Kitchn Cure: Week Six! Stocking the Pantry and Planning a Whole Meal

Kitchn Cure: Week Six! Stocking the Pantry and Planning a Whole Meal

d1g1t1ze made a beautiful dessert out of berries from Dekalb Farmers' Market in Atlanta. Check out her Flickr set dedicated to the Cure for more great photos of food, including the finished Farmers' Market Berry Cups, and newly organized cupboards!

It's Week Six of the 8 Step Spring Kitchen Cure, and we're rolling ahead. Last week you caught yourselves up and some made bread for extra credit. The results were beautiful! (See our Week 5.5 check-in post for a nice shot of stlcolleen's loaf of No-Knead Bread). There were still people roasting chickens and veggies and making stock and soup. Others, like digitize (whose beautiful berries are above) boldly charged ahead and starting cooking free-style.

In the initial Cure sign-up form, you asked for everything from knife skills to coordinating a whole meal in an hour, to tips for cooking meat, to other requests for ideas and skills in cooking. We gave you some knife skills this week: How To Dice And Onion: The Video. Hopefully, learning quick little tricks like this will help you feel more and more comfortable in the kitchen. While we can't do a post on every request, we do encourage you to use the site to answer your questions. In the two and a half years that we have been publishing The Kitchn, we have covered many of these issues.

This week we're going to stock the pantry and plan a whole meal.

First, a note for those who need a hall-pass. Several of you are jammed up with exams (we have many students in our midst - tell us what you are studying!) and there are definitely many observing Passover, so we realize you may be taking a break. That's okay, you'll catch up.

When we asked Cure-takers to tell us what, specifically, they'd like to learn in these eight weeks, Ether Maiden said "Cost efficiency, stretching ingredients, while still making healthful tasty foods." Check. We can do that.

A peek into our own pantry cupboard. Ouch, we're out of Maldon Sea Salt. I'll be picking some up today, promise.

1. Start with the Pantry
It all begins with having a well-stocked pantry. At the outset, this means spending some money. But in the long run, it will allow you to cook more with the small amount of fresh extras (like meat and produce) that you buy daily or weekly. Otherwise you'll constantly be buying each ingredient you need for a meal and finding you either have duplicates (so what if Fish Sauce costs $2/bottle? You don't need three bottles of it!), or you are caught off-guard without having what you need. By having a well-stocked pantry, you also are arming yourself with the tools you'll need to cook by instinct, instead of always following a recipe.

In today's email (have you signed up yet?), I'll talk about some top picks, and then tomorrow we'll post a more exhaustive list of pantry items that help any cook cook better.

2. Plan a Menu
Then comes meal planning. Things to think about when planning a meal:

  • What is in season?
  • What are you craving?
  • What is your budget?

There are two basic ways to go about planning a menu:

  • Start with your favorite cookbooks or recipes (we have over 400 original recipes in our recipe archive), making a list of ingredients from there, and then shop.
  • Stroll through your local farmers' markets or grocery stores (if shopping in a supermarket, talk to the produce manager about what's in season and where it comes from), and pick up ingredients that call out to you, then search through recipes for inspiration and figure out a way to use what you bought. This second option may sound scary to many of you, but it's what we're trying to encourage you to do. Try it.

Three Sample Seasonal (and Regional) Menus
Here in New York, we're just starting to see produce in the Farmers' Markets. Here's what I would make based on what I've been seeing at my local market in Union Square, and what I know I can pick up easily at neighborhood food shops.

  • To start: a fresh loaf of bread and serve it with some olive oil and chopped fresh herbs - we have chives, at least - and some cracked pepper to start the meal.
  • A soup of ramps: adapting just about any recipe using leeks. Here is one for Creamy Leek and Yogurt Soup. I would replace the leeks with the ramps, and halve the amount of yogurt.
  • A roast: there was some nice pork available. On top of barely cooked asparagus and topped with some pureed green garlic.
  • For dessert (only if it's the weekend!): sadly, no berries here yet, still only apples and pears. I'd bake either with butter and dried lemon peel and top with some fresh mascarpone or goat cheese

Faith, in Ohio, suggests this menu based on what she's finding in her local markets:

  • Radishes braised with salt pork and parsley
  • Shaved winter greens salad (kale) with Meyer lemon dressing and Parmesan
  • The Velvety Broccoli Pasta Sauce - except this time with lots of fresh garlic and and goat cheese instead of feta

Karen Gillingham, a food stylist and market aficionado in Los Angeles (and, full disclosure, my mother), has the following suggestions based on her last visit to the Hollywood Farmers' Market:

  • Fava bean bruschetta or grilled artichokes with a lemony fava bean puree (made with lots of olive oil)
  • Pasta carbonara with fresh Peas or asparagus
  • Blanched kale or spinach salad with a blackberry dressing
  • Cornmeal cakes with balsamic strawberries or rhubarb

The Week 6 Assignment

  • Get your pantry stocked. If you have already done this in previous weeks, or if you don't want to spend any extra money this week, just promise me you have some good salt on hand. That's all I ask! The full list will be published tomorrow. A shorter list will go out today in the email. (Sign up!)
  • Plan a meal, from start to finish, ideally taking your inspiration from what you find in the market. Use the comments section below to post a list of your loot, and we'll help you put something together. Don't be scared. Go for it! Stay as in-season as is possible at this tender young stage of spring.
  • Post photos of the process in the Kitchn Cure Flickr Pool - we need photos of what you're up to to post on the site. What you're doing inspires everyone else.

And it inspires me, too. I hope you all know that.

All The Info
Kitchn Cure: Week Five! Bread Baking Assignment
Kitchn Cure: Week Five! Taking Stock and Reporting Back
Kitchen Cure: Week Four! Fire Up the Stove
Kitchn Cure: Week Three! Use What Your Mama Gave You
Kitchn Cure: Week Two! Going Deeper - Goodbye Processed Foods!
Kitchn Cure: Week One! Getting Started and De-Cluttering Your Food
All Kitchn Spring Cure 2008 Posts
The Kitchn Cure Flickr Pool Page

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