The Student Foodie: Hoarder's Treasure

The+Student+Foodie%3A+This+blog+follows+seasonal+trends+in+culinary+arts+and+offers+fun+and+creative+recipes+that+are+easy+for+anybody+to+make.+Check+out+more+blog+posts+at+theNewtonite.com.+Graphic+made+by+Julia+Moss.

The Student Foodie: This blog follows seasonal trends in culinary arts and offers fun and creative recipes that are easy for anybody to make. Check out more blog posts at theNewtonite.com. Graphic made by Julia Moss.

The Newtonite

The Student Foodie: This blog follows seasonal trends in culinary arts and offers fun and creative recipes that are easy for anybody to make. Check out more blog posts at theNewtonite.com. Graphic made by Julia Moss.
The Student Foodie: This blog follows seasonal trends in culinary arts and offers fun and creative recipes that are easy for anybody to make. Check out more blog posts at theNewtonite.com. Graphic made by Julia Moss.

by Douglas Abrams

I think that all cooks should become hoarders. Whether it’s stockpiling a pantry or filling a freezer, every cook needs an arsenal of ingredients ready for use at any time.

Start your stockpile with specialty ingredients that you love and cook with regularly––for me its Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, good quality crusty bread, and parmesan cheese. Finish your stockpile with basic staple ingredients that you use every time you cook––onions, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, dried pasta, frozen vegetables––whatever you use on a daily basis.

Once you have a good stockpile, the fun begins. One of my favorite things to do is to try to put a delicious dish together mixing and matching ingredients I have lying around my house. My best invention was pea and mint pesto.

I started by cooking one bag of frozen peas in salted boiling water for a couple minutes, or until the peas were warm and soft and cooked through. Then, I strained the peas and reserved about a cup of their salty cooking water.

To make the pesto, I combined the cooked peas with a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a clove of finely minced garlic, salt, pepper, and lots of grated parmesan cheese in a food processor. I then processed the ingredients until they formed a thick puree, adding the cooking water as needed to thin out the pesto.

As a final adornment to the pesto, I added a couple of leaves of fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon––just enough to lift the flavors of the formerly frozen peas. Serve this pesto, which is zingy and bright over cooked pasta with even more cheese.

Another one of my favorite ways to use pantry ingredients is in a simple vinaigrette. All I do is combine two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar with four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil  and a tiny dab of dijon mustard. I whisk the ingredients together until they emulsify and become slightly thick and creamy. I season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper, and maybe a dash of dried herbage if I’m feeling extra chefy.

This is also a great make-ahead dish. You can (as I do) make a large vat of vinaigrette and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Whenever you want to use it, just shake the jar to re-emulsify the ingredients and pour over salad or pasta.

With a fully stocked supply of ingredients the cooking possibilities are endless. Try creating new dishes by mixing and matching pantry ingredients in different ways. And don’t let the fact that the ingredients are coming from the freezer or are sitting around for a long time convince you that pantry and freezer meals aren’t special. Some of my best dishes have come out of the freezer or a box.