Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pantry Raid

A well stocked pantry is the key to success in the weeknight kitchen.  No time to run to the store.  No cash for store running, and no motivation to do anything but act like

 a queen
 on the couch flanked by a couple of dog sentries, some knitting, a book on audio,  and comfort food that will still allow me to zip up my jeans in the morning.  
Many of my "go to" recipes require only a few simple ingredients: an egg, some pasta, some herbs and spices, cheese, frozen dough of one kind or another for instance.  Oh and an emergency brownie mix.  Key.  
I keep these things at the ready most of the time and always have the makings for a stir-fry or salad dressing or saute of one kind or another depending on that special mood, my creativity level, and what's fast, thawed, and ready for take off.  
I don't have a large pantry - well my laundry room could be considered my Kitchen Walk-In Closet, but inside the kitchen footprint is just a small closet with about 4 shelves.  I find keeping few ingredients that are always fresh is more important than an elaborate selection.
I like a variety of oils:  Canola (for baking mostly), olive (regular and extra virgin, peanut (for stir fry and deep fry.)  I have a good measure of Asian seasonings like soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, chili oil, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, Tamarind, and miso.  And then there are vinegars.  This is where it gets interesting.  I have a slight obsession.  And they have a really long shelf life so I'm inclined to indulge.  Essential:  Cider vinegar (for pickles and dressings,) wine vinegars (red, white, champagne, sherry,) seasoned rice vinegar, balsamic, and of late, a dark chocolate balsamic that is amazing.  You can drink it straight up, but I like it to dab behind my ears on date night, or occasionally drizzle on a grilled something.   
And then there's the unrefined "other side of the tracks" distilled white vinegar... Sadly this poor soul has been reduced to an occasional pickle, but most often -- a cleaning product.  However in that  respect he's highly regarded as we glow-in-the-dark Americans attempt to get all the pollutants out of our cleaning products. I buy it by the gallon.  However when it comes time to cook, I hate lugging out a big gallon jug of it, so I decided to raise his self esteem by making him an outfit before inviting him to dinner.

Here's what I did.  

I saved an interesting bottle.  In this case, a Knob Creek whiskey bottle.  I love its square unidentifiable shape and the tailored cork.  

I soaked off the label using a dishpan of hot water laced with baking soda.  Let it dry and used a funnel to load in the "juice".  

Then I made a cute tag.  I didn't stick on a label because it would just get icky after washings or drips.  This way I can remove the tag during usage and slip it back on when he's ready to go back into the pantry.

Distilled White Vinegar Made Fancy
If you think it's silly, I dare you to try it.  I think it's gonna make you smile every time you pull it out. And wait til your Mother-in_Law gets a load of it!