I’m fairly sure that I suggested this theme to my blog sisters after spotting a jar of palm hearts on the pantry shelf—a jar Mr. Right picked up on our last trip to Trader Joes in Spokane, I don’t know how long ago. Last week, I cleaned out the kitchen cabinet that collects small things—and filled an entire tray with flavored salts and mustards, spice blends, rosewater, partial bags of dried peppers—even a bottle of blackberry syrup that predates our kitchen remodel five years ago!
We all have those things in our cabinets, fridges, and freezers. But how many of us have a jar of palm hearts or a bottle of Wasabi-Ginger finishing sauce? I thought that instead of playing with those, it might be more useful to offer suggestions for some of the more common kitchen miscellany.
We love bread, but intentionally don’t eat a lot of it. Even when we do, there’s sometimes an end of a baguette or a extra roll. I toss them into a bag in the freezer, and when I’ve got a decent collection, I make seasoned croutons for soups and salads. The more odd varieties—a stub of rye, a slice of kalamata olive, even an English muffin—the better.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Slice and cube the bread. Toss with olive oil—be generous. Add salt and spices—I like to use a classic Italian herb blend. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for thirty minutes, turning once or twice during baking.
Serve on salads or soups. Croutons will keep up to a week in an airtight bag or container. (Mine never last that long!)
Small pieces can be grated and broiled on bread for 2-3 minutes. Asiago toasts are particularly yummy.
MUSTARDSAny foodie—and you all qualify—gets fun gifts from friends and relatives who spot something interesting and share. Flavored salts and mustards are especially popular, in small jars perfect for testing—but not usually enough for a large recipe. Try your flavored mustards in vinaigrettes, cheese toasts, and grilled cheese, or thinned with olive oil or honey as a dip for pretzels.
For these Asiago toasts, we spread cranberry mustard on leftover bread. I used the rest of the mustard in a vinaigrette.
Other great options would be za’atar, Chinese five spice, or smoked paprika. The chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, make a great snack or salad topping—a great substitute for nuts.
SPICED ROASTED CHICKPEAS3 cups low sodium or home-cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (2-14 ounce cans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon spice blend
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pat the chickpeas dry with a paper towel, then spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat, then sprinkle with the salt. Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden brown and crisp on the outside, 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Taste, and sprinkle with more salt as needed, then season, stirring the chickpeas to coat evenly.
Serve warm. Cooled chickpeas are less crisp, but equally tasty.
Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.
Now what do I do with that jar of palm hearts?
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.
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