we always make the sauce from scratch. A can of diced tomatoes. A desiccated garlic clove, haphazardly chopped. Are those artichoke hearts from the back of the fridge still good? Perfect. Throw them in. Splash in some leftover red wine from the other night. Capers. Lots of pepper.

But what brings the entire thing come to life–the secret ingredient–is the olive oil on top at the very end. Lately, I am smitten with Costa dei Rosmarini olive oil from Liguria. Beautiful and silky, it makes even the humdrum pantry pasta sing out with fruity flavors, evoking the Italian summer. I’m putting it on everything.

What’s your favorite pantry ingredient these days? How will you make it through this winter?

It’s citrus season!

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Moro blood oranges, kaffir limes, cocktail grapefruits… At this stage, the best plan is to simply make one big fruit salad and be done.

Fried hijiki with pork

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This turned out really well. Soaked in water until it ballooned to about 10 times its dried size, then sauteed with pork in a nice sauce that was on the package of hijiki: dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.

It’s pom season.

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Carl and Mark: I’m done!

That’s right. I’m done. Over the last four months, as a tribute and adventure, I made all 25 of Mark Bittman’s favorites from The Minimalist. I did them mostly in batches of two or three when time allowed. This was not by any means a Julie Powell-scale endeavor. If anything, it gave me more appreciation for the breadth of Powell’s accomplishment.

Pear, gorgonzola and mesclun salad
Pear, Gorgonzola, and Mesclun Salad

We’ll start at the end. Tonight I made the final dish. Pear, Gorgonzola, and Mesclun Salad. This salad is to the 90s what the Caesar was to the 20s. Who knows how many times I’ve eaten this (plus or minus the toasted walnuts). But it definitely stands the test of time.

Continue reading ‘Carl and Mark: I’m done!’

Carl and Mark, part 4

Here we are with five more dishes from Mark Bittman’s 25 Favorite Minimaist Recipes. Now that I’ve made 20 of them, I can look back a little. Most of the dishes have been quite good and have come together quickly. And when I make a dish for this project, it often stands out in an otherwise humdrum week of cooking. If I see a watermelon now, I definitely think of the Watermelon and Tomato salad. It’s not just a dessert or snack to me anymore. So a couple of these dishes will probably become standards for me at some point.


Braised Turkey was lovely and yields enough turkey for an army. The mushrooms and italian sausage lend great flavor to this, too. The turkey breasts came out beautifully thanks to the short cooking time, but the thighs had dried out by the end, like the braised duck legs in Carl and Mark part 2. That was frustrating. I still feel like I don’t understand how to slow-braise dark, tough meat so that it falls off the bone, rather than being dry and chewy. I think it needs to stay wetter (maybe be basted?) and probably cook for less time (the above turkey thigh cooked for 2.5 hours).

Continue reading ‘Carl and Mark, part 4’

Carl and Mark, part 3

I’m already past the halfway point. I’ve made 15 of the Minimalist’s 25 favorites. Including this bad boy:

Continue reading ‘Carl and Mark, part 3’


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Found an apple tree in the yard and a plum tree by the road. The apples are pretty good. On the way up Blueberry Mountain.

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