There was an interesting article in last week's dining section of the New York Times that I had been planning to discuss before my internet connection went down. Written by Mark Bittman, and entitled "Fresh Start for the New Year? Let's Begin in the Kitchen", the article highlights the need for a well-stocked pantry and presents his list of "In" and "Out" pantry items ... meaning those that are must-haves and those that we might consider doing without or making ourselves.
Its certainly timely. With the economic crisis continuing to deepen, I suspect that more and more of us will be dining at home with greater frequency. I found the article quite thought provoking and, frankly, a bit controversial. While I agree with most of his suggestions - I'm going to have to take issue with a few of them.
Prepared bread crumbs for instance. According to Mark, they're OUT. Personally, I'm not so sure. Do I know how to make my own bread crumbs? Of course, I've done so many times. Am I going to forsake prepared bread crumbs completely? Nope. Sure, homemade anything is better than processed anything, but on the other hand ... we really don't eat much bread. I'd have to go buy a loaf in order to make the crumbs and that just seems silly. I do make exceptions when I have the need for whole wheat bread crumbs, as I did in this eggplant parm recipe, and make my own - but I like the convenience of knowing the pre-made crumbs are there at the ready in my baking cabinet. What about you?
Canned stock is another area where Mark and I differ. Again, I can and do make my own stock from time to time; but much like the bread crumbs, I like the ease of the canned variety. Heck, 90% of my recipes call for canned broth in some form or another. It would be nice to have the kind of time at my disposal to make large quantities of chicken or vegetable stock - the reality is I simply do not. The canned stock will continue to reside in my pantry, thank you very much.
I wholeheartedly agree with his urging of the use of real Parmesan cheese, rather than canned; and real lemons as opposed to bottled lemon juice. And he's spot on with his advice to cull your spice collection periodically. You can't create much in the way of culinary greatness if your spices have all the flavor of a pile of saw dust. January seems like the perfect time to give your pantry an update and the majority of his tips are well worth adopting.
When you've got a moment, click the link and take a gander at the article. I'd like to hear your thoughts. Do dried beans, canned stock, frozen pie crusts and "minute" rice have a place in your pantry? Or are you more likely to make your own stock and boil your own beans? Curious Diva wants to know.