Pantry Update #8: And then it was Spring

My previous update was a month ago. It’s not that I haven’t cooked anything. It’s that so much of what I have made as been basics and fresh ingredients! I did manage to find uses for a few of my pantry items too.

A sampling of meals using none of the items in the inventory:

  • A pile of perfectly green and thin roasted asparagus
  • Homemade clam chowder with chorizo and turnips instead of bacon and potato (orchestrated by Will)
  • Bell peppers stuffed with a seasoned filling of rice, tomatoes, beans, and corn, topped with cheese
  • Slices of big juicy tomato, Miracle Whip, and thinly sliced mortadella on nutty, whole wheat toasted sandwich bread
  • Fried eggs on a shakshuka-inspired tomato and red pepper sauce, all piled on pan-toasted buttery fried croutons
  • Homemade crackers!

Dish #35: Roasted eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper wraps with hummus, caramelized onion, fresh basil, and hot sauce

It came to me suddenly in a flashback: I used to regularly make myself hummus, roast up some veggies, caramelize onions using a cheater method my aunt’s friend taught me (wilt them, then add balsamic and teaspoon of sugar to darken and flavour), and then wrap that all up with fresh basil and a drizzle of hot sauce. What’s more, I think I even learned this combo from a “recipe”. I can’t find the recipe to link to, but anyway, do you need one?

Besides the chickpeas and the new addition tahini, I also used the Crazy Bastard sauce from Update #1.

Dish #36: “Breakfast poutine” with homemade curds and gravy

Rennet
Rennet

Some months ago, I spotted “breakfast poutine” in my Facebook feed courtesy of my friend Desmond who lives in Montreal, and I went ahead and bought rennet and cheese culture to make my own curds. Fast forward to two weeks ago and I learned that the rennet was set to expire at the end of March and the culture was supposed to have been refrigerated all this time.

I was discussing with my work colleague Matthias that I should use the damn rennet already. As it happened, we were both going to be spending a weekend with a group of mutual friends at his girlfriend’s family vacation home on the Baltic Sea. We made a date to make curds and gravy during the week so that we could serve breakfast poutine.

I won’t go in to extensive detail about making the curds since if you are truly serious about it, you should focus your energy reading the detailed procedure Matthias led us through. Fresh curds are really the kind of thing you should make on a Saturday afternoon and eat on a Sunday. Or at least, start earlier than 8pm, like we did.

homemade-curds
A sack of homemade cheese curds

While making the curds, we also made a rich stock for gravy from browned chucks of bone-in beef, and what the Germans call soup greens but what the French call mirepoix. We froze the curds and the reduced stock to keep them best until a few days later.

On the morning of serving, I made oven fried potatoes and thickened the gravy with a rich buttery roux. The version Desmond had photographed was made with poached eggs, which was collectively decided to be too much effort and so I made soft boiled eggs instead. Matthias piled the finished potatoes onto two platters, sprinkled them with fistfuls of cheese, and smothered them with gravy. The platters went back into a low oven to melt the cheese.

We served the platters of poutine with a dish of peeled, still-warm 6-minute eggs, and a massive spread of fruits, cold meats, and even more cheese. And ketchup.

breakfast-spread
Breakfast feast
poutine-my-hand-for-scale
Platter of breakfast poutine #myhandforscale
breakfast-poutine
Home fries, cheese, gravy, 6-minute egg

The cold curds crumbled in your mouth (sad face) but when they were melted, were squeaky (happy face!). In addition to the homemade curds, we bought some backup cheese to try – a braided Turkish variety that is a lot like hard, stringy mozzarella. The verdict was that while it was not squeaky like the curds got when melted, it was a very reasonable substitution, flavour-wise.

Important aside

GET THIS: you can buy the entire 2006 edition of The Joy of Cooking for only €7.99 as an iOS app, which includes all the text searchable and available offline! This mean I can leave it until the very last waking moment (literally) to look up “oven fried potatoes” from my bed so I can find out how early* I need to get up the next day to start making breakfast for a crowd. Amazing!

* Between the chopping, soaking, drying, and roasting, oven fried potatoes take about one hour and 15 minutes. Add time for making a coffee first, and melting cheese all over them at the end, and you’ll need to be up at least two hours earlier than everyone else hopes to eat.

Dish #37: Sardines on crispbread

Sardines with lemon
Sardines with lemon

I am home alone tonight and did not know what to eat. Peter suggested I eat a tin of sardines on toast. I don’t have any bread, to I ate them on Wasa-brand sourdough crispbread. They were good.

sardines-in-tin
Dinner for one

Tally

Items used up: two
Items added: one
Items partly used: two
Items used from the “Just use already” category: one + I threw the cheese culture away

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