Times Top 5: How to Stock Your Pantry in 2009

From the NY Times Dining Section 01.07.09

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Mark Bittman is good at getting down to brass tacks on what you really need in your kitchen (we still refer to his 2007 list of essential, inexpensive cookware and tools). In today's Times, he's paring down the pantry, telling us what we need to throw out and what to have on hand for easy, top-notch dishes. See if you agree...

1. Toss the canned beans; buy tomato paste in a tube. All of Bittman's suggestions made sense to us, but some were more surprising than others. Freshly grated parmesan instead of the green can? Old news. (Although his tip that fresh parmesan can keep in the fridge for a year was pretty revelatory.) But some substitutions, like tomato paste in a tube instead of a can and sherry vinegar instead of inexpensive balsamic, were great hints. We also really liked his off-the-cuff recipe suggestions for using some of the ingredients.

2. Spicy, tangy Southeast Asian chicken soups. Full of lime and coconut and curry... These sound so good to us right now.

3. Do you eat fish for breakfast? Melissa Clark is pushing flounder and eggs, baked together in one pan- simple and quick.

4. Eat more squirrel. Would you? We're not sure. But in an attempt to control the grey squirrel population in the UK, chefs are serving it up as a new meat. Reports of its greasiness turned us off, though.

5. Barrel-aged beers that are priced like wine. Some brewers are going back to ancient traditions of aging beer in oak barrels. Sounds good, but we're not sure it's worth the $30+ price tag.

What did you think of today's Dining section?

Related: Previous Top 5: Butter Cookies and a Better Pot Roast

(Image: Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times)