Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the Pantry Part 2

Capers - The pickled floral buds from the shrub found in the Mediterranean region.  This product has been used in cooking for more than 2,000 years.  A distinctive, salty and sour taste, its flavors work well with fish, meats and vegetables.  Use sparingly as capers distinctive flavors can be overpowered.  (I like capers but in small doses.  I didn't know what they were made from nor where they came from.)

Cheeses - Use only natural cheeses whenever possible.  Try to avoid cheese that is labeled "cheese product, cheese food or processed cheese" as these products have little in common with the rich tasting and pleasing texture of real cheese.  The nutritional value of proceed cheese is also very poor.  Try to utilize the wonderful domestic and imported cheeses available today.  When using rich tasting cheeses, you can use less which represents less calories and saturated fats. Also remember that the softer cheeses, tend to have a higher fat content.  Look for hard types of cheese, such as Italian parmesan or Romano cheese.  Greek feta cheese that has a tart yet rich flavor is very versatile in salads.  American cheddar, Swiss and jack cheese possess wonderful flavors and textures and offer intriguing options for most dishes.  When buying cheese, avoid buying boxed, pre-grated or pre-canned varieties.  Opt for bulk cheese and grate the cheese immediately before using for ultimate flavors.  (I've found that there are more of the cheese products, cheese foods and processed cheese than there are the natural type, especially when buying slices.  I do love to cook with cheese and will buy it when on sale, freeze it and use it in cooking after thawing.  And I do buy only natural cheese.)

Dried Fruits - Select fruits that are naturally dried, without the use of preservatives. Many dried fruits contain sulfites, so choose your products carefully.  Experiment with creative ideas to incorporate more dried fruit into your recipes.  These morsels are loaded with nutrition and are delicious.  (Dried foods are great in breads and pies too and a lot more handy to keep on hand.)

Dried Legumes - Best known as beans and peas, legumes are the seed of many vegetables and are high in protein, minerals and offer a great opportunity for added variety and flavor in many dishes.  (These I always keep on hand - all types)

Flour - Avoid using "bleached flour" as most of the nutritional value has been stripped from the grain.  although some nutrients have been added back to the flour, the processing removes far more than the trace amounts of vitamins and minerals that are added to the finished product.  Use whole grain flour such as whole wheat, rye, oat and rice flours.  The nutritive and fiber values of whole grain flour are worth the extra pennies you may pay.  When choosing the right flour for your recipes remember: pastry flour is made from soft spring wheat, which has little gluten and creates crumbly, flaky texture.  Bread flour, is made from hard winter wheat and is high in gluten, which gives dough the elasticity for yeast breads.  Store flour tightly covered in the refrigerator.  (I use a lot of flour and unbleached is what I always buy.  What I didn't know was the differences in the spring wheat and winter wheat.  I also didn't know about storing it in the refrigerator.  I've always kept mine in an air tight container.)
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