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Monday, August 31, 2009

Bargain Wine of the Week: Mont Gras Carmenére

We got an eLetter from an online wine dealer the other day touting a Chilean Carmenére that scored 90 points (Wine Advocate) and cost only $14.80. It was a Vina Perez Cruz Carmenére Reserva Limited Edition 2006.

It reminded me that one of our favorite wines in the wine cellar (the cool area under the basement stairs) was a very inexpensive Carmenére.

You might not have heard of the grape. We certainly hadn't until we read an ad in the New York Times. It's mostly grown in Chile these days, but it was originally one of the grapes grown to make world-class Bordeaux wine in France.

You have to be careful buying Carmenére. You can pay a lot, but our thinking is that if you're going to spend $70 for a bottle of wine (we don't), why not buy a really good bottle of something else? And if you buy a cheap Carmenére, you can get burned.

We discovered it because a couple of years ago when the New York Times reviewed Carmenéres, its winner cost $70, but the second-best was a $10 bottle from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, which just happens to be one of our can't-miss wine valleys.

We actually found the wine, MontGras 2007 Carmenére online for less than $8, so we bought a case. It scored 90 points in Wine Enthusiast and 89 points in Wine Advocate. And the 2008 version scored even better at $10-$12 a bottle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rice Wine Vinegar: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We asked another friend, JP Vellotti, to write a guest blog. He's a food lover and cook, and his wife is a professional food writer.

When Tim asked if I could guest blogsit while he and Ruth get settled into their new digs, of course I said sure. In fact, I enjoyed writing my last guest post and I thought it would help me relieve some stress.

Why am I stressed, you ask? Oh, just because I have no job, I'm closing on a house in another state, my house hasn't yet sold, and did I mention that I'm buying a house while on unemployment?

But enough about me . . . seriously. Let's get down to eating well, cheaply.

When Tim, guest blogger Kevin Ireton, and I were a team at our former place of employment, we had a standing meeting on Monday mornings; I thought of it as my therapy session. In fact, these little tête-à-têtes may just have been the highlight of my week.

Although the "conversations" eventually focused on business, often the first item discussed were our great food finds on the previous weekend. Since my wife, Ramin Ganeshram, is a chef and culinary writer, my stories most often revolved around what great dishes she cooked, or what cool ethnic market we visited, or what chef invited us to dinner. I'm spoiled like that.

But since this whole moving thing, we haven't been anywhere notable, as she's cooking the pantry in an effort to avoid packing foodstuffs. I've attempted this myself a few times, but would refer to my endeavors as "massacring the pantry."

For example, yesterday at lunchtime, I found a half-dozen soy nuggets from Trader Joe's deep in the freezer. The best way to eat these, in my opinion, is to heat them in the microwave for a minute so until they get soft, then give them a quick fry in a dash of canola oil.

Which I'm pretty good at, but yesterday my dash of canola oil was actually sesame oil, followed by an expletive. Not one to leave things alone, I thought that my mixup would be corrected by a dash of rice wine vinegar and everything would have that "taste of the Orient."


It seems that rice wine vinegar prevents anything from browning. I ended up with six little sponges that tasted anything but pleasant. (I have a secret weapon for situations like this called "Sweet Baby Ray's" and will write about it in another post.)

So after a long day of packing, followed by a visit to the Goodwill drop-off center, I was starving and needed some real Asian comfort food. In my case, that's Drunken Noodles from the most unassuming Thai restaurant in the most run-down shopping center in my area.

As usual on a Friday night, the place was packed. While waiting for our dishes, we had a Thai salad which seemed little more than cucumbers in a tasty, clear dressing.

I'm sure Ramin could see my brain trying to figure out the flavor profile. She blurted out, "It's just rice wine vinegar and sugar."

I had to chuckle inside, having abused my palate with this same ingredient earlier in the day. Now that it was used correctly, I couldn't get enough.

Here's the salad recipe. It's been vetted by Ramin, so you can useoy it with confidence.

Thai Salad with Rice Wine Vinegar Dressing:

4 Kirby or Persian, or 1 large traditional cucumber, diced

1 T. each, carrots, onions, tomato, julienned (optional)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 t. white sugar (or less, as desired)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine cucumbers and other vegetables in small bowl and set aside.

Wisk together vinegar and sugar, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over vegetable mixture and allow to marinate from half an hour up to 2 hours.

Looks can be deceiving. My "Golden Rule" of judging ethnic restaurants is not by their exteriors or decors, but their cleanliness and clientele. At this nearly abandoned shopping center on Long Island, the Thai restaurant is mobbed every day for lunch and dinner. Next door, the sit-down Chinese-Japanese place is perpetually empty. Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Following a Recipe Doesn’t Make you a Cook

[NOTE: Here's the second installment from guest blogger Kevin Ireton:]

The idea of me writing a blog about cooking is truly laughable, though friends who have been to my house will claim otherwise. “Kevin’s a good cook,” they’ll say. But this much, at least, I have learned about cooking: It is not the same thing as being able to follow a recipe. I can follow a recipe, but I’m a long way from knowing how to cook.

At heart, I am a carpenter. I have worked at the trade, first for money and then for pleasure, for the past 30 years. Give me sufficient tools and materials, ask me to build something—a cabinet, say, or a house—and I will figure out a way. I understand plumb, level, and square.  I understand 2x4s and plywood. I know lots of different ways to cut, shape, and assemble them. So it is with cooking.

True cooks understand tools, techniques, and ingredients such that they can take what’s on hand and make something tasty. If I live long enough, I may get to the point where I can do that consistently enough to call myself a cook. But even now, I am occasionally forced by circumstances to take what’s on hand and assemble a meal, however humble, without a recipe. That’s what happened last night.

Like a lot of people, I tend to use food as a reward for myself, and last night I wanted something tasty. But all I had in house was a bunch of damned vegetables (our share of CSA box that we split with Tim and Ruth). What to do? I started with oven-roasted potatoes. They’re not quite as good as French fries, but close, and still a ready vehicle for ketchup.

Preheat the oven to 450.
Roughly cube the potatoes.
Coat with olive oil and salt.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, turning once halfway through.

While the potatoes were roasting, I turned my attention to the main dish. The box contained fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, and a banana pepper. I actually tried to find a recipe that included all of these things, but couldn’t, so I forged ahead, figuring “How bad can it be?”

I probably didn’t have to, but I boiled the corn first, and then trimmed it off the cob. After frying the chopped onions and diced pepper in a little olive oil for 10 minutes or so, I threw in the corn and some diced tomatoes just long enough to heat them up.

My Midwestern farmboy of a father would have said, “Where’s the beef?” But I sat down to a reasonably healthy, very satisfying meal that tasted good enough for me to feel rewarded. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rice and Beans and Unemployment

NOTE: While Tim and Ruth deal with the multiple anxieties of a new job, a long-distance move and a pitilessly deadlined project, they've invited their friend Kevin Ireton to sit in as guest blogger. In addition to being a fine writer and a devoted eater, Kevin has recently decided that it's time to learn how to cook.

I became an unemployment statistic back in April and committed myself to doing nothing for as long as possible. (I’m learning how not to be driven.) Well, almost nothing. I decided it would be good if I could learn to cook Mexican food (and then maybe Indian).

I haven’t gotten very far, but I learned to cook rice and beans, which may come in handy given my lack of income. I bought a copy of Rick Bayless’s book Mexican Everyday. Bayless has a fabulous restaurant in Chicago called Frontera Grill, which I was lucky enough to eat at when I had an expense account. He also has a TV show on PBS called Mexico, One Plate at a Time. But in truth, I bought his book because my friend Chuck, who really can cook, told me to.

Bayless says his favorite beans are the ones that “have bobbed for hours in the slow cooker,” so that’s what I use.

1 lb. beans (white Navy, red or black)
2 T. pork lard, vegetable oil or bacon drippings
1 medium white onion, chopped

For some reason, you’re supposed to bring the beans to a boil on the stovetop first. I’m not sure why, but I dutifully follow instructions. Then give them six hours on high in the crockpot. Throw salt in at the end.

The rice is even easier.

1 ½ tsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 ½ cups white rice
1 cup bottled salsa
1 cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups frozen peas

With the oven at 350 degrees, you set a medium (3-quart) ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and rice, stirring frequently for about five minutes. The rice is supposed to turn from translucent to milky white, but Tim (whom I frequently invite over to supervise when I cook) tells me not to worry too much about this stage. Add the salsa, chicken broth and half teaspoon of salt. Stir a couple of times and let the mixture come to a boil.

Cover the pan, and stick it in the oven for 25 minutes. You’re supposed to throw in the peas for the last five minutes, but I’ve never actually done that because we never have frozen peas in the house.

Oh, yeah, and “fluff the rice,” which I had to learn the hard way is quite different from fluffing one’s pillow. Who knew?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Secret to Good Fast Road Food

Tim may have discovered the secret (known by many, we're sure) to eating well and eating cheap on the road.

We wrote earlier about how much we hate
eating fast food, and that a long road trip on America's interstate highways almost ensures that you'll eat some fast food, whether you like it or not.

In his most recent six-hour trip, Tim ate breakfast immediately before he left and planned to stop somewhere (hopefully a Blimpies or a Subway) for a quick refueling.

At the New Jersey Turnpike service area, the gas line was a 30-minute wait and the food court was mobbed. Standing in line for a lousy piece of fried anything was out of the question.

He just took a deep breath and drove on. The parking lots and gas lines at the next four turnpike  service areas were even more crowded. It was Sunday after all. And the leftovers at home tasted even better on a very empty stomach.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2007 Meridian California Chardonnay

Meridian is another of those wines that goes up and down, not by large degrees but by tiny increments. When it's good, it is pretty good; when it's not so good, it is still pleasantly drinkable.

But it is always a bargain. We found this 2007 Chardonnay from its California series (the bottle shown is the 2006) for an incredible $7.87. These days, a good drinkable California Chardonnay for less than eight bucks is worth buying — at least for those weekdays when it is just you your close family.

When you uncork the bottle you'll immediately catch the aroma of vanilla and a waft of something uncertain in nature, which the winery says is "cut flowers." The wine is a mixture of grapes from three different Santa Barbara vineyards, and oak is kept to a minimum.

The flavors are citrus and pineapple. For an $8 bottle, it lasts relatively long in your mouth.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tomato Challenge: Roasted Tomato and Garlic Quinoa

Here's another submission to our Tomato Challenge, which was actually issued by another follower, Anonymous, who said she was drowning in tomatoes late in the season and had run out of ideas. This idea comes from Jamie Farley.

I don't have an exact recipe per se, since I just like to throw things together, but I like to do the following with my tomatoes for a healthy whole grain side dish or meal:

Roasted Tomato & Garlic Quinoa

I like to simmer several whole peeled garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover the cloves) in a small pan over the stove on very low heat until the cloves get nice and soft....
Roast several vine ripened tomato halves (de-seed if you wish) in the oven with fresh thyme on top - these don't take too long to get nice and roasted...

At the same time, make a few cups of Quinoa. (See How to Cook Quinoa.)

Roughly chop the roasted tomatoes and cooked garlic cloves and add them to the Quinoa with a few teaspoons of the garlic flavored olive oil.
Add a few fresh thyme leaves and salt and pepper to season to taste.

Hope you like it as much as I do ...

Jamie Farley

Tomato Challenge: Roasted Tomato Goodness as a Side, or on Pasta

We asked you all to send in recipes to aid others in taking advantage of this time of year when tomatoes are plentiful. Here's an easy one from sTyliSH1, a regular reader:

Okay, let me start by saying I love tomatoes! Like really really love them! I used to eat them as apples when I was a child, I say was because I no longer do so in fear of seeds splatting on my clothes. :(
When I have some tomatoes that I don't want to waste or freeze, I actually roast them. Oh my lawd this is good stuff. I cut them in half (leave whole if they're grape tomatoes) add a touch of sea salt, pepper and maybe one packet of splenda (or a teaspoon of regular sugar). If I'm feeling frisky I add a dash of balsamic vinegar and some olive oil.
I bake at 350-450 depending on how eager I am to get to their caramelized goodness and to hear them calling my name from the oven. =)
This has been a staple sidedish or even tossed with pasta, I do the same exact thing to roast all kinds of veggies — not just tomatoes. Oh, and of course if it’s just too hot to do this inside you can do this on the grill in an aluminum tray. Just don’t open the grill lid too often. My New York apartment gets so hot it’s insane, but the tomatoes are so yummy we think it’s worth it.

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2007 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard

Edna Valley wine has been up and down over the last couple of decades. Produced in San Luis Obispo on the southern end of the central coast of California, the wine caught our eye when we tasted the Cabernet in the 1980s, and then ordered a bottle at Tim's birthday dinner in a San Francisco restaurant a year later.

We stopped buying it because the wine had some seriously so-so years through the 90s and the 00s until this great bargain came along. The Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay lists for $15.50, but we found it for $9.22.

And we're not alone in thinking this is a good wine and a great bargain. Wine Spectator rated it 87 points and said if offered "ripe, clean, and spice notes, with green apple and citrus" flavors.

This wine is oakier than the Healdsburg Ranches "unoaked" Chardonnay, but only hints of oakiness, so it would be great served with lighter fare.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Frugal Pantry: Toasted Sesame Oil

Drop for drop, toasted sesame oil may provide more flavor than anything in our cupboards. Just a little bit added at the last moment to a stir-fry transforms a clean-out-the-crisper-drawer mishmash into something that tastes authentically Asian. 

Sick of your everyday vinaigrette? Try adding a little sesame oil to the olive oil, and you'll jolt your tastebuds out of their complacency. Or sprinkle a few drops on sliced, salted cucumbers to give a kick to a summertime staple.

It also makes a great marinade, mixed with rice vinegar or sherry, garlic, ginger, and a little sugar.

Most supermarkets stock sesame oil in their Asian sections, but you can also find it at Asian groceries. Make sure you buy the brown, toasted variety, not the blander, lighter type found in health-food stores. 

Sesame oil keeps a very long time in your pantry, but don't worry—once you get into the habit of using it, you'll never have to worry about it spoiling. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

When You Must Eat Fast Food

We don't like fast food anymore. We mean the kind of fast food that's sold by chain restaurants across America and most of the world.

We used to eat it a lot, especially when we were young, fairly broke, and moving quickly through our lives. But as we became better cooks, started eating in better restaurants, and grew increasingly health conscious, we began avoiding the McBombs. (Which is not to say we don't have our guilty pleasures: Tim's is a Taco Bell grilled stuffed chicken burrito, and Ruth's is McDonald's fries. But being good former Catholic kids, we seldom indulge these urges and always feel bad about them afterward.)

Now we're getting ready to move about six hours away, and Tim has had to drive the route four times in the past two weeks, looking for a place to live. Although he's taken fruit and nuts along in the car, sometimes he's had to stop for more-substantial fare, which requires choosing among McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Arby's, and, if he's very lucky, Taco Bell. He has realized that what used to taste delicious—mushy meat, sugary buns and condiments—now tastes pretty bad, lacking in texture and flavor while packing a massive wallop of salt and fat.

But the long car rides also give Tim time to think of the meals he'll be preparing in the new town, which boasts gigantic ethnic groceries; good, inexpensive restaurants; a longer growing season; and, as a result, great blogging material. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Prepping Fish for the Grill

Prep your fish for the grill with citrus and olive oil.

Some people are afraid to grill fish.

True, this can be hazardous. Leave the fish on too long, and it dries out or burns. Take it off too early, and the raw, mushy middle creeps out you and your guests. There's also the problem of flipping fish; sometimes it falls apart before it ever gets to the table.

But we find that grilling fish and other seafood can be as easy as cooking a great steak on the grill— if you follow a couple of easy guidelines:

  • Buy filets. You can leave the skin side on the grill grate, so you don't have to flip the fish. Few people will eat the skin anyway, so if it gets a little dark or burned, so what? You can even slide the filet off the burned skin before serving it.
  • Prep the fish. Up to an hour before grilling, we squeeze a lot of lemon on the filet or steak (cut across the fish rather than lengthwise) to help keep it moist and to start it "cooking" much like lime works in ceviche. Then, just as we do with beef steaks, we drizzle olive oil over the fish to give it a bit more flavor and moistness. This lemon-oil prep is the most important step.
  • Salt the fish somewhat liberally, and pepper it lightly.
  • If you follow the preceding steps, you can place your fish on a very hot grill. Then, if you're using a gas grill, turn the heat down to medium. If you're using charcoal, cut off some air to lower the heat.
  • Cover the grill and try not to open it too often or for too long a time. Let the fish cook until it loses its translucency. Plan about ten minutes per inch of thickness, maybe a bit more if you don't like rare fish.

There's a way to poke the fish to tell whether it's ready to serve, but we can't think of a good way to describe the technique — and we don't always rely on it, anyway. So find a discreet corner of one of the pieces (the one you're serving yourself), cut it off, and taste to see if it's ready.

If you pulled the fish off the grill too early, and you find it's not done, put it back on the grill or (don't tell anybody) put it in the microwave for about 15 to 30 seconds. But be careful: even an extra second or two in the microwave can dry out a beautiful piece of seafood.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2007 Healdsburg Ranches Chardonnay

This wine's suggested retail price is $14, but we found it for $9.91.

Healdsburg Ranches is a proudly "unoaked Chardonnay," which means that it's not the typical oaky and buttery California Chard that starts thick and ends with a big round finish, reflecting its fermentation in French oak barrels.

Aged in stainless steel, the wine is effervescent and fresh-tasting. It lingers, but the finish is lean. There is a taste of citrus and pear, which is especially nice on a hot August night.

Healdsburg Ranches is in Sonoma County, an area known for producing good wine (Clos du Bois comes to mind).

Even if you love oaky Chards — and we do — this is a great summer wine, and it goes well with lighter foods such as fish, white meat, vegetables, and mild cheeses.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Guilty Pleasure: The New York Diet

Maybe it's because we're reporters by training, maybe it's just because we're nosy, but we're always interested in how other people live. That's why we love The Perfect Pantry's pantry series and New York magazine's ongoing Web feature the New York Diet, in which assorted celebrities and food luminaries list what they ate over the course of a week. 

Too often these are boring recitations of days and nights filled with smoothies and granola bars. Other times they're laughably absurd—it's simply impossible that that many rail-thin models can ingest that much pork and chocolate with nary an ill effect. 

But once in a while, the series features somebody who really loves food and can describe it beautifully, and this is one of those weeks: New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser takes us through a delicious week of nectarines, cookies, and crabmeat. Check out her tips for making ratatouille. We're going to try it this week. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Lucky Mistake

When we first started putting the "fine" in our cooking, we relied on a few classic cookbooks.

We started off with the Irma Rombauer Joy of Cooking that Tim's mother gave him, and the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook that Ruth's college roommate gave her as a graduation present. Eventually, we added The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and The Master Cooking Course by Claiborne and Pierre Franey. 

But the most intimidating volume was our 1961 edition of the first volume of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Whenever we wanted to make a special meal, we pulled out our copy of Julia or Craig & Pierre and threw a dart at something that sounded delicious.

When Tim's dessert-loving mother came to visit in the early 1980s,  Tim made Julia's chocolate mousse ( p. 604). The recipe was a bit fussy, but the mousse tasted terrific—especially the crunchy bits of ground coffee, which added complexity and texture.

Only when we made the mousse a second time some months later did Tim realize that the recipe's "4T of strong coffee" called for brewed coffee rather than ground coffee. It was a novice mistake, made in the stress of preparing a grand meal in a small Washington apartment.

But it worked. To this day, we like the contrast of the tiny granules of coffee beans and the soft mousse, and the strong flavor they provide. Not all of our mistakes have ended so happily—sometime we'll share the story of Ruth's tofu apricot mousse—but this one was a keeper.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Make It Yourself: Teresa’s Amazing Adaptable Dressing

Our neighbor Teresa Bobbitt is thrifty, creative, and resourceful—a master of cheap eating. She’s developed a salad dressing that varies in ingredients but is unfailingly good because she layers flavors, using multiple oils, acids, and herbs. With the sesame oil and soy sauce, this dressing has a slight Asian flavor, but you can use anything you like, as long as you keep the basic proportions. Here’s a recent batch she made:

1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. toasted sesame oil
1/3 c. flaxseed oil

juice from ½ lemon
1/3 cup cider vinegar
½ cup balsamic vinegar, or to taste
1/3 cup soy sauce

1 T. herb-flavored salt
1 t. grainy mustard
2 t. curry powder
4 garlic cloves
A few leaves of mustard greens and arugula
Assorted herbs*

Whiz it all up in a blender, and enjoy. Serves many people.

* Teresa uses dried herbs in winter, fresh in summer, using anything that’s available, including thyme, tarragon, dill, chives, basil, and oregano. 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julia and Ruth and Tim

Suddenly, Julia Child is everywhere, and we couldn't be happier. Like many food lovers, we discovered Mastering the Art of French Cooking early on; like a lot of food lovers, we figured that if we worked through every recipe in the two-volume set, we would teach ourselves everything there was to know about cooking. Alas, we only got through a handful, but they included recipes that we use to this day. One has become our standby when we want something fast, simple, and delicious. Though this leek and potato soup is infinitely adaptable—you can toss in anything from garlic cloves to curry powder, and you can cut way back on the butter or cream—it's wonderful in its purest form, a simple puree of leeks and potatoes. Merci, Julia!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Crunchy Kale Salad

We were happy to open our CSA box this week and see a big bushy head of kale sitting atop the scallions, potatoes, and corn. For a long time, we had trouble dealing with this vegetable, which is very nutritious but can also be fibrous, bitter, and difficult to cook properly. 

But last year Fort Hill Farm thoughtfully provided a recipe for a salad that marinates raw kale overnight, turning it into something ambrosial. Yes, we just used "kale" and "ambrosial" in the same sentence. We're hooked. The recipe works great with any of the stronger greens, including broccoli raab and collards, as well as softer-leaved vegetables like chard. 

Kale Salad

1/2 bunch of kale, stems removed, rough chopped
1/4  head of red cabbage, shaved
1/2 onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings                    
2 to 3 T. olive oil                                                          
4 t. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos  
2 T. lemon juice      
1 to 3 T. cider vinegar   
1 to 2 T. sesame oil                                                    
salt and pepper to taste            
1. Mix together the chopped kale, sliced onion, and shaved red cabbage in a large bowl. 
2. Whisk together the olive oil, Braggs Liquid Aminos, lemon juice, cider vinegar, and sesame oil in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust ingredients to your liking; season to taste with salt and pepper.  
3. Pour the dressing over veggies, toss well to coat, cover, and refrigerate overnight. 
Serve Chilled.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wine Bargain of the Week: 2008 Red Tree Pinot Noir

We almost hesitate to mention this enthusiastic recommendation from Wine Spectator for value buy of the week, because the editors tend to pick somewhat obscure wines. And after Wine Spectator gives a wine a good notice, it disappears pretty quickly from store shelves.

However, if you're an intrepid seeker of wine values, or if you just get lucky and see this at your local wine shop, it sounds like a steal.

Why? Because any California Pinot Noir that rates an 88 and costs only $8 is well worth trying.

The pick this week is Red Tree Pinot Noir 2008. The editors said "it offers baked cherry pie, with rhubarb and blueberry, showing a wonderful fruit profile that's spicy, elegant and easy to drink. Great balance. Drink now."

Cherry pie. Rhubarb and blueberry. All of our favorite fruit flavors!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Other People's Pantries

One of our favorite blogs is The Perfect Pantry, which features indispensable, intriguing, and occasionally oddball ingredients, along with thoughtful recipes. What we most love about this blog, however, is its ongoing Saturday series, "Other People's Pantries." These range from tiny, impeccably organized apartment spaces to sprawling architectural wonders, but most fascinating to us are the items on the shelves—other people's necessities. If you're a nosy person with a few minutes to surf, take some time to check these out . . . maybe someday we'll swallow our pride and show what's on our shelves.