It is astounding how many chemicals are used in processed foods and even the "light" varieties have ingredient lists that make me cringe. Sugar everywhere, gelatins, yeasts and more, all to replicate foods that taste better with real ingredients anyway.
When I saw this article in the Times today by Mark Bittman (of the Minimalist cookbook fame) I nearly jumped out of my chair. Beans, yes! real stock, yes! bacon, yes! fresh herbs, yes!
In addition there is such a thing as real wine. Wines made organically with no additives or sulfites and from indigenous yeasts. We are big fans of the Puzelat wines that are made this way.
Click here to read the rest of the article.
YOU SHOULD ALSO STOCK:
REAL BACON OR PROSCIUTTO Or other traditionally smoked or cured meat of some kind. If you have a quarter pound of prosciutto in the house at all times you can make almost anything — simple cooked grains, beans, vegetables, tomato sauces, soups — taste better. And, tightly wrapped, it’ll keep for weeks in the fridge or months in the freezer.
FISH SAUCE You have soy sauce, presumably; this is different, stronger, cruder (or should I say “less refined”?) in a way — and absolutely delicious. Use sparingly, but use; start by sprinkling a little over plain steamed vegetables, along with a lot of black pepper.
CANNED COCONUT MILK Try this: cook some onions in oil with curry powder; stir in coconut milk; poach chicken, fish, tofu, or even meat in that. Serve over rice.
MISO PASTE Never goes bad, as far as I can tell, and its flavor is incomparable. Whisk into boiling water for real soup in three minutes; thin a bit (with sake if you have it), and smear on meat or fish that’s almost done broiling; add a spoonful to vinaigrette. Etc.
CAPERS, GOOD OLIVES (BUY IN BULK, NOT CANS) AND GOOD ANCHOVIES (IN OLIVE OIL, PLEASE) The combination of the three makes a powerful paste, or pasta sauce, or dip.
WALNUTS And/or other nuts, but walnuts are most basic and useful. Try a purée with garlic, oil and a little water, as a pasta sauce, or just add to salads or cooked grains.
PIGNOLI With raisins, they make any dish Sicilian.
DRIED FRUIT For snacking, in braises (braised pork with prunes is a classic winter dish), or just soaked in water (or booze) or poached for dessert. Don’t forget dried tomatoes, too.
DRIED MUSHROOMS Don’t even bother to reconstitute if you’re cooking with liquid; just toss them in.
FROZEN SHRIMP Incredibly convenient.
WINTER SQUASH AND SWEET POTATOES These store almost as well as potatoes and are more nutritious and equally interesting. A sweet potato roasted until the exterior is nearly blackened and the interior is mush is a wonderful snack. The best winter squashes (delicata, for example) have edible skins and are amazing just chunked and roasted with a little oil (and maybe some ginger or garlic). For butternut- or acorn-type squashes, poke holes through to the center with a skewer in a few places and roast in a 400 degree oven until soft. Let cool, then peel and seed.