For most home cooks the refrigerator is the focus point of their kitchen. It is here where serious cooking begins and ends. Most of the fresh produce we buy is stored here and almost all of what is left over after we have eaten finds they way back here.
I am prepared to bet good money that the fridge is the most frequently visited space in any home, and when you visit your parents or grand parents, you’ll end up peeking into their fridge at some point or another. Just to see what is on offer, should you get peckish during your visit.
I know. No visit to Mom is complete without at least two visits to her fridge: first to look, at then to try.
You can learn a lot about people by looking at the contents of their fridge. Cold meats and Patés? Cheeses? Fruits? Vegetables? Milk? Cream? Butter or margarine? These all tell a story, all you need to do is look closely.
Argue all you may, but to me, an empty fridge screams sadness. Loud and clear.
So what is my fridge right now?
I have two fridges: one for general use, and a second for my kitchen experiments. The star attraction among the experiments is a cured Oryx liver. First, it was cured in a sugar and salt mixture for two weeks to draw out all the moisture. Then it was seasoned with crushed black pepper, wrapped in a kitchen towel and hanged to dry. After three weeks of hanging, it is now ready to eat.
In the same fridge I have a second pouch hanging over an empty bowl. This one is filled with thick Greek yogurt. This is labneh in the making. To make this fresh, Middle Eastern fresh cheese, Greek yogurt is hanged in cheesecloth for a few days to drain all excess whey. I hang mine for three to four days to get to the consistency that I like. Labneh can be mixed with just about anything: melted nuts, fruit, white chocolate or honey for a sweet, healthy dessert component, or with herbs or a savoury treat.
In the general fridge I have the last of my homemade liver Paté, some edible flowers and some hazelnut butter. The latter is made from roasted hazelnuts that are blended into a very smooth paste. I use it for salad dressings, to make hazelnut and burned honey ice cream, or as a simple snack when ever I pass the fridge. A tablespoon is enough to stabilize even my most unpredictable blood sugar levels. Mixed with melted dark chocolate and some sugar, it produces the most delicious filling for tarts, or spread for luxury toast.
Because I make a lot of ice cream, I am always on the look out for innovative ways to use up left over egg whites. Meringues just does not do it for my anymore. As a result of recent experiments, there are now two large containers of marshmallow fluff in the fridge. The stuff is sticky, sweet and addictive, and great as a filling or icing for cupcakes, cakes or tarts. I have added some rose water and a little red food colouring to resemble to look and taste of Turkish Delights a favourite candy from my childhood.
I also have some confit duck legs and chicken on stand by. Traditionally, confit is a method to preserve excess meat, usually duck, goose, chicken or pork. The meat is first cured in sugar and salt for a few hours or overnight; then slow-cooked in their own fat. The cooked meat and fat is then stored in an airtight container until needed. When the time comes, the meat is simply re-heated with just a little of the fat, until the skin a crispy, and served with something simple such as braised cabbage, puy lentils or creamy mash potatoes. The left over fat can be used to fry French fries or soufflé potatoes. Simple yet delectable.
I like a full fridge. It gives me comfort and enables me to prepare delicious and nutritious meals without a great deal of effort and on short notice.
Take this salad for example. Made from what was already available in the fridge: confit duck, baby spinach, pomegranate seeds, labneh and few other bits and pieces that I found in the fridge. Make this on a balmy day for lunch or supper and serve it with a glass of cold, crisp white wine. Then drink a toast to Fred W. Wolf, the man who made it all possible.