In the new home, I find myself sharing kitchen space. It’s a most delightful experience for me. Who wouldn’t love to have another interested cook in the kitchen — especially one who is willing to chop all the onions I desire, and even asks, “how finely chopped do you want them?”!!
That is none other than dear G, a whiz with onions, pizza crust, and much more.
When I arrived with my assortment of must-haves, a full fridge swelled to overflowing. I knew it could be transformed into a more functional space, but I couldn’t just swoop in and take over. The situation called for tact and timing. Fortunately, what I may lack in the former, I often make up for in the latter.
That, or I am just lucky ;)
Given the green light from G, I set out in earnest to fix the fridge.
I thought about how I cook — I am constantly bending and stooping and digging to find something hidden way at the back of the bottom shelf, simply because the jar is big and heavy. Why not have easy access to the things I use most often?
I also wanted to open up the space to make it easier to find *anything*.
One hurdle was the sheer number of bottles and jars. Mustards, relishes, homemade pickles, and numerous ingredients for my cooking passions, Indian, Korean and beyond — many of which require refrigeration — are in residence.
The first idea, which allowed me to free up plenty of shelf space, was to store the smaller bottles of less frequently used condiments (Chinese mustard, for example, or Jamaican jerk paste) in one of the crisper drawers.
Then I removed a middle shelf which made a narrow space, perfect for hiding cans of cat food, sliced turkey, bits of cheese, half an onion, and the like. I found a suitable plastic box to act as deli drawer, and placed it on the bottom shelf. Take that, scraps of cheese and onion! Another box on the top shelf holds condiments that won’t fit in the door, but would tip easily on a wire shelf.
In the door itself, I placed the condiments we use most often — now they’re at our fingertips. The giant bottle of ketchup has been relegated to the back of the top shelf — but at least it’s easy to find! ;)
G is not so sure about having a drawer full of condiments instead of veggies. I hope those veggies sitting out on the bottom shelf — always in sight and easy to grab — will translate to fewer forlorn, forgotten bunches of green onions melting away into green goo in the corner of the ‘crisper’. You know what I mean :)
One result of the reorganization is this: I have resolved to stop buying giant bottles of anything unless I know it will be used quickly (jars of ginger and garlic paste would be an exception, for example). When my evil penny-pinching twin whispers in my ear that I will save 3 cents per ounce if I just get that gigantic bottle, I am going to remember just how long it took to use up the gigantic bottle — not to mention the contents aren’t so fresh at the end of year four ;)
A savings of pennies per ounce may seem wise at time of purchase, but if I have to pitch out that bottle months down the road, I will have wasted more than I saved to begin with.
I have also resolved to redouble my effort to cook with what’s on hand rather than giving in to my frequent I-feel-like-chicken-tonight whims. In that spirit, I made a coconut curry based partly on a favorite of mine: Goan Shrimp a la Bong Mom, and partly on
this delicious looking recipe which I found showcased at
Divya’s Recipes. Thanks ladies!!
I had shrimp in the freezer. I added bamboo shoots that I picked up at Asian Delight Marketplace when the kids flew home. Hooray for Grand Rapids — the closest ethnic markets are just hours away! ;)
Shrimp and Bamboo Shoots in Spicy Coconut Curry
For the paste:
4-6 dried red chiles
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a few cloves
Toast the above until fragrant.
Grind to a paste with:
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
Keep aside in the grinder.
For the curry:
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (sprinkle the shrimp with turmeric and a little salt and leave to rest while cooking the following)
2 tsp canola oil
1 big onion, chopped
2 green chiles, seeded if desired, and chopped
curry leaves to taste
2 TB dried coconut (optional but adds great aroma!)
1 tomato, chopped
the reserved paste
3 medium fresh bamboo shoots, diced **see note below**
1 can coconut milk
Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot, add the onion and chiles, and cook for a few minutes. Add the curry leaves and optional dried coconut. Saute over medium heat until the onion turns color and the coconut aroma fills the kitchen :) Add the chopped tomato and cook a few minutes longer.
Add the reserved paste. Rinse out the grinder with a little fresh water and add this to the pot too. Cook a few minutes, to bring out the flavor of the paste.
Now add the diced bamboo shoots and mix well. Let this simmer for 20-30 min over med-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the dish is nearly dry and very fragrant, add the coconut milk. Raise the heat to medium high and watch carefully, stirring often. When the curry is just below the boil, add the shrimp and mix well.
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for about 6-8 minutes or until the shrimp are just pink. Time will vary depending on size of shrimp.
When the shrimp are pink, remove from the heat and cover. Let it sit for an additional 5-10 minutes to be sure the shrimp are cooked through. They will continue to cook from the residual heat, and in doing so should not become tough.
This is a very interesting and rich, flavorful dish, which I served with soft barley rice (1 c rice, 1/2 c barley, 3 c water — soak for 30 min then cook per your usual rice rule).
As usual, it was even better as leftovers the next day.
**note on bamboo shoots — I purchased water packed shoots that looked something like the photo here. I wish I had those on top when I took the ‘before pics’ of the fridge, but I did get a shot of some narrower shoots packed in similar fashion. Bamboo tends to be very bitter tasting to me — I cut these puppies up and brought them to a boil in lightly salted water, then drained them, covered in fresh water and let them sit a good 30 minutes before using.
Let me add that it’s well worth the effort/expense to try these fresh(er) shoots as opposed to the garden variety canned version. Even after all that boiling/soaking/further cooking, they are so crunchy and tasty!
I am too late for Nupur’s deadline, but I thought it would be fun to fill out the virtual survey regardless!
before pics of fridge
The most unusual/exotic/interesting item in your fridge: homemade kimchi
Three items you always have in your fridge: ginger and garlic pastes, tamarind, sesame oil (only three!??) :)
Item(s) from the fridge that needed to be used and how you used it/them up in meals or recipes: ate up the aforementioned jam on toast :) made milk into yogurt, didn’t cook for a week eating leftovers, consolidated all store-bought horseradish and spicy brown mustard and ghee into one jar each, and so forth.
And that’s all folks… I can’t believe how long this post is. If you made it this far, you deserve a medal — or at least a serving of shrimp and bamboo shoots! ;)