Week #3, Long Lasting Perishables
First we took a look at our Favorite Pantry Picks and then at our Frozen Food Favorites. Now let’s turn to perishables. The point of these lists is to set your kitchen up to be able to prepare a meal out of things you have on hand. Maybe you wouldn’t think of perishable foods as something you can always have on hand. Perishable foods, by definition, have a shorter shelf life and do go bad. But following is a list of perishable items that I rely on all the time that have a long shelf life. When these foods are combined with our Pantry Picks and Frozen Favorites you can quickly and reliably pull a meal out of your own kitchen at the spur of the moment that is infinitely better then commercial fast food.
1) Eggs will last in your refrigerator for 3-4 weeks past the sell-by date. Eggs are obviously versatile and can be turned into omelets, frittatas, quiches and fried rice. Eggs are an excellent source of protein.
2) Semi-hard cheeses like cheddar and manchego and hard cheeses like parmesan can keep in your refrigerator for 1- 2 months.
3) Smoked meats like bacon, prosciutto, salami and pancetta have a long shelf life when refrigerated and add strong flavor to recipes.
5) Onions, garlic and shallots should be stored in an open weave basket that allows air flow or in brown papers bags that have been punched with holes. Stored in this matter, these bulbs that add amazing flavor and are great anti oxidants are ready for you to use for 2 – 3 months.
6) Fresh herbs! Oddly enough fresh herbs can be kept longer then you think. Treat them like flowers and put in a glass with water. You can loosely cover the entire glass and herbs with a plastic bag with a few air holes and keep them in your refrigerator. Flat leaf parsley lasts the longest of the leafy herbs, and rosemary and thyme last even longer. Treated correctly you could get up to two weeks out of your fresh herbs. Undoubtedly the use of fresh herbs in a last minute ‘cook from what you have’ meal provides it with a level of freshness that is unexpected.
7) All kinds of winter squash and sweet and white potatoes. These vegetables should be kept on the counter or in the pantry in baskets (do not store potatoes with onions). All of these vegetables keep for a very long time and are delicious roasted, or roasted and then blended for soups.
Try this great recipe for Couscous Carbonara that combines a few of my favorite things I always have on hand. It has become one of my family’s favorites, and nobody will know you threw it together without a special trip to the store. Cooking the cous cous in the same method you use to cook risotto gives it a creamy fatty texture without having to add cream.
- 2 cups Israeli cous cous (also called pearl cous cous)
- 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 shallots, diced
- 10 ounces pancetta
- 4 -6 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley
- 4 eggs
- salt and pepper
- truffle oil (optional)
- Place a large heavy saucepan on the stove and set to medium heat. Add enough olive oil to thinly cover bottom of the pan and let oil heat up.
- Add pancetta and cook for 1-2 minutes. Do not brown. You are trying to melt the pancetta fat to infuse the salty taste into the oil.
- Add shallots and ground pepper to pancetta and stir until the shallots are softened.
- Add cous cous to the pan and stir, getting the oil coated onto the grains of cous cous while toasting the grain.
- Now add chicken broth about a cup at a time, stirring in between and adding additional broth as the grains absorb all the moisture. Continue this process until the cous cous is al dente. Turn heat off and cover cous cous.
- While the cous cous is resting, fill another shallow straight-edged skillet with water and a little salt and bring to a slow simmer. You will be creating soft poached eggs to top your cous cous.
- Crack eggs into separate small glass bowls while the water is heating.
- Now carefully add the eggs one at a time to the slowly simmering water, remove from heat, cover, and set your timer for 4 minutes.
- In the meantime, move back to your cous cous. Turn heat back on medium and add the parmesan cheese. Taste. Add salt and pepper and taste again. Adjust as needed. You can use additional chicken broth if the mixture has become too dry. Add the fresh chopped parsley (reserving a few sprigs) and mix. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- When the 4 minute timer goes off, remove eggs with a slotted spoon and rest on a folded paper towel to absorb moisture. Add a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Make 4 indentations in the cous cous, and gently place soft poached egg in each indentation.
- Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil, and garnish with a few fresh sprigs of parsley.
- Serve this rich, creamy, filling and fabulous entree with a side salad of arugula dressed simply with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.