So I’m doing the NW Edible “eat down the larder” challenge (for a given value of “doing” where I still eat out (sometimes), buy coffee, tea, chocolate(s), and milk, and hold the option of eggs in reserve should I decide I really want them).
So far, this is going pretty well, although I’m Noticing Things – like how much of a difference having Snack Food available makes, or like how much “going grocery shopping” is an excuse to get out of the house and a means of feeling productive for me, or like how much fancy fair-trade Bridgehead coffee we run through in a month – and I’m finding that I’m in a pretty good position, larder-wise, to get by for a month on just what’s on hand. Granted, I had just stocked up on tinned beans (two tins), tinned soup (4 tins), pre-fab alfredo sauce (2 jars), whole grains (quinoa, millet, & amaranth), parmajan and heavily discounted extra-old-cheddar cheeses when this business started up, so I was in a better place than I might have been if I’d started this challenge a week earlier (hint: we’d be eating a LOT more barley and wild rice if that had been the case, which would mean much different meals – more slow-cooked stews and more pilaffs done with dried fruit & dried mushrooms thrown in, perhaps, but fewer pasta-and-broccoli dinners).
Anyway. Last night, I did an experiment.
See, I make our bread all the time and I make pancakes (featuring jam in lieu of granulated sugar) on a pretty-much-weekly basis. Muffins and cupcakes are no problem, I know what I’m doing there.
But I’ve never tried making a tortilla.
And last night I tried making fish tacos using what I had on hand.
Use a jar of salsa home-canned last summer
Make “edamole” (garlic-cilantro dip with an edamame base and a splash of white wine vinegar for sharpness)
Use home-made Greek-Style (strained) yoghurt in lieu of sour cream
Make “French Pancakes” but leave out the sugar, sub out some of the flour for fine-grind corn meal, and maybe up the water content
Fry fish in butter until flakey and delicious
We are out of home-made salsa. There is possibly a half-empty jar of pre-fab salsa in th back of the fridge, but I’m leary of going that direction. I do however have tinned tomatoes, frozen peaches, and dried arbol chilies on hand.
Into the frying pan go: Butter, semi-thawed haddock fillets, 3/4 of a tin of tomatoes, a handful of frozen peaches, ONE dried chili, a pinch of salt, and a liberal sprinkling of chili powder, cayenne, and black pepper.
While the fish mixture is simmering on very low heat with a lid covering the pan to keep the steam in, Make Edamole:
At first, I didn’t think I’d have nearly enough frozen edamame.
And then, wile digging out the frozen peaches, I discovered that I have a whole extra BAG of the stuff hidden in the bottom of the Frozen Produce bin. Huzzah! :-D Creamy, creamy green stuff for us!
What I did was dump about two cups (maybe a little less?) of quickly-thawed-under-the-hot-tap edamame into the food processor along with about two tablespoons of mayonaise, five cloves of rough-chopped garlic, the very last half-teaspoon of my dried cilantro (could have done with more, alas, but it was enough), a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of white wine vinegar for the requisite hit of brightness.
It worked! :-D (Though I probably could have skipped the salt, if I really wanted to). We’ve got extra edamole left over and I think it’s going to be used as a “pesto” this evening, to go with pasta and saussages (and, probably, the last of the tinned tomatoes). Go me! :-D
The tortillas… Yeah.
Under circumstances where I have more than four eggs to my name (and, as such, am willing to use more than one egg in this recipe) I would have used at least two, maybe even three eggs to make these savoury crepes.
As it stands, while they held up okay (and were tasty), they were a little on the easy-to-tear side, and we wound up eating our tacos with a knife and fork.
This wasn’t the end of the world, mind you, and I’m okay with “Mexican-style cornmeal crepes” being a thing in my house. I would kind of like a much wider frying pan, with a much shallower lip, for making pancakes and crepes, though. They were difficult to flip without ripping. :-\
One thing that I’ve noticed – even more-so given last night’s binge of made-from-scratch All The Things – is that making everything from scratch means using a LOT of dishes. Dinner alone meant a mixing bowl (crepe batter), a food processor (edamole, but also pumpkinseed butter – more on that in a bit) plus a tupperware to hold the finished dip, and two frying pans (one for the fish mixture, and one for the crepes). The tomato tin (1/4 full) is still in the fridge.
There’s one thing that convenience foods do: A bag of soft tortillas (or na’an or whatever), a tupperware of guacamole, and a jar of salsa (home-made or otherwise) mean that you don’t need a food processor or a second frying pan or a mixing bowl to dole out dinner. Just fry up the fish and everything else has already been done.
Making bread at home means one big mixing bowl per week, sometimes more. Add in some breakfast/snack muffins and you’re up to two bowls plus a pot for pre-cooking the millet/amaranth mixture and a now-empty jar that needs to be washed and stored for re-filling later this summer. Soaking your own beans overnight – another bowl/tupperware/you-name-it. Canning your own produce – say hello to weeks of extra pots and pans every day.
I’m sure you get the idea.
Each little thing doesn’t add much to the heap of dishes by the sink, but together they add up to a monumental task that seems never-ending.
Now, in my house, I cook and my wife does the dishes. But I cook more things, and cook from scratch, faster than she can keep up. Let the dishes go for 48 hours and you’ve got six coffee cups, breakfast dishes, dinner dishes, lunch tupperwares, used-up-leftovers tupperwares, empty canning jars, measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixing bowl(s), pots, pans, and baking dishes… again. Just because we were out of bread or needed to make a new batch of stock, and also ate dinner two nights in a row.
Sometimes, what I decide to cook for dinner on a given day is determined more by what I can cook it in than by what I have available to cook.
Last night, I don’t mind telling you, was not one of those nights.
Last night was a chance to get a little bit fancy, to have a sweet, appley wine with some ultra-home-cooked goodies. It went over well. In spite of how many dishes it generates, I’m quite sure that I’ll make this again. (Though I may use Erica’s method for freezing guacamole in the interests of only needing to make the edamole once in a blue moon).
So that’s my story of making fish tacos – and making… tortilla-esque crepes – from scratch for the first time.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 This is going to be a Thing when it comes to my experiment(s) in Once A Year grocery shopping. I may keep some things as “buy-as-needed” purely so that I have an excuse to hit the store once a week or so. Then again… How much of this is related to Consumer Culture and its effects on my brain? Things to ponder. :-\
 Meaning: Buying 70 kg of flour all at once. Getting CSAs for meat and veggies (the former of which is technically laying out cash about four times per year, but still). Doing one big bulk buy from Cocoa Camino for stuff like granulated sugar, chocolate chips, coffee, cocoa, and spices. Getting a gallon of maple syrup and some other goodies once a year (or even once every two years) from my friend’s Family Sugar Shack. Getting a couple of batches of wine MADE at a local MYO so that we’ve got 40-60 bottles of wine on hand but only pay out ($200-$300) once a year. Signing up for Free Stuff by being part of the fruit and nut harvests done by Hidden Harvest Ottawa and getting influxes of extra fruit/nuts that way. Foraging. Growing (and canning/freezing/drying) my own. That kind of thing.
NOT meaning buying all canned food and KD and dropping $1000/year all at once at Food Basics or something. Although I can see myself doing exactly that with diced tomatoes, various tinned legumes, mushroom and/or tomato soups-inna-can, and dry goods like pasta, barley, rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, gnocchi, and red lentils.
 Although more than one month would be a much bigger challenge. Kuccina povera is totally a Thing, and my temp agency days are recent enough that having a good GOOD six weeks of food on hand – the kind of thing where I can drop my grocery bill down to $11/week, AKA: 1 gallon of milk + 2 dozen eggs OR 1 gallon of milk + 1 block of heavily discounted cooking cheddar – is just neccessary for the inter-contract slow points. Going for two months or more, though, would be really, really frightening – at least it’s April now, so my second month could include dandelions (and related goodies), garlic mustard and, eventually, grape leaves, which would mean vegetables would still be an option.
 The salsa I make is tomato-peach and somewhat mild, even if I do put a dried arbol chili in each jar.
 My fridge-top freezer is “organzied” (for a given value of “organized”) into two big plastic tubs. One is for frozen fruit and veggies, and the other is for frozen animal products. The rest of the freezer space is for things like ice cream, bags of stock-fixings, frozen pucks of home-rendered lard, and the compost bag. It’s still a monumentally over-stuffed freezer, but it works and I can usually find things when I need them.
 It occurs to me just now – so a little bit late – that I have a “Buddha Hand” lemon-ancestor and a clementine orange – both dried out to the point of the ridiculous in the back of my fridge – that could have been pressed into service for a hit of citrus, but meh. This worked out fine.