Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Healthy Pantry

I recently heard my crush, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters, speaking on KUOW. Right as I was about to change the station I heard a few words in a familiar voice and knew it was Michael Pollan so of course I tuned it. As always he had a lot of interesting things to say.
Next up was Mark Bittman. I hadn't heard him speak before but had just ordered his book so I was eager to hear what he had to say. Among other things he explained that with some basic supplies in your pantry and fridge, you could feed your family in less time and for less money than it would take to go to McDonalds. The price of food is quite expensive, and cooking can be quite the chore if you don't enjoy it, but he gave some pointers on what to have on hand to whip up a quick, healthy, inexpensive dinner. I did a little googling to get my hands on the list.
I also found a great article in The New York Times Dining & Wine section, "Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen," where he provides a great list of things to ditch and things to buy.
And here's the list of things he suggests to have stocked in your pantry...

Mark Bittman’s Healthful Pantry
  • Grains: Mostly whole; include rice, cornmeal and whole-grain flours. Once you figure out which grains you like, buy them in bulk and keep some in the cupboard and some in the freezer.
  • Beans: Choose an assortment of dried beans, but not more than you can use in a few months. Canned are fine but more expensive with less selection, and do not taste as good.
  • Olive oil: Your go-to oil, extra-virgin in almost every case. Country of origin does not matter; price does. The $10-a-liter stuff is perfectly fine.
  • Other oils: Something neutral for cooking Asian-style dishes or pan frying at high heat, such as grapeseed, sunflower or peanut. The key is minimally processed, high-quality, cold-pressed oil, when possible.
  • Staple vegetables and fruits: These include much-used seasoning varieties, such as onions and garlic; frozen vegetables including spinach, peas and corn; and fresh vegetables, which you have to buy at least a couple of times a week. Long keepers such as carrots, potatoes, celery, lemons and limes can be replenished as you use them.
  • Fresh herbs: Something as simple as parsley can make all the difference in a dish; almost all herbs, especially basil and mint. Dill, rosemary, thyme and cilantro are great to have around too.
  • Spices: As varied an assortment as your space and budget will allow.
  • Vinegar: Bittman thinks sherry vinegar is the best value because it is the most versatile; balsamic is more popular but sweeter. Well-made red and white wine vinegar are good.
  • Dried fruits and nuts: For snacking and cooking, plus sesame and sunflower seeds and nut butters.
  • Meat, dairy and cheese (mostly for flavoring, used sparingly): Parmesan, bacon, butter and eggs.
  • Canned tomatoes: Plum tomatoes are best; chopped tomatoes make life easier. Avoid those with additives.

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