I realized that it was this website’s first anniversary as I began writing these words. I’m pretty excited about it! I managed to keep the commitment to myself by posting once a week, and it helped as a way to think creatively about the content. Thank you all who follow this blog.
Moving is not fun, at least not to me. However, I’m currently in the process of packing everything I have and storing it while I spend some quality time with my family in Argentina. Packing my stuff forced me to open every drawer and cabinet to find things that I thought I needed, but I hadn’t used in forever. So, since I had to spend a week or two moving stuff, I decided to go bare minimum with the cookware and see what I could and could not make.
My barebones cook set consists of a tiny nonstick fry pan, one small saucepan, a few Tupperware, one cutting board, my budget Komachi Santoku knife, one paring knife, and two spoons. A few days into the experiment, I was about to take a pair of disposable chopsticks from a restaurant, but I decided to get bamboo ones. That’s it! Let us take a closer look at what I could make.
Tagliatelle and Ragú
Minimalistic cookware was not the only challenge I took on; also, how to use every leftover ingredient I had. For example, I had about three portions of tagliatelle, some frozen peas, frozen corn, and other goodies, including a large can of peeled tomatoes. Since tagliatelle goes well with chunky sauces, I decided to do a “whatever there is” sauce, which turned out to be fantastic.
Talking about cookware, I managed to cook the pasta in the sauce by breaking it up slightly. Ragú sauce is a robust, chunky sauce that can keep simmering for longer, thus allowing time for the pasta to cook. For this cooking style, though, I would pick smaller kinds of pasta like orzo.
Arugula For the Win
Another thing I had in abundance was arugula. I got it to make dressings and eat it as a salad. However, I used it in other creative ways, like greens for an udon soup and herbs for my “chickpea cacio e peppe,” inspired by Ottolenghi’s cookbook ‘Shelf Love.’ I was pleasantly surprised by how versatile this ingredient was.
To make delicious arugula and parmesan salad, I emulsified a vinaigrette using a bit of tahini that I had to finish, white balsamic vinegar infused with grapefruit, and lovely olive oil I bought in Mendoza. Then with my knife, I shredded some parmesan cheese. The knife will replace a box grater or a Microplane just fine in many cases.
Bread with a Fry Pan?
Many of those who know me would ask me how about making bread in this minimal setup? If you choose your pans well, you can get them into the oven; you want to ensure they have a metallic handle. Another ingredient I had in abundance that I tried to use was flour—whole wheat, all-purpose, bread flour, etc. Before moving, I made a lot of flour tortillas, but now I had to think of something else.
While my experiment lasted, I made two kinds of bread, eggplant focaccia and saffron flatbread. With the saffron bread, I made an egg and vegetable scramble. I had barberries which I could soak in a yogurt container. It’s incredible seeing how handy those containers are and people toss them left and right. Go green! Don’t toss those!
The last thing I want to highlight as a complete success was an udon soup with homemade chicken stock. It turns out that a small saucepan works excellent for making a small batch of chicken stock made from the bones of a thigh and a leg; just add a few aromatics, and you have something special. Then I added some mushrooms, cooked dried udon in the broth, and seasoned the entire thing with fish sauce and some lime juice. I know that fish sauce is not Japanese! I was trying to go through what I had in my pantry, ok? I also put arugula to have something fresh and voilá, delicious Frankenstein Asian soup.
Having a minimal cook set made it possible to cook 90% of the things I make daily. Truth, I did miss the convenience of some of my other tools, but if I lived in an even smaller space with even fewer cooking options, now I’d feel confident that it’s still possible to make fantastic meals. This experiment also highlights that when you’re building your kitchen toolset, it’s best to spend a little extra, even if that means having fewer items, because you gain in versatility and counter space. Speaking of sustainability, I saw myself washing and reusing containers before tossing them out; I particularly enjoyed yogurt containers to proof the dough for my bread. Finally, I think that figuring out other ways of cooking my everyday items brought me closer to becoming a better chef.