Eating like an Immigrant, Part IV: Staples
Recently, I’ve been doing a blog challenge called My Kitchen, My World, in which bloggers pick two countries to “visit” a month, make a meal from the country, and blog about what they’ve done. Here’s a link to the countries I’ve “visited” so far.
It’s really fun, but I don’t always plan ahead, and don’t have the energy for an “extra” grocery store trip. So, a lot of times I’ll google the country’s name along with the ingredients I have in the house. This really has brought home the fact that a lot of cultures use the same basic ingredients–rice, pasta or bread, beans, lentils, common vegetables and herbs (often grown in one’s own garden), widely available meats or fish–but are distinguished by their use of spices to flavor the foods. So, for me, having good spices in my cupboard is an investment that actually makes a lot of sense (and you can get good spices for not too much, if you look at ethnic stores, like I said above). Good spices can be combined with inexpensive ingredients, like beans, rice, and in-season vegetables, to make incredible and economical meals.
And use what you have on hand–especially with good spices. Sal, a first-generation Sicilian friend of ours freezes bits and pieces of leftover meats, and then he makes the most amazing tomato sauce you could imagine from whatever he has in the house. That could be a whole ‘nother post, creative ways to use your leftovers, but I don’t want to make this series too long. I feel like if I get another meal out of leftovers, it’s like getting a free meal. Think about soups, stews, egg-based dishes, fried rice, and so forth as ways of using up small bits of leftovers to make another meal. Or you can repurpose leftovers: old bread as french toast (or if you’re PA Dutch, hutzla), strata, ribolitta, or bread crumbs.
I’m about to order the Mennonite cookbook Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook which encapsulates some of these ideas, especially cooking with staples even in exploring exotic cuisines.
*This post includes our family recipe for Hutzla passed down through several generations.
*Ribollita is a great way to use up leftover bread (you can freeze some and save it, if you’d like) as well as bits and pieces of vegetables.
Sal’s Sicilian Sauce
Well, it’s more of a process than a recipe, following what his mom taught him. He freezes leftover meats–pork chops, sausage, beef, etc.–and then when it comes time to make his sauce, he browns the meats, adds a couple of large cans of crushed tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, Italian seasoning and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and maybe some diced veggies (celery, carrot, etc.). He cooks it for an hour or so until everything is tender, and tastes to see how sweet it is, and adds wine, and some sugar, if needed, and cooks it down if its too runny.
Then he sautees a whole pile of onions and garlic in olive oil, and adds it (which is really good–all of the tomato sauces I’ve seen call for it at the beginning, but this is really tasty), mixes it in, and cooks it for a very few more minutes.
Meanwhile, he boils pasta al dente, doesn’t rinse it, and when he’s getting it ready to serve, he mixes the pasta and a cup or two of sauce in one bowl, and serves the rest of the meat sauce on the side, for people to pour on top.
I had some last night–we had made up an entire soup pot full of it and froze it into several containers. It had chicken sausage, kielbasa, smoked pork loin cut into teeny cubes, and little bits of ham–not a ton of any one meat (they were all leftovers I had frozen before), but they each added distinctive flavors to it.
You can see Sal (and his famous sauce!) here.
Cross-posted from In Search of Lost Time.