The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

The Week of Eating in: What to eat? February 22, 2010

So when we last chatted, I was telling you about all the random food stuffs I have lurking in my cabinets. I want to use a lot of that stuff this week, so I tried finding recipes that do use as much of them as possible. I also didn’t want to bring in a bunch of new random stuff in order to make my recipes. You see, I’m hoping I can save money this week  by cooking. But every time I cook, I seem to spend $60 and upwards at Whole Foods. “How do people save money by cooking?” I ask myself. Scott is always telling me that cooking is cheaper, yet this doesn’t make sense to me. And then I end up with stuff like five pounds of flour and wasabi powder in my cabinet.

So I started with the idea to make use of Vicki’s wok, the sesame oil, and the soy sauce, and make stir-fry. Epicurious, along with their iPhone app, is my absolute favorite place for finding recipes. As I looked at five different variations on stir fry, I thought occurred to me. Saving money on cooking: I was doing it wrong!

Of course grocery shopping for ingredients always seemed to be expensive! It’s because I pick a recipe and follow it to a tee. I buy a whole bottle of mustard powder and a tin of wasabi so that I can do exactly what the recipe says. For someone who fancies themself as creative, this is a sad state of affairs. I need to use what I have instead of rushing out to get a bunch of random stuff. Maybe this is appropriate for a gourmand cook, but for a dilettante like me, it just won’t do. Especially since – let’s be honest – I haven’t developed a superfine palette that even knows the difference.

So when I saw things like a tablespoon of orange zest and peanut oil in some recipes, but not in others, I decided to just not use them. I found that there were a few things running through all variations on stir-fry: sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and some vegetables and a protein. Simple enough. And I could throw in things that I already had: honey for a meat marinade, garlic, green beans, sea salt, and vegetable oil. Finally, I wrote down a list of possible vegetables and meat in preparation for the farmers market.

Hmm, what to do with the flour? I didn’t want to spend my week baking cake and cookies. It’s not a good use of my precious time, and that’s a lot of sugar for Vicki and I to eat. So how about bread? I found a recipe for french bread at a blog I follow, Learning to Live a Simple Life. I had everything I needed except yeast and cornmeal.

Finally, I wrote down everything I needed for this quinoa recipe, replacing pumpkin seeds with blanched almonds that I already had. I just had to buy quinoa (which I love) dried cranberries (ditto), lemons (which I plan to use in my water as well -lemon juice is a good breath freshener) and parsley (this stuff lasts surprisingly long in my fridge’s crisper and can be used in almost any recipe, I’ve found.)

Armed with all of this, I set out for the Union Square Farmers Market. It was a gorgeous day, with a blue sky hinting at an approaching spring. The crowds were out in force, and the sellers were ready for them, with dried flowers, cookies and muffins, bison, duck, and goose, wine – it was all enticing. But I kept my eye on the prize. I started from one and and did a circuit first, looking at the prices and offerings before getting down to shopping. Eggs, milk, chicken (gotta use those bread crumbs), onions, potatoes, apples, and yogurt all found their way into my shopping bags. I even discovered a stand selling tiny tubers that the sign said were similar to watercress. Perfect, I could use them in my stir-fry!

At the mushroom stand, I quizzed a the seller about the best one to use in stir-fry. The woman to my left recommended criminis while the Asian guy to my right said shitakes would do best. Obviously I’ll listen to the Asian. He even told me how to cut them. You just don’t get that kind of help at the grocery store.

Julia Childs, in her book My Life in France, learned a lot about French cooking just by developing relationships with her local market sellers. She would ask them about what to do with game birds, and what they recommended for treatment of vegetables. I’ll follow her lead.

After I had gotten everything I could at the Farmers Market, I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home for parsley, kombucha tea, lemons, quinoa, yeast, ginger, and cornmeal. Now I’m ready for the week to begin.


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