Take your cooking to the next level with these handy additions.
The humble freezer is an often-overlooked tool that can make your life much easier and your food bill lower. By moving beyond the ordinary bags of frozen peas and corn, you can transform your cooking into something great by stashing key ingredients in the freezer.
This past summer, the Washington Post published a wonderful compilation of suggestions from professional chefs (including Rachael Ray and Christopher Kimball) as to what they like to stockpile in their freezers; and while it's certainly not your typical freezer list, it contains some excellent suggestions that I will certainly be adopting. What follows are my favorites from that list, as well as a few of the author's and commenters' suggestions.1. Nuts: Nuts go rancid if left out for too long. Freezing is the surest way of maintaining freshness. They toast well from frozen and thaw quickly.
2. Rice: Spread cooled cooked rice on a pan and transfer to container once frozen. It's good for stir-fries and fried rice.
3. Specialty flours: If you have flours that don't get used frequently, store them in the freezer to stay fresh. Almond flour, flaxseed meal, cornmeal, and rye flour can all be frozen.
4. Compound butter: Instead of freezing fresh herbs in olive oil in ice-cube trays, as many people do, you can mix the herbs with butter and roll into a log. Store in wax paper and slice off what you need for topping grilled foods, adding to eggs, or brushing the tops of flatbreads.
5. Corn: Buy fresh corn cobs in summer and strip off the kernels, either cooked or raw. They freeze beautifully and have wonderful fresh flavor.
6. Cookie dough: One cookbook author, Stella Parks, says she keeps portioned cookie dough in the freezer, ready to bake, but this can take up space. Another approach is to roll dough into logs and slice while oven preheats.
7. Pancakes and waffles: This is my own suggestion, and one that never fails to delight my kids. I make extras on weekends and they heat them in the toaster.
8. Tomato paste: You rarely use a full can, so put tablespoons of extra paste on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer to a container once frozen.
9. Shredded zucchini: A commenter suggests freezing portions of shredded zucchini to use for baking, which is a great idea for getting through those zucchini surpluses at this time of year.
10. Caramelized onions: Make a large batch in a slow cooker and freeze. They add rich flavor to homemade pizza, wraps, grain salads, rice pilafs, egg dishes, and more.