Two things readers ask most often about The Perfect Pantry:
Is there a list of everything in your pantry? And, why haven't you written about... (black-eyed peas, fennel pollen, porcupine noses...)?
Yes, there is a list. I don't publish it, but I've written about each ingredient in my pantry, at least once.
To be included in The Perfect Pantry, an ingredient must be something I use to make other things, which rules out Fresca, which I always have in my refrigerator, and also porcupine noses, which I can't imagine anyone would like, as well as many more palatable things that simply don't appeal to me, like black-eyed peas and fennel pollen.
Also, the ingredient must be something I use in more than one way, or that I use in one way, but over and over again.
Buckwheat groats fall into that second category. My pantry, and my childhood, would be incomplete without it.
An updated post from the archives, with new photos.
My father, like all dads of the 1950s, mastered a couple of pieces of cooking equipment and had his special dishes that he produced on holidays, and on demand.
With the aid of a charcoal kettle grill in the back yard, he made the world's best lamb chops. In the electric frying pan, on Sunday mornings, he would make Spit in the Ocean, or another weird concoction that involved slices of bologna or salami floating in a sea of scrambled eggs. If that dish had a name, I've repressed it.
Every year in the Spring, my father did his best work, with a straight-sided covered sauté pan, a large melamine mixing bowl ... and his hands. Spring meant Passover, which meant matzoh, which meant matzoh brei. We ate this only once a year. And my dad was the matzoh brei king.
A few Junes ago, Ted was mowing the occasional blades of grass in our lawn.
Along the edge of the woods, underneath the oak trees, he spotted a couple of oddly shaped mushrooms. Are they morels, he wondered?
Oh, yes, they were morels. And the more we looked, the more we found.
Two quarts of morels!
Have I told you that our land was once used by a charcoal maker? He was known as "The Indian," because he was a member of the Narragansett tribe that has its roots here in Rhode Island. (Nobody we know remembers his name.) There are large concrete platforms buried beneath our grass; on those platforms, more than forty years ago, The Indian burned wood into charcoal. A mushroom forager told us that the residual ash in our lawn creates a happy environment for morels.
I noted the date on the calendar, and the following year, with anticipation -- and with recipes in mind -- we hunted and hunted, but didn't find a single morel. The year after that, just a handful. Last year, none.
We should have dried our harvest that first year.
Dried mushrooms I've purchased from farmers and farm stands in France (cepes) and in the Pacific Northwest (mixed morels, chanterelles and porcini) have kept for more than two years in tightly-sealed glass jars in my pantry, with no significant loss of quality.
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