Monday, March 8, 2010

5 things you should always have in the fridge

As I keep trying to convince you people, if you just keep a few basics around the kitchen you can easily create a meal even if you fail to plan. Here are five things I always have in the fridge, aside from the obvious like eggs and mayo and mustard.

  • Butter. This is the one thing you must never run out of. Buy large quantities when you find a good price. It doesn't really go bad, but I know people who keep extra in the freezer. I don't usually, but I always have at least three pounds in the fridge. You won't find margarine of any kind unless my son is home, in which case I will grudgingly supply him with Smart Balance. Then we argue about the merits or lack thereof of each of them. Bet you can guess which side I fall on. I'm not going to engage in a butter argument with you, so don't bother leaving an anti-butter diatribe in comments. Life without butter is not worth living.
  • Buttermilk. Buttermilk is wonderful stuff. You can use in an endless variety of baked goods as well as salad dressings and even homemade ice cream! It has a long shelf life. Really long. I don't think I have ever thrown away buttermilk. If it is getting close to the end of its shelf life, make pancakes for breakfast. Even if you are ridiculous enough to make pancakes from a mix, use the buttermilk in place of the water or milk. It makes your pancakes so tender. Pancakes without buttermilk are almost not worth eating. Buttermilk pancake mix is a lame substitute, especially when you consider that making pancakes from scratch requires less than five minutes effort to mix. Flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, butter, and buttermilk. That's it. One bowl, one liquid measure, one pyrex prep bowl to melt the butter in the microwave. How easy is that?
  • Cream. It makes everything better. Just a tablespoon or two. I don't use it every night, not by a long shot, but if I have cream I know I can always come up with something for dinner.
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese. Again, if you have some on hand you can turn rice into risotto, garnish pasta, make a gratin, it is indispensable. It also virtually never goes bad, so there is no excuse for not having it.
  • Capers and Sundried tomatoes. Okay, so that's two things. I couldn't decide which I needed more in the fridge. Both are great for adding some zip to sauces. And I can't live without capers on my smoked salmon and bagel and cream cheese for breakfast. Can't. Don't try to make me.

So of course there are lots of other things I think you should always have in the fridge. Start with these and let me know how it goes. I'll give you some more essentials soon.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Carne Asada

Boy, it seems I can only get around to posting on weekends. I am absorbed in work that I am really happy to be doing. I have a day job that is nice. The people are nice, it is low stress, but I also have another job that has exciting possibilities and people to work with who energize me and really value me. So when I find myself at my computer at 5:00 am I gravitate towards that work. Plus, no one has really annoyed me with their cooking or lame comments on food lately.

Today is Dear Hubby's birthday. He is now old enough to get a senior discount at the movies. I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he requested a Mexican Fiesta. We think it might be warm enough to fire up the grill today (40 degrees is my minimum grill temperature. I find that if you try to grill when the ambient temp is lower than that the grill doesn't get hot enough to sear the meat.) so I will make Carne Asada. Last night I mixed the marinade and put in four nice skirt steaks to soak overnight. Here in the great north we can't get the fabulous Carne Milanesa steak that we always had in California. I'm not sure what cut they used, but it was so thinly sliced that after it was marinated you only had to grill it for about thirty seconds per side. Then you would quickly slice it and wrap it in a nice warm tortilla with some salsa and guacamole, squeeze a lime over it and you were in heaven. Mexican food is just not the same here in New York. Sad.

My sister, of The Joy of Gluten Free, has a great recipe for Carne Asada marinade. Here it is.

1 C orange juice
1 C beer
1/2 C olive oil
1 sliced onion
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 C chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 bay  leaves
salt and pepper

Mix it all together and throw in the meat. As I said, I now use skirt steak. Just try to use something thin and tender. Grill it quickly so that you don't dry out the meat (Oh, perfect opportunity to take a jab at my BFF Prissie. She overcooks all meat. She hates meat, so she feels she has to ruin it for everyone else.) and serve it with warm flour tortillas, salsa, and guacamole. Yum! Happy Birthday, Honey!