It’s only fitting that I made polenta for the first (actually second, we had oatmeal for breakfast) meal of the month. I wanted to jump right in and start to tackle the enormous amount of polenta staring me down from the pantry, so I made this completely non-authentic soft polenta in only 10 minutes, by just whisking polenta into plenty of salted, boiling water. I had some spicy tomato sauce leftover from last week, as well as a wee bit of sauteed garlicky kale from yesterday, so on top they went, for a quick, tasty lunch.
The 1.5 cups of polenta I used meant there was a lot of leftovers, so I put some in a pyrex to firm up. Hoping to cut it into squares and pan fry for dinner. Stay tuned for polentapalooza!
10 months ago I bought a small countertop compost caddy and started collecting food scraps for compost. Over the past 10 months, I have learned two things:
- It really doesn’t smell! When I initially bought the compost bucket, I didn’t want to spring for one of the beautiful (and more expensive) stainless ones that I saw, especially since I didn’t know if collecting and storing rotting food scraps on my kitchen counter was going to be a habit I stuck to. Well, I did stick to it, probably in large part because it doesn’t smell.
- It’s pretty remarkable how much waste can be diverted from the regular trash – and therefore from landfills!
Since I live in an apartment without a yard or outdoor space, I bring my collected food scraps to the Forest Hills Greenmarket on Sundays. My compost bin is only 2.5 gallons, and since I have so many scraps, mid-week I often empty the bin into a paper bag which I freeze. When I go to the market to drop off on Sundays, I bring the frozen scraps (which also don’t smell!) and the fresh scraps from the countertop.
GrowNYC, who runs NYC’s Greenmarkets and their compost programs, has many online resources to help you in your composting adventures. If you live in NYC and you’re interested in starting to collect your kitchen scraps, please check here to find a drop-off location near you. Additionally, there are a few neighborhoods which are part of a municipal compost pilot program! Exciting! Hopefully the initiative will expand to more and more neighborhoods in the coming months and years.
Here are some tips to get your started:
- Set out a bowl when you’re cooking to collect your peels, odds/ends, and skins.
- There’s definitely a learning curve with remembering not to throw some things into the garbage, but you’ll get the hang of it. You can compost most organic non-animal material, so leftover pasta or grain, stale bread, and egg shells (an exception to the non-animal product rule), tea bags, and last week’s cut flowers can all be composted.
- I line my bin with this compostable liner, and I add some shredded newspaper or brown paper bag on the bottom which makes it easier to transfer when I’m ready to either freeze or bring to the market.
I actually thought I would have a lot more beans and nuts than I do! This past CSA season I ordered a double batch of beans, but I’ve gone through almost all of them since I “borrowed” a pressure cooker from a friend (borrowed is in quotes since it was months ago, and I have yet to give it back; she is so nice and says I can keep it as long as I’d like, but I really have to give it back). I used to be scared of pressure cookers, I had heard horror stories of exploding pots and dirty ceilings. Alas, this one is an electric counter-top version that plugs in and is virtually foolproof. It also eliminates the need for presoaking beans, which is really the best thing in the world. Dried beans can go from the bag/jar to the plate in 10-30 minutes! Here’s a closer look at what I’ll be cooking my way through come February.
- 1.5 cups raw pepitas, Trader Joe’s
- 1 cup raw sliced almonds, TJs
- 1.5 cups chia seeds, TJ
- 1 lb organic green split peas, Purcell Mountail Farms
- 1.5 cups garbanzo beans, Goya
- 3 cups organic green lentils, Fairway bulk
- .5 lbs raw ground almonds, TJs
- 1.5 lbs organic popping corn, TJs
- 1 cup whole raw almonds, Walgreens (!!)
- 2 cups organic black beans, Fairway bulk
- .5 lbs red kidney beans, Goya
- 1 lb organic whole ground flaxseed meal, Bob’s Red Mill
- 2 cups roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, TJs
- 1.75 lbs roasted unsalted peanuts, TJs
- Addendum: After I took these pictures, and as I was putting everything back, I found 1/2 lb of raw cashews from Fairway, oops.
And although it wasn’t #fromthepantryfebruary yet, with this weekend’s historic snow storm, we sure cooked like it was! I made a big ole pot of [non-traditional] minestrone with the last pound of my Purcell Mountain garbanzo beans, plus a couple of straggling CSA veggies from the crisper (rutabaga, I’m looking at you), roasted CSA tomatoes from the freezer, and some cabbage, carrots and onion from Fairway. And what goes best with a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day? Fresh bread! Matthew made two loaves this weekend: one 1/2 whole wheat boule (above) and one whole wheat sandwich loaf with cooked buckwheat, polenta, and rolled oats. Booyah! Getting through that million pounds of polenta one tablespoon at a time!
Let’s just say I have to get reallllly cozy with polenta, since I have 8.5 lbs of the stuff in my pantry! With the combo of a double CSA flour share (which gave me a net of 7 pounds), plus a stray Bob’s Red Mill 1.5 pound, I did some complex cross-multiplying to figure out how many portions of polenta I have on my hand. Well, the answer is: ONE-HUNDRED TWO portions of polenta in the near future. Needless to say, I’m taking polenta recipe recommendations, so if anyone has any favorites, send ’em my way.
Here is my grain inventory:
- 6 pounds of polenta (coarsely ground; combo of Purcell Mountain Farms and Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 cup corn flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 2 pounds organic hulled buckwheat (Purcell)
- ~3 cups of long grain organic white rice (Fairway bulk bin)
- 1 pound organic amaranth (Purcell)
- 2 pounds organic hulled barley grain (Purcell)
- 2 cups organic white basmati rice (Fairway bulk bin)
- 1/2 cup organic wild rice (Fairway bulk bin)
- 1/2 cup organic pearled barley (Fairway bulk bin)
- 1 pound organic black quinoa (Purcell)
- 1 1/4 cup organic sweet rice (Purcell)
- 1 pound organic sprouted rice (Purcell)
- 1 pound organic oat groats
- 2 pounds organic rolled oats (Bob’s)
- 1 28oz can of steel cut oats (McCann’s)
The mission of Sustainable Pantry is to showcase easy, home-cooked meals inspired by a well-stocked pantry.
Well, let’s just say my pantry has become a little *too* well-stocked.
Currently my pantry is bursting at the seams with bags and bins filled with grains, beans and pasta; there are jars with homemade chutneys and pickled onions made by friends; there are numerous small-batch jams brought back from vacations near and far. My freezer holds extra containers of tofu and setian bought on sale, as well as close to 20 pounds of tomatoes from this fall’s CSA bounty.
I am committing to cooking #fromthepantry this February and I’m inviting all of you to join me! Cooking from the pantry is a great way to save money, reduce food waste and get out of your kitchen habits. The dividends of cooking from your pantry are clearing out all those nooks and crannies in your kitchen and creating more space.
There aren’t really any “rules” to this challenge, and you may still have to buy some fresh ingredients to be able to use some of your pantry items, but you might surprise yourself! I’m excited to see what we all come up with when we limit ourselves to the ingredients already in our house – it’ll be like shopping in your own pre-stocked store!
Please join me for #fromthepantryfebruary! You can participate for a day, a week, or the whole month – I can’t wait to see what we all come up with. Please tag your posts with #fromthepantryfebruary so I can share what you’re all making!