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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Pantry Project Redux

Not too long ago we decided to concentrate on using up our pantry supplies, and although we made a fair amount of progress, our shelves still groan with containers of rice, grains, and beans, and our freezer is equally stuffed. Between our compulsion to try new ingredients, the abundance of fascinating ingredients at local ethnic markets, and our hatred of waste, we always seem to end up with Too Much Stuff. Now, in honor of the new year, we're resolved to draw down our supplies with renewed vigor.

So far we've gone through our freezer and pantry and made lists of what we found. As we hadn't completely emptied either place since moving into this house two years ago, this proved an interesting exercise. Apparently, we secretly expect a coming worldwide shortage of hot sauce—we found four unopened bottles. Our resolution to save bean-cooking liquid resulted in three-count-'em-three containers of white beans and their liquid. We found three large unopened packages of rice vermicelli—perfect for spring rolls, and enough to carry us deep into next year.

Does anybody have good recipes for black rice? Somehow we ended up with two bags of this mysterious grain, which was rare enough to be called Forbidden Rice long ago in China. Tim encountered it once in an Italian restaurant, but it seems to lend itself to Asian dishes.

Our plan is to "eat down" as much of this stuff as we can, preferably by using ingredients in combination.

Befuddled by how to use black rice in a nondessert dish, we threw a dart and tried this recipe from the blog Eat Make Read. Although the black rice dyed the edamame a scary dark color, the flavors were simple and lovely, and we'll make this recipe again. (Thanks to Trader Joe's, we always have bags of frozen edamame, which makes a great quick lunch or snack.)

When we picked through our giant basket of noodles, we discovered several bags of soba. Some of the noodles looked fairly new, though we honestly couldn't remember buying them, but another package seemed to date back to the last decade. Our common sense told us to compost it, but our frugality encouraged us to try it. So we mixed the new—well, newer—soba noodles with a handful of the old ones and were delighted to find that the old soba was just fine! Stir-fried with red pepper, onions, collard greens, and our all-purpose Chinese sauce, the noodles made a good fast dinner.

Still in a Chinese mood—and wanting to use up the beautiful but aging green cabbage we got in last summer's CSA box—we made a vegetarian version of Moo Shu Pork, using Boca crumbles we'd found in the freezer, shredded cabbage, slivered carrot, bamboo shoots, and some old tree ears we'd discovered in a Ziploc bag in the pantry. Served on flour tortillas slathered with hoisin, this dish made a swell end-of-the-weekend meal and had the distinction of using up three of our old pantry and refrigerated items.

Tonight we have another leftover trifecta: we're making a soup out of those old white beans and broth, some cooked collard greens, a single sausage patty we discovered in the back of the freezer, and canned tomatoes. Combined with a fresh batch of cornbread, this will make a delicious yet frugal dinner.

We'll keep you posted on our progress as we move through the stockpile!

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