Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Primary Colors Of Your Kitchen

(These are primary colors.  Very important.  Without them there would be no green, purple, pink, orange, mauve, gray, you get the picture...)

I don't have many pictures in this post, but please keep reading because what I have to say is more important than an illustration.  Right now, my return flight departs Denver in about four hours.  I'm up, but my nephew is not, so I am mulling over a few lessons learned, ever so quietly, so that you (dear reader) can get your kitchen staples together and cook alongside me when I return.  Mom or not, these are the general, must-have ingredients that need to be in your kitchen cupboards to make meals faster, easier and tastier.   You can do a lot with them or a little, depending on your schedule.  They are the primary colors of your kitchen and recipe color scheme:

  • White Flour - Unbleached.  This seems like a DUH, but it's important to note the unbleached.  Though white flour is less healthy than wheat, it's easier to work with and unbleached is better because the bleaching process kills important vitamins.
  • 2 kinds of olive oil, one high quality & one larger, standard, affordable type.  We use Colavita for standard (cooking, baking, everything) and a nonspecific splurge of a tiny bottle of something special (taste oils at specialty food stores for your favorite) when the oil needs to stand out (i.e. dipping, etc.).
  • Garlic, shallot, onion - these should be in your possession at all times.  Buy dried garlic for backup, use fresh whenever possible (same with onion.  I've yet to find a "fresh" shallot).  A shallot is a small red layered cross between an onion and garlic.  It is very flavorful and versatile.  Of course onions, red or white, need to be around.  Try to move beyond the yellow ones in the grocery store and look for new varieties.  Always choose heirloom (and local) if available.  All three of these will be used time and time again.

  • Pasta - any kind.  Pasta is your friend.  It will assist you when ingredients run low.  Buy organic and buy a lot.  Reacquaint yourself with cooking it al dente.
  • Unsalted butter - get the sticks back in your fridge.  Ditch that tub of Smart-whatever-butter (or buy both).  You need the little logs.  Simply put, they are easier to use when measuring.  I hate trying to get an exact tablespoon out of a cold tub of butter.  This change will be a huge time saver for cooking and baking.
  • Kosher Salt / Sea salt - Morton's salt is like the strip mall of salts (that's a bad thing).  Kosher is grind able and saltier so you use less.  Use a good sea salt sparingly along with the quality olive oil.  Cook with Kosher salt on a regular basis.
  • Red Star Dry Active Yeast - even if you have never made bread in your life, this stuff is like the door to Narnia and will guide you to doing creative doughs and breads you never knew you could do.  Have it around for when you are bored.  It wants to hang out on the shelf with the unbleached flour.  It's quick and available everywhere.
  • Farm fresh eggs - as you can see from TwinYolks, we wouldn't survive without them.  I go through almost 2 dozen a week (I bake, too, believe it or not) and I still get excited about the different colors they come in and their rich flavor.  If you are still buying the white-only please branch out.  There is nothing to fear from a brown (or pink, or green) egg.
  • Lemon - good recipes call for grated lemon zest.  We don't get lemons locally, because we don't live in the tropics, but my sister has a lemon tree that produces lemons, looks beautiful and makes her house smell clean.  An apt solution (a mature lemon tree costs about $45.00).
  • Whole milk - you cannot be afraid of calories when you are cooking with local foods.  Whole milk is good for you and it enriches the flavor of everything you use it with, from cereal and cookies to sauces and pancakes.  We buy Grade A Unpasturized Whole Milk (though the government is making this difficult) from the CSA.  If you can't find anything similar in a store (you will have to look hard, maybe even ask around) and are skeptical about whole milk, at least get a half gallon of something high quality - you need it.  Anything less than whole tastes like water - why spend all that money on milky water?
Yes, you CAN find and join a CSA.  They are everywhere.  Give it a try and let it change your life.  You don't have to buy everything all the time, but incorporating better tasting foods slowly will make you hungry for more, and I promise you, it is delicious.

Lastly, moms, daughters, grandmothers, dads and dudes, everyone who wants to cook needs the ultimate staple: a GREAT cookbook.  Do your life a favor and buy The Kitchen Bible.  It is the best book out there on techniques, recipes, and ideas.  It is easy to follow, gives time management tips for every recipe and even pairs meals with wines.  Simply put: You must own this book.  
Can't wait to cook with you - hope this helps it become an easier process.  Thanks for putting up with my sweet (yet so silly) husband while I was away.  You are the best.

Addendum - the BLUE primary color girl in the above photo makes the COOLEST fresh veggie onesies and tees for kids.  I mean, they are "put your hand over your heart and sigh" must - haves.  Put your money into supporting the anti-Hannah Montana mom who knows what's up.  You can check out the cuteness and fun here.  


Donn said...

Amen, amen. I think I've found our source for Ossabaw Island pig: Nature's Harmony. And he sells at the Athens Farmers Market!

Anna said...

Just found my way to your blog via Athens Locally Grown and I'm glad I did. After many years of reading and thinking about sustainable growing practices and simple cooking with quality ingredients, I, too, am starting to incorporate these things into my life on a regular basis. I'll be back to your blog often!
P.S. That yellow dress is killer!
Take care,

A.Kelley said...

Donn - I can't wait. We're getting some. We will have you and Ashley over and feast.

Anna - WELCOME! I am so excited for you, I'd love to hear more about what new things you are adding and what changes you are making. Glad you like the dress :)

kim said... ROCK!! Thanks for the shout out and for the incredibly simple, easy to remember list of staples - perfect for a busy mom! I will be the first in line to buy your book!!

Lenora Jane said...

LOVE this post Annie!!!!!! Two thumbs up.

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