My mission lately is to try to cook out of what’s already in my pantry and fridge. I’m tired of running to the commissary every other second, and have a pantry stuffed to the gills but having “nothing” to make for dinner.
Instead of looking for recipes which I then have to acquire ingredients for, I am looking for recipes that use what I already have. I am making some allowances, however. Today we went to the commissary for one green pepper and one carton of sour cream. Of course, we came out with far more than that, but at least it was only $38. We got a fair amount for that little too. Kurt informed me that we were out of fruit, lunch meat, and cheese, and he’s always wanted to try granola in some yogurt, so that was more things that we needed. But we bought the cheapest granola and the big tub of vanilla yogurt, which is always more cost-effective than buying the little tubs. Not as delicious, that’s true, but sometimes deliciousness doesn’t always win out.
Last night’s dinner was mapo tofu, which is ground pork and tofu in a spicy sauce. Kurt had bought some ground pork a couple weeks ago to use in a rice soup recipe I found in a Thai cookbook, and then I managed to use up more of that ground pork in some jerked pork burgers that were absolutely divine. I had just enough left for the mapo tofu, and I had almost everything else on hand. And what I didn’t have, I improvised. This meant I used Korean hot pepper paste instead of Chinese hot bean paste. And for someone as OCD as I am, this is huge.
I am not one to substitute. I am not one to fake something. I am a rule-follower, and that includes cooking. This is why my first attempt at homemade breadsticks came out so badly. The recipe called for 1¼ cups of milk, so 1¼ cups of milk is what I used. There wasn’t nearly enough liquid, and the breadsticks were heavy and dense. Then I started using my KitchenAid to mix the dough, and I also added a little bit more liquid until I had what felt like a good consistency to the dough to me. Every time I bent the rules and used more liquid, I had better results.
So I am learning. Slowly, though.
But the mapo tofu came out well, Korean hot pepper paste notwithstanding. I think it needed a lot more spice, but Grace was eating it as well, so I had to err on the side of caution. Next time I’m going to up the amount of gochujang to see if it turns out more deliciously.
Tonight’s dinner ran along the same lines — use up what you already have. I made roast lemon chicken on Monday, so I had a whole breast left over. What to do with it? Easy. Chicken tacos. That’s why I needed the green pepper and the sour cream. And of course cilantro was necessary. How do you have tacos without cilantro??
Did you know there is an entire Facebook group devoted to people who hate the flavor of cilantro? We’re not talking a casual distaste of the herb; we’re talking full-on loathing with a white-hot passion. I used to think cilantro tasted funny (what you Brits call “coriander,” in case you were wondering; “coriander” here in the States is the seed that’s ground and sold in jars), but then I realized it’s what makes fresh salsa at Mexican restaurants taste so deliciously. Then I started buying it to use in my own kitchen, and now I’m more likely to use cilantro than parsley. Though now the commissary sells flat-leaf parsley, where before they would sell only curly-leaf which has no flavor (and hence the reason I would turn to cilantro in the first place), so now I might switch between the two more often. Fresh flat-leaf parsley is good! Especially with butter and potatoes. Nom.
Tomorrow’s dinner will be salmon cakes. I made them for the first time a few weeks ago, and Kurt loved them. I know he loves the garlic aioli that goes with them. How could you not?? Fresh garlic, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. That’s it. It’s very strongly flavored, but it’s truly yummy. Of course, you have to make sure everyone around you eats the aioli so that no one notices your garlic breath, but that’s a small price to pay.
Salmon cakes are cheap to make too. A large can of salmon goes for $1.25 or so at the commissary and makes eight small cakes, and we each get two. Well, Kurt gets three because he’s a big manly man. But I can’t decide what else to make with it. Veggies, of course, but potatoes? Mashed, roasted, parsley potatoes? Or rice? Or even couscous?? I can’t decide. What goes with salmon cakes?
I can’t be expected to make all the decisions, all the time!