…my wife Adri and I moved out of our apartment in New York at the end of April. For a full month before heading off on a three-month trip through Asia, we were staying with friends who, despite their hospitality, had a severely understocked kitchen. And now, having finally moved into a new apartment in San Francisco, we’ve had to endure the past three weeks waiting for our boxes packed with kitchen tools to arrive. What is an itinerant cook to do?
Luckily, we were wise enough to plan for this and put together an emergency kitchen-in-a-box containing all the hand tools, small gadgets, knives, and pots I’d need to cook great meals for two people with no extra frills. With the contents of this box you can saute, simmer, boil, braise, and roast. You can even make cakes and breads, or boil pasta or rice. You can make casseroles or quick one-skillet dinners. You can pan-roast fish or make a small batch of stock. The best part? This entire collection of stuff fits inside a single standard small cardboard box, which means that you can take it with you on that weekend getaway to the ski lodge or the beach and know that you’ll be in good shape.
I call it my Emergency Cooking Kit, and I plan on stocking all of my future bomb shelters (or earthquake shelters, as the case may be) with an ECK of their own.
Archive for Learning
This is less “how to fix” than “how to avoid,” but these short simple lessons can make a lot of difference in the kitchen!
When you read this list of topics, think to yourself: DON’T DO THIS!
- Boiling pasta in a pot that’s too small.
- Using the wrong knife when preparing ingredients
- Using a tiny cutting board
- Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator
- Putting good knives in the dishwasher
- Overcrowding the pan.
- Choosing lean ground beef.
- Overmixing doughs and batters.
- Cooking with a cold pan and cold oil or butter.
- Searing meat over too-low heat.
- Adding garlic too early.
- Tossing cooked pasta with oil to prevent sticking.
- Using a nonstick pan for everything.
- Turning meat too often or too soon.
- Baking with cold eggs and dairy products.
- Slicing meat immediately after it’s cooked.
- Measuring dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup.
She knew she needed to take better care of herself, so she began experimenting with a garden, baking bread, doing whatever she could to supplement the Women, Infants and Children WIC food program staples she was receiving. She taught herself to cook with kale, collards, cabbage and other inexpensive and nutritionally dense produce. Neighbors came over. She taught them to cook, too.“ Although she’s not yet reached her dream of becoming a park ranger, Harris gets to spend plenty of time outdoors these days.She’s now teaching low-income families how to choose and cook healthy produce. She’s a culinary educator and SNAP outreach coordinator with the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit group dedicated to creating a more equitable local food system in the Washington, D.C. area.She drives the Center’s Mobile Market bus – a kind of farmers market on wheels — into some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.”Working at the Mobile Market, I talk to a lot of moms, and many of them tell me, ‘I don’t know how to cook.’ A lot of them are teen mothers. They pick up vegetables and say, ‘I don’t know what this is. Is it good? Is it hard to cook?’ ” Harris says. So she talks up the squash and the Swiss chard, offering tips on how to store and cook them.
The ubiquitous nutrition label on food packages is about to get its first overhaul in 20 years, a change that is likely to have a dramatic effect on what people choose to eat and drink and what products sell on supermarket shelves.Obama administration officials say the update, scheduled to be formally unveiled Thursday at a White House event, is necessary to keep pace with the science of nutrition and to reduce confusion about what qualifies as healthy food.
(GRAPHIC: A look at the proposed nutrition labels by the FDA. Akira Ono/Associated Press – On July 9, 2003, FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan announced that food labels would be required to list the amount of unhealthy trans fat during a news conference at the Health and Human Services Department.)
The new label, which could take years to appear on store shelves, includes more than a half dozen significant changes — such as more prominent calorie counts and more realistic serving sizes — that advocates see as key in fighting the country’s obesity epidemic. Years of research show that tracking calories may be more important than tracking fat consumption when it comes to your health.
Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Probably the first two words are most important. “Eat food” means to eat real food — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat — and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”
- Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, “What are those things doing there?” Pollan says.
- Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
- Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions — honey — but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.
- It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, ‘Tie off the sack before it’s full.'”
- Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. “Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?” Pollan asks.
- Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.
I’ve come up with a list of tips for parents who want to attempt to follow Pollan’s rules for eating:
- Get a rice cooker and make a habit of cooking up a big pot of rice every other day.
- Buy as much fruit on sale as you can afford, and try to start each day eating some.
- Frozen veggies last long and are often cheaper than fresh. Plus, some kids will just eat frozen corn and peas as snacks.
- Canned veggies aren’t as good as frozen, but better than no veggies. Except maybe canned asparagus. That shit is nasty.
- Butter and sprinkle Parmesan cheese can go a long way toward getting most kids to eat more vegetables and to making vegetables more satisfying.
- Don’t buy snack foods. Ever. Saves money and the kids won’t drive you nuts begging to eat crackers all the time.
- Crock pots are awesome – just throw all the stuff in a pot in the morning and turn it on. (Some kids have a hard time with big chunks of different foods mixed together. One fix for that is using a hand mixer and making pureed soups such as potato.) I love this Crock Pot cook book.
- Bread makers are also awesome, and I’m always seeing cheap ones for sale in thrift stores.
- Buy less milk and cereal. Oatmeal is way cheaper than cereal and milk, and often healthier, too. The dairy industry has hyped the nutritional value of daily milk consumption.
- Put all the veggies in the pasta. If the kids complain about chunks of veggies, puree it into sauces. Cauliflower works great in cheese or cream based sauces, and pretty much any veggies will puree well into a tomato sauce.
- Meat is expensive, full of fat, and lots of kids just want to eat that and then not veggies, so try to use it sparingly in rice or pasta dishes that stretch it further.
- Use beans more as a protein. They are cheap, are already cooked in the can, and can be prepared a gazillion different ways to suit different tastes. If worried about the salt in canned, you can cook dried beans or just rinse the canned ones.
- Make a lot of potatoes. They are cheap and taste good. The easiest thing I’ve found to do with them is chopping them into wedges, spraying them with veggie oil, sprinkle with salt, and 25 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees.
- In general if you have the time to cut up all the veggies or the money to buy them already cut up, roasting veggies is the bomb. Most veggies will roast well at 400 degrees for 40 min-1 hour. Ones I’ve gotten my kids to eat regularly: butternut squash, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, red peppers, onions, and sweet potatoes.
- Make refried bean quesadillas on corn tortillas. It’s as quick and easy to prepare as a toasted cheese sanwich or box of mac-n-cheese, but healthier. Corn tortillas and refried beans are cheap, and a small amount of melted cheese gets most kids to gobble it up.
[This post is a placeholder pointing to the permanent Pantry Basics page.]