Growing food has been on my mind: I’ve been busy prepping for a sprout-growing workshop this week and organizing next month’s Free the Seeds event. You too are probably noticing the steady march toward spring as bright seed catalogs arrive regularly and storage vegetables beg to be front and center in your meals. Now’s the time to take stock of what you’ve saved from your last growing season, particularly what you’ve used and what’s left.
Read more about taking stock of stored food
At 500 square feet, my house has a smaller kitchen and less food-storage space than most. Yet at any given moment, I can conjure a dozen of meals for a dozen people—I just need to find places for them to sit.
The secret to a well-stocked pantry is to keep small quantities of a large number of basic ingredients. Instead of buying prepackaged meals, sauces, and mixes, you can store fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, proteins, and flavorings individually and mix them in endless variations. I dedicate at least half my pantry and most of my freezer and fridge space to such items. I fill the rest with homemade items that let me shortcut regularly used recipes, from stocks to pestos to condiments.
The advantages go beyond versatility. Stocking your pantry in this manner means your ingredients stay fresh, you can spend your money on quality items instead of large quantities that go stale before you finish them, and you’ll always open the fridge or cupboard and find something you want to eat.
Read more about improving your pantry
I’ve always loved the idea of veggie burgers as easy from-the-freezer meals but dislike the standard brands. Most are like frozen pizzas: a couple of bites satisfy a craving, but I lose interest by the meal’s end, even when topped with fresh guacamole. My homemade veggie burgers, like pizza from scratch, are full of flavor but have always fallen apart when reheated—until now.
Several things make this week’s recipe work. Precooking the vegetables and draining them helps; if added raw, they release their water content as they cook and loosen the patties. But no amount of draining makes it possible to skip the binders, as with falafel. Most recipes call for an excessive blend of whole grains and flours that still leave the patties crumbly or gummy. Grinding all grains to meal gives the right texture and adhesion. The third factor is tightly shaping the patties. A wide-mouth canning ring is perfect; the burgers are the right size for buns, and uniform edges and surfaces are less likely to crack and crumble.
Learn to make Black Bean Veggie Burgers and Spiked Guacamole
I didn’t appreciate calzones until I started baking beautiful pizzas at home. Before my homemade pizzas achieved elegance, they tended toward soggy masses on soft, undercooked dough or slightly burned toppings over a cracker-crisp crust. Both variations resulted from the same problem: too many toppings at too low of a temperature.
I’ve learned not to compare pizzas baked in a home oven with fully loaded, wood-fire pizzas—and especially with those I ate in Naples. Kenji, lord of Serious Eats, puts it bluntly: “You’re never going to be able to produce a perfect Neapolitan-style pie in a home oven.” The crew at Bon Appétit is a bit less forceful yet just as adamant: “For those hefty pies to work, they need an ultra-sturdy crust and a really, really, really, really hot oven. Leave it to the pros and go simple.”
So as I teach all my workshop participants, whether grilling or baking your pizza, keep your temperature high and your toppings light. But if you’re a fan of deep toppings and excessive cheese, turn your pizza dough into calzones or empanadas.
Learn to make Sourdough Calzones and Sourdough Empanadas