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A peek in the pantry: kitchen favorites

January 26, 2009

Chers Amis,

What do you have in votre cuisine that you wouldn’t want to be without? Here a few of my favorites.

  1. My laptop – Outside of school hours my laptop resides on a black granite-topped kitchen cart beneath my spice rack. My dh bought me the moveable mini-island for Christmas two years ago to make up for the dearth of counter space in our original 1978 cuisine.
    Space is less important than connectivity. While I miss having someplace always ready to roll out cookie dough or place a hot pot, I can’t imagine being in my kitchen without my computer. It is like having my favorite cookbook, recipe box, and kitchen-mate right next to me. My favorite cooking website is, by Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazines. Great recipes, well tested and reviewed. My favorite feature is that you can set up a free account and save, categorize, and even annotate recipes in a virtual recipe box. Another excellent feature of a laptop in the kitchen is Skyping If you haven’t ever tried it, Skype is a free service that allows FREE video conferencing over the Internet. At New Years I was able to Skype my mom and two sisters while I made linguine with scallops and they enjoyed a glass of red wine in Texas. It was almost like being there. Now I just need smell-o-vision and Wonka’s chocolate delivery device.
  2. Pastes – This includes pesto, red/green Thai curry paste, olive paste and tomato bruschetta topping (yls bought me the olive and tomato toppings for Christmas. Delish!) Pastes are perfect for adding a splash of intense flavor to an otherwise run of the mill dish. Thin the pesto or Thai curry with a bit of olive oil, brush on shrimp or chicken breasts and grill.
  3. Salsas, chipotle chilies in Adobo sauce, black bean sauce and Hosin – Can you tell I like spicy food? Actually I love flavor and it does not have to be overwhelming, a small amount can add depth and warmth to everyday foods. Last week I made a really good pot of split pea with ham soup. I always like a touch of Tabasco (Oh, I should have included TabascoJ) in my bean soup, but this time I added a few tablespoons of hot salsa and it was terrific. I think I will add salsa as a regular ingredient to the soup!
  4. Polenta and its southern cousin, Grits – Polenta is made from finely ground corn meal which is boiled. Traditional polenta can take a very long time to cook with much stirring and attention required. Not so instant polenta from Delallo. I found this at Kroger a few months ago and hesitated buying it as I am frugal (cheap) and it was $2.50 a box, but I relented and was very pleased. It cooks in only 1 minute and makes a large amount. Half a box is more than enough for 5 -unless all 3 children are teenagers. Add crumbled blue cheese and serve with sautéed mushrooms for a nice change of pace. Last week I was out of crumbled blue (it is not a regular staple item needless to say!) so I substituted a few tablespoons of Marie’s BC dressing and it was still very good. Grated parmesan cheese is also good. Grits are a staple since we live in Georgia. I grew up on cheese grits for breakfast. Of course, we add grated cheddar or Colby Jack and not blue cheese in grits with eggs; although a jalapeño Monterey Jack is also good.
  5. Nutella –Ok, I only have time for one more item – Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread. It is not in the healthy food family, but it is delicious in small amounts and with a little peanut butter you can make Reese’s PB cup sandwiches – on whole wheat of course. I first had this in France when I was in high school (1980’s). Then you couldn’t find it in the US, now you can even find a Kroger store brand version.


One Comment leave one →
  1. January 27, 2009 7:12 am

    I just recently discovered polenta, and love it, but haven’t tried the Nutella yet. Peanut butter cup sandwich sounds yummy!

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