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Jul 28, 2011 08:43 PM

Cooking from a very modest supermarket: Inspire me!

Our vacation will take us to a rented house in a rural area with a small and not fancy supermarket as the only food shopping. (There is a farmers market, but it won't have much beyond corn and tomatoes, maybe zucchini or cukes.)

On past trips, we've cheerfully subsisted on Cheerios, tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese... But this time we're going for 2 weeks, which makes me want to think a little harder about the pleasures of the table, and I know there are things to cook and eat that I'm just not considering.

What are your favorite things to make using very basic ingredients? (I don't happen to like omelettes, but omelettes are the kind of thing I have in mind.)

Inspire me!

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  1. My 'fallback' option if I only have my local off license to buy from is spaghetti alla norma. All you need is spaghetti, an eggplant (or aubergine), olive oil, tin of tomatoes (or fresh or passata), basil, garlic, some red chilli (if you like some spice) and optional parmesan, pecorino or feta. They are all pretty much ingredients you should be able to buy at the most basics of shops.

    Or even more simple, spaghetti with good olive oil, lemon juice and a good parmesan or pecorino and basil.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pj26

      Great idea. I love pasta alla norma.

      1. re: pj26

        Check out Nancy Silverton's book: A Twist of the Wrist. If you bring a few well chosen jarred/canned items from home you can do very very well.

        These are not your normal jars/cans etc. These are specialty items. But it makes it easy

      2. Hopefully you will be able to make some key things ahead of time (unless you are flying).But, even if you are flying you can bring some essential dry ingredients and figure a small market will have things like ketchup, oil, vinegar, etc. Eggs (even better if they are fresh and local).

        Draw up a menu plan so you know what to bring from home.
        If corn and tomatoes are ready, there should also be zukes, cukes, and green beans. Maybe beets.
        Zucchini pancakes for breakfast. (will require shredding). The recipe I use takes a little like carrot cake with raisins and spices. Mix the dry ingredients ahead of time. Add the shredded zuke and eggs and wet ingredients when you are ready to cook. This is a great camping recipe. Serve with grilled sausage and bacon.

        Planning to try a grilled zucchini salad today.

        Cook a bunch of fresh green and/or yellow beans one night with enough for leftovers. 2nd day dress cold beans with a tomato-y french dressing (we prefer homemade). I also add very thin slices of onion and maybe some cherry tomatoes. Cold beans are good with a variety of dressings and you can add whatever flavors, ie feta cheese that you like.

        Fresh corn one night. Cook extra. Bring fixings for a corn, black bean, tomato salad. Again, with local store vinegar etc you just want to bring the right spices/herbs from home. You might have to skip fresh coriander. I put the dried ingredients in a small plastic bag and label.

        Our vacations also include homemade muffins and cookies. I make these at home. The simplest dessert is vanilla yogurt mixed with fresh berries. Hope you can get fresh blueberries, peaches or similar. Of course, small rural store might not have tubs of vanilla yogurt.

        We've gotten used to putting marinades on chicken, steaks, pork. Again, bring mixed dry ingredients in a labeled bag, add vinegar and oil at your vacation home. Consider kabobs with fresh tomatoes and peppers and onions. (Don't forget to bring kabob skewers from home.)

        Sounds like might also have the ingredients for taco salads.
        The big secret is 1. menu plans ahead of time so you can 2) bring pre-mixed and labeled dry ingredients from home.

        What I like about vacations with cooking facilities is the chance to visit local farmstands and markets for the local goodies.

        I also bring my favorite cutting board and knives.

        3 Replies
        1. re: dfrostnh

          Corn on the cob, pintos (any dried bean, really) and ham, cornbread mix, sliced tomatoes. Any combo of fresh veggies, simply and minimally prepared, make great meals to showcase what the area has to offer.Okra and tomatoes, sugar snaps and peppers,veggie burritos,broccoli with garlic and cashews, butterbeans with bacon and green onions, roasted beets, macaroni and cheese, corn fritters,gazpacho, cold berry or peach soup with pound cake croutons,fried chicken, shrimp and red beans and rice, all are easily prepared with minimal fuss and very widely available ingredients. Hope that helps, I've got plenty more : )

          1. re: shecrab

            Thanks for the great ideas. There really isn't much in the way of local veg, as it's not a great growing region and sparsely populated. (People may do more with home gardens.) But mmmm, broccoli with garlic and cashews! Love the sound of that.

          2. re: dfrostnh

            Not a great area for local farmstands and goodies, I'm afraid, and I know because I share your enthusiasm for visiting them when I travel! But I appreciate all your other suggestions. Corn, black bean, and tomato salad is a favorite.

          3. What do the locals eat?? Why not immerse yourselves in the local culture, customs and food ways??? Surely they don't subsist on Cheerios, tuna sandwiches, and grilled cheese. ~ Please don't tell me they are beneath you!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Uncle Bob

              That's a very good suggestion Uncle Bob!

              1. re: pj26

                I didn't in any way mean to suggest that either the locals or the grilled cheese sandwiches are beneath me! But there just aren't always local foodways, so to speak. This is far northern NY state, it's mountainous and cool. Sparsely populated and not great for growing stuff.

                The locals subsist, as I think many people all over the country do, on what is for sale in their local supermarket. The market we can reach there is just very modest.

            2. I might consider some "theme" nights. A night of crepes for example. Start with savory and then move to dessert. The fillings can be anything you might find such as ham and cheese, orange and sugar. Bring some bulghar or quinoa with you and make a zucchini and tomato ragu.

              Another meal might be grilled chicken, zucchini cakes with a tomato sauce, and corn. And, if you have fresh tomatoes, gosh a grilled cheese with home made tomato soup is pretty darn good!

              As long as you have some basic vegetables, meat, flour and water, and maybe some decent milk and cheese, there are no end to the things that you can create that are both delicious and simple to make. [Simple doesn't mean fast though.]

              1 Reply
              1. re: smtucker

                Thanks. I know that a lot can be done with basics. I just can't always think of what!

              2. I've been stuck in a rural village (as in roads closed by large snowstorm) where there was little to choose from in terms of groceries and the locals at meat (boiled, fried, roast) and potato (boiled, mashed), but it doesn't mean that you can't find inspiration based on what's available. Just use your imagination.

                Chicken+potato+onion = roast chicken dinner, fried chicken with fries and onion rings, galatine with potato salad and onion confit, poule au pot, and poached chicken and stuffed marylands with potato galette among other things.

                Canned tuna (in oil) makes for the basis of a very nice Spanish orange salad or a ni├žoise.

                Corn, tomato, zucchini, cucumbers: roasted corn salsa, corn soup, cucumber soup, zucchini fritters, salads, gazpacho, accompaniments to some sort of protein, pan bagnat.

                Eggs: you can do a lot with eggs.

                Cheerios: "batter"

                3 Replies
                1. re: wattacetti

                  What are stuffed marylands? Cheerios batter? I'm intrigued!

                  1. re: Amy Mintzer

                    Marylands are the drumstick with the thigh still attached (and skin on). You can debone the thing fully or just take out the thigh bone and stuff the cavity before rolling/typing everything back together.

                    If you coarse crumble Cheerios, they can be used as a component to a more complicated batter (seasoned flour, egg, Cheerios+other stuff)