Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen
Have you ever wished you could open up your pantry doors and whip up a simple meal?
I go through phases of this kind of self-reliance. Sometimes my pantry is well stocked and I can open the doors and cook up a masterpiece. Sometimes I open the doors of my well-stocked pantry and think – there’s nothing here that sounds good. I just can’t think of a way to pull it together into something fresh. Of course, there’s always spaghetti, but that gets old pretty fast.
If you often find yourself thinking what should I cook from my pantry – then Urban Pantry is the book for you.
Amy Pennington shares her love of simple cooking and having a well stocked the pantry in every page. Stocking a pantry takes organization and even though my country pantry is much different from Amy’s urban pantry, there are still important lessons to be learned.
“Pantry simply means a room or closet used for storage from which food is brought to the table.” We all have something like it in our home. We may have a shelf devoted to preserves, another for grains and another for cereal that the kids eat. There is not usually a distinction between wet and dry goods. I consider my refrigerator and freezer to be as much a part of my pantry as the canned food cupboard.
This book makes the distinction between building a pantry and stocking a pantry. Building a pantry can be a chore and is best done over time. This will cut down on waste. It is easy to fill it with unusual ingredients that you find at the grocery store but those tend to sit on the shelf. Amy suggests we try one new item, experiment with it, and discover the many ways it can be used.
Stocking your pantry focuses on adding key ingredients and provisions so that we can cook a meal with what we have on hand at any time. It’s about the things we just every day.
Chapter 1 – Stocking the pantry has suggestions for flours, sugars, oils & fats, wine& vinegar, dried fruits, ready to eat goodies, the fresh pantry and of course, chocolate. Some of these suggestions were definitely urban and probably easier to find in the city, (emmer flour, caster sugar and Shao xing wine) than they would be in my small town. Even still, I thought it was a great way to begin thinking about the kinds of flour and sugar I want to have available in my pantry at home.
Chapter 2 – Kitchen Economy suggests ways you can be resourceful in your kitchen with leftovers, canning and kitchen scraps. Here you will find recipes for “Resourceful Chicken Stock”, “Vegetable Scrap Stock” and “Bones and Beans”, to name a few.
With chapters covering Whole Grains, Beans & Peas, Cooking with Eggs and Nuts you will find several recipes and tips to add to your own pantry . Each recipe has a “Pantry Note” after it, with helpful use tips. I thought these were a nice touch and there was something to be learned in each one of them.
- You can easily substitute other greens for the kale in this recipe – chard or spinach work well.
- This salad will hold for five days in the fridge in an airtight container. If you make extra barley, set some aside so you can store it in a plastic bag in the freezer. Toss the frozen grains into warmed milk for an easy weekday breakfast. If you don’t have coconut oil, use olive oil to fry the potatoes.
- Follow the same instructions with just about any berry. Try varying the citrus as well. Strawberries love orange, and raspberries love lemon. This berry syrup will keep refrigerated for two weeks or frozen in an airtight container for four to six weeks.
There are pages set aside for in-depth discussion of a topic ranging from what to store in your spice cupboard to homemade nut meals and nut butters.
What does Amy suggest you store in your spice cupboard? (See page 105) The must-have spices are:
- Black peppercorns
- Coarse salt
- Curry powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Whole coriander
Who is the book Urban Pantry for?
If you are trying to eat healthier and have access to the grocery store for fresh vegetables and bulk grains, this book is for you. The recipes are not for kids, or at least not something my kids would enjoy.
So, if you think that learning to create Vanilla Quinoa Pudding (page 67), Minted Yogurt Soup (page 119), or Fizzy Ginger Soda (page 154) are additions you want to make to your culinary skills, then this is the book for you.
Me? I’m heading out to learn how to preserve lemons (page 80).
Here are the instructions from Amy Pennington in her book Urban Pantry
Preserved lemons can be added to a compound butter and add a nice flavor to room-temperature salads. They can also be used as a quick garnish or added to steamed vegetables.
Use a regular or Meyer lemon. Cut off the blossom end of the lemon. Slice into quarters, leaving the end intact so they are split open into fours, but still “whole” lemons. Rub each lemon with about 1 tablespoon of coarse salt, making sure to press salt into the flesh and cover the rinds. Place the lemons in a clean glass jar, and press down to expel some juices. Cover and store on the counter to monitor progress for three days. Over the next several days, the jar should fill, covering them lemons in their own juice. If after three days, the lemons are not submerged, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice to cover fully. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for three to four weeks before using. After the lemons are completely soft and preserved, store them in the fridge and use within six months.
Rinse preserved lemons thoroughly in cold water before using. You must rinse off the salt, leaving only the sweet skin. You can scrape out the pulp and pith and use it finely chopped or thinly sliced. Adjust the salt content of your recipe if you are using a whole lemon in your recipes.