One of the things I really love to do is test out recipes that sound interesting.
The other day I was thinking of making an arugula salad with mosto cotto, which is cooked grape must, because I just happened to have some on hand. We bought it on our last trip to Chianti, and I’ve been hoarding it because it’s a small bottle. One of the ingredients called in the salad was Macrona almonds.
Never having used these before, I made a trip to my local, high-end grocery store, just knowing they would have some. Well…they certainly did! Yikes, I thought, when I turned over the container and saw that the container that held 2/3 of a cup going to cost slightly over $10.00! Not that I’m cheap, but. I looked at the ingredients and thought, just a second, I have blanched almonds, really good EVOO and sea salt at home and I have the technology to toast some almonds. I’ll be darned if I was going to pay that much for a handful of almonds!
When I came home I got out the almonds, tossed them with EVOO and sea salt and put them into a preheated 350 F. oven for 12 or 15 minutes stirring often, until lightly golden. My husband has been nibbling on the nuts that were not required for the salad all day! So there you are. Sometimes you just have to be creative!
This brings me to how to make the basics yourself for a lot less $$$. Things like tomato sauce for pasta, which is so dead-easy and fast I can’t actually believe people pay as much as they do for a jar of sauce that is not that great, crème fraiche, soups, stocks, bread crumbs, salad dressings, herb salt and spice mixes. Or how about something as simple as self-raising flour? If it’s an item you don’t use often then simply combine 3 cups unbleached flour and 1 tablespoon baking powder. Freshly made spice mixes like garam masala and Chinese 5-spice, add a new level to your cooking. Sometimes it takes a bit of thinking ahead as in the case of crème fraiche but if you know you will be needing some….
If you grow your own tomatoes, why not have a go at making your own oven dried tomatoes? Or…how about drying your own herbs? This can be easily done in the microwave! Or, if you have a really warm room, like I do, either tie them up in bundles or lay on a paper towel lined rimmed baking sheet and voila in a few days, dried herbs! Sure a lot fresher tasting than dried herbs sitting in those little bottles in the store for who knows how long.
We are spoiled because we have a large freezer so I do make a lot of things for freezing but it’s not necessary to do things in a big way. Even making a pot of chicken stock once in a while, stashing it in the fridge freezer for making soups and sauces will make a difference.