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Growing Up Gourmet: Extreme Pantry Makeover

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Extreme Pantry Makeover

Once again, Mark Bittman hit a home run with his article in yesterday's New York Times. The champion of minimalism in the kitchen, the father of "less is more", Bittman gives the kitchen a clean and healthy makeover for 2009. With his "hot" or "not" list, Mark is officially the Joan Rivers of the pantry.

And he's right. There is a lot of room for improvement in the American pantry. On his "out" list: That green shaker of "cheese". The overly processed "bread" crumbs. Minute rice and Aunt Jemima. Out. Out. And out. For quick and satisfying meals, Bittman promotes using frozen veggies, homemade dressings, hunks of bacon, quality nuts, and dried fruits. I'm proud to report these are ingredients that shine in most of my family's weeknight dinners.

But what about the canned beans and organic boxed chicken stock he suggests we do away with...except, he notes, in emergencies. These two ingredients caused much controversy among the 250+ reader comments that were posted of the NYT site. While I do soak dried beans overnight (easy, yes) and cook-up batches of stock with leftover veggies and chicken, the ready-to-go pantry staples are shortcuts I -- and many excellent family cooks -- have come to rely on. (note photo!) They taste good, provide comparable nutrients, and require little more effort than lifting them from the grocery store shelf into your shopping cart.

Forget earthquakes. Forget terrorist strikes. As far as I'm concerned, when you've got a hungry 7-year old exhausted from a soccer game, or a growing teenage boy scrounging for a snack, you've got yourself the very emergency Mr. Bittman must be talking about! Indeed, a well stocked pantry or fridge can be the source of culinary inspiration. But it can also be a solution to a busy weeknight -- a source of nutritious staples (alongside the frozen peas Bittman touts) that you know, undoubtedly, will be there. Regardless of whether you soaked any beans last night, froze any vegetable broth, or stopped at the greengrocer for fresh-picked peas.

And speaking of quick dinners and canned beans, why not try the "Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw" that appeared in Bon Appetit's column, "Fast, Easy, Fresh" this month. In fact, it's a perfect recipe to start your New Year's Resolution of cooking with your family one night each week. Thanks to the canned organic black beans, my carnivorous husband really loved helping make this quick, tasty, and meatless taco.
You can cook up the recipe here.

(photo courtesy

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At January 8, 2009 at 4:33 PM , Blogger barnburner said...

That pantry looks like it has some yummy stuff in it!


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