I do not like when our house is jam-packed full of new groceries. There is simply too much good food on hand, too many options. When we consume some of it, I feel better, as if we’ve done a worthwhile, necessary thing. The elimination feels satisfying, not so much in the pleasure of the eating, but in the minimization of what’s available.”--Amy Rosenthal Encyclopedia of an Ordniary Life.
Last week I read Amy Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. The book is a memoir written in the format of an encyclopedia complete with cross-references. Although some entries were the type of random musing that one might find scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin--tainted with slightly drunken hubris--many entries rang with clarity and recognition. For instance, I, too, feel like eating foods from the pantry is a worthwhile, necessary thing. I also find that in the frantic mess of everyday life pulling my thoughts in every direction the "minimization of what's available" is a welcome form of simplicity.
Yet, paradoxically, there is great comfort in having a house full of food. A feeling of security. The comfortable notion that if there's a blizzard or if I get sudden-onset agoraphobia then I can survive quite happily with a pantry full of sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, big bags of rice and beans, a gallon of good olive oil. Must of my food buying habits have centered around this premise: You do NOT want to go without a good meal if you are trapped in the house for months at a time. Perhaps part of this comes from my increasing hatred of grocery shopping. Theoretically, if I'm that well stocked, then I shouldn't have to go to the grocery store Every. Single. Week.
Kent went to the grocery store with me the other day, and after I lost him in the produce aisle, I continued on with my shopping. When he finally found me 23 minutes later, I had gathered a whole cart's full of groceries. "You walk so fast. I can't keep up. This is not a sprint, Sarah," he said, angrily tossing the half a dozen cans of garbanzo and pinto beans I asked him to get--which he had lugged across the whole store trying to keep up with me. I've taken to the position that the faster I get in and out of the grocery store the better. Do not get in my way. Last week I put off grocery shopping for almost as long as I could bear it. Until my fridge looked like this:
A raw chicken defrosting for supper that night, a few eggs from the 'girls,' but that was about it. Now the other benefit of letting food stuffs run so low, besides the mental clarity, is the fact that it imposed a forced creativity. That day for lunch I made this rather odd meal:
I was turned onto hazelnut oil by Molly Wizenberg's recipe for Celery Root and Apple Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette. This salad is lovely in its own way, but the complicated vinaigrette with lemon, vinegar, Dijon mustard, and more, just isn't necessary. I found that all the other ingredients muddied the wonderful (and expensive) flavor of the hazelnut oil. So, I just started making a lemon juice and hazelnut oil dressing that is one of the easiest and flavor dressings I know of. It is worth keeping a bottle of hazelnut oil in the back of your fridge for emergencies just like this.
Hazelnut oil can be hard to find. Whole Foods seems to be the only place that I can locate it, but I'm also sure you can find it for sale online at Amazon. I've been very happy with La Tourangelle brand roasted hazelnut oil. They also make good truffle oils. It's almost embarrassing writing out a recipe this simple, but here you go:
5 Tablespoons hazelnut oil
3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
pinch of sea salt
Whisk all ingredients together. Taste and adjust for seasoning.