February is always the test of my pantry’s power. How well did I plan for winter? Did I can enough jams, salsas, and sauces? Did I properly cure my potatoes, onions, and garlic so that they’re still edible? Did I freeze enough pesto, berries, and corn? Did I dry enough basil, oregano, and rosemary?
With some effort and some luck, all of the answers are yes and we’re eating well all month long and far into spring. When the stored and preserved harvest doesn’t taste quite as good as fresh off the vine, I make up the difference and then some from other shelves in my pantry: the ones with spices and condiments. With a bit of this and a dab of that, it’s possible to savor flavors from around the world right from your cupboards.
When my garden beds are frozen solid, I turn to numerous recipes on the blog for their flavor and memories of travels to distance places and cultures. They brighten gray days whether they come from regions known for their hot sun and salty air or even darker days and colder nights. I’ve adapted them to fit my climate and my pantry, in some case venturing far from the original versions and in others staying as true as I can thousands of miles away. I invite you to take a tour through your own pantry with these ideas in mind.
A large part of the world qualifies as “south” from my Rocky Mountain home. But it still feels like I need to cross the U.S. border, if not through several countries, before I’ve truly headed south. Most of my Mexican, Central American, and South American recipes have been inspired by those cultures, rather than staying traditional, for the simple reason that I can’t grow much of the produce in my climate. But their spices and profiles take my tastebuds south of the border:
- Spiked Guacamole
- Sourdough Empanadas
- Potato Bowl with Black Bean Sauté
- And from my new cookbook, Eight-Hour Curtido (Cabbage Slaw)
Crossing the Pond
My refrigerator always holds a jar or two of European-inspired mustard, but in winter I tend to focus on pairing my storage vegetables with flavors from the Mediterranean and northern Africa. It feels so good to sit by a warm woodstove and think of hot days in Spain, Italy, and Morocco while enjoying these meals:
- Spanish Potato–Garlic Soup
- Squash–Mushroom Risotto
- Moroccan Shaved and Roasted Carrots
- And from my new cookbook, Escabeche-Style Fish
Riding Farther East
When I returned home to the United States from Russia, I rode the Trans-Siberian east to end up on the U.S. West Coast. Ever since, I think of the flavors I love from Russia, China, Korea, and even Japan as part of an eastward journey, despite their wide variation. Some of my favorite recipes inspired by these regions only work well when I have fresh produce at hand, but others I can pull off from the freezer, cupboards, or with fresh winter produce:
- Mushroom-Stuffed Blini
- Wasabi-Marinated Shrimp
- Asian White Bean Dip
- And from my new cookbook, Russian-Inspired Pickled Mushrooms
Hanging a Right
I’ve spent minimal time in the regions you find by turning right from Siberia, but I’ve always loved the spices and sauces that originate from these countries. Some I blend in summer into jars of preserves and chutneys that I can enjoy all winter. But others I’ve piled onto northern produce for a sizzling fusion pairing:
- Paneer Tikka Masala
- Thai Squash Curry
- Hot and Sour Soup
- And from my new cookbook, Miso-Brined Apples
Closer to Home
Even without a passport, I’ve found plenty of fun flavors closer to home. A roadtrip can fill my stomach with foods and flavor combinations I never knew growing up but that qualify as comfort food to many Americans. They inspire just as many memories as foods that I reached by plane, sailboat, or camel to taste for the first time:
- Red Beans and Rice
- Tomato–Basil Mac and Cheese
- Vegetarian Smoked-Beet Reuben
- And from my new cookbook, Southern-Style Pickled Shrimp
Twice as Tasty
One of my favorite workshops to teach is Indian Spices: Marvelous Masalas, mostly for the way it inspires participants to explore how the spices you use—and how you prepare them—can transform a meal. This month, I’ll delve into some of those transformations with recipes I tend to savor in winter, using potatoes, shrimp, and more.
As you surely noticed, I’m in roundup mode with this post. I’ll blame that partly on my latest project: extending my food writing beyond the blog and my pickling books. My first roundup for The Spruce Eats went live this week. You can expect to see more from me on that website in coming months. To keep up with more of my stories in the wider world, follow Twice as Tasty on Facebook.
Need more flavor ideas? Get a signed copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling and the The Pickled Picnic, available exclusively through Twice as Tasty. Click here to order.
7 thoughts on “Pantry Power”
Pingback: Pantry Power – Sarah's Attic Of Treasures
Wow, I am absolutely astounded at your pantry!!!! That must have been many days of hard work. I’ve only recently canned some food for the very first time – I will continue to do so! I don’t think my pantry will ever come close to yours, but then we also live in a different climate, where fresh food is always available. 🙂
You do feel more motivated to can when your growing season is less than 100 days! We rely on a lot of that the rest of the year, and I gift quite a bit. But my pantry didn’t start that way–you may find yours growing before long. 🙂
I can imagine! 3 months is short!!!
I hope I will manage to get a bit of a stash going. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Lovely post, and your pantry is beautiful! Feb. 2 is the time historically when we should have gone through half of our stored harvest. I always feel so good in the fall when my shelves are full. I rarely run out of pickles or jam, but I never, ever freeze enough pesto!
Thanks! I’m loving the new setup. I seem to have the same problem with pesto, though. Every year I freeze more, and every year we eat it all.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I know! I give quite a bit away, but I guess we are just greedy for pesto!
LikeLiked by 1 person