Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Do I Do With This?

A few weeks before Easter, my dad came home from our local deli, European Homemade Provisions in East Brunswick. He walked in the door with a look of delight and his version of a beaming smile on his face. "You won't believe what they had! Prosciutto!" Until that point, I'd never had any or had much of an interest in it. (That changed really fast.) My first thought was "What do we do with it?" I'd seen it in recipes from time to time but I'd never actually used it.

I did what I normally do when I don't know what I'm doing with something, I set about looking up recipes for ideas, flipping through my cookbook collection, talking with people (in this case just my father), and generally coming up with potential ideas. It's a process that almost always works when I'm trying to figure out something I want to make or even just when I need a bit of inspiration. It hasn't failed me yet.

Within a few minutes I had some great recipes and even more ideas for how we could use it. From sandwiches with Swiss Cheese to pasta with mushrooms, garlic and spinach to quiche with caramelized onions. From basic to easy to incorporate into our usual recipes to a bit more complicated then normal. All with just a bit of research. I've been on the other end of this process too, as one of the people that others come to for ideas.

It came as no surprise that a friend of mine would ask me what to do with a specific ingredient. It's something she and others have done in the past. What did surprise me is what she came asking advice for. Eggs. She's found herself with a lot of them in her fridge and she doesn't know what to do with them all.

At first I was confused. Eggs? Eggs? They're so basic, how could you not know what to do with them? I mean I know she's still building her cooking skills. She's 21 and she's only recently started to dabble with things outside her comfort zone.

The more I thought about it though, the more I remembered my time abroad when I was faced with buying food in preset amounts that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to use before it expired. There were three basics that I rarely had on hand: bread, eggs, and milk. At home, I could trust that whatever I wasn't able to eat, somebody else would step up and use the rest. But when it was just me, I made due without them for the most part, buying them only when I had plans to use all or almost all of what I bought.

I'd choose rolls over sliced bread because in a pinch the rolls could used for sandwiches, crisped up in the oven to dip in soup, made into quick garlic bread, or hollowed out and stuffed with spinach, herbs, and cheese. Whole milk I'd buy in a pinch, but I stuck to single cream more often since it made better pasta sauces, I liked it better in tea and they sold it in smaller containers. Although towards the end in Glasgow we just decided on taking turns buying milk, wine, cider, olive oil, and baggies for the whole apartment. It was easier then trying to fit five different milk containers in such a tiny fridge.

I found that I bought the sugar and pepper, someone else bought the salt, and another the washing up liquid. And we were willing to share almost anything if asked. So if i needed something in a pinch, I only needed to know who bought it to ask if I could use some, and then replace it after. The same went for them. We were always curious to see who was making what and offering to let the others try our cooking. It was much different then my semester in Dublin, but it worked for us.

I understand trying to figure out what to do with a bunch of something before it goes bad. I remember all the times I'd stand in the grocery store and stare at something trying to figure out if I'd be able to use it all. I remember the times there'd be a whole week of pesto pizza rolls, just to be sure I used all of the pesto. And the two weeks of unending rice dishes because I wasn't thinking and made waaaaaaay too much. And I remember the week I actually resented ice cream because I was leaving in two days and had to finish a whole quart of it.

The point of this stroll down memory lane, is that sometimes a list of what to do with things would be very useful. I still remember stumbling across this list of things to do with rotisserie chicken and finding it very useful.

To make life easier, both mine and hers (and potentially yours as well), I'm going to start making my own lists of things as I think of them and people ask for ideas. First list is for eggs. Because you can only eat so many omelettes. It'll be up in the next few days.

What's your favorite way to use eggs? Is there something you're always struggling to find uses for? Or something you would like to try something new with? 

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