I like to think that my kitchen is among the most organized you'll ever see. On any given day, every cup, spoon, and plate will be in its designated place. I have a cupboard for spices, another one just for salt, and yet another for my oils and assorted kinds of vinegar.
Oh yes, my kitchen is an oasis of neatness. That is, until I start working on a cookbook project. Then, everything seems to lose its place! It hasn't failed yet.
Every project is different. The ingredients I found myself reaching for the most for book one were not necessarily the ones I used in book two. Invariably, some ingredients ended up getting shuffled to the back of the pantry. Months and months of testing and re-testing recipes also mean that sometimes bulk items, such as flour and grains, may not get completely used up.
So when friends ask me what I do the days immediately following the delivery of my books and how I relax and unwind after completing a manuscript, they don't believe me when I say that I begin by organizing my pantry. Yet, that's exactly what I do.
You see, there is a certain level of anxiety that envelops me the moment I deliver a manuscript. It's a funny feeling--part relief because the work is completed and part angst because I have to let go of it and it's out of my control. I'm told it's not uncommon to feel this way. Other authors have told me it's akin to giving birth, except that you don't get to hold your baby for another few months. Normal or not, one thing is for sure: it's unnerving. Whenever I feel like this, I clean.
I get a sense of calmness from organizing spices by color, arranging cans by ingredients, and stacking boxes neatly back into place. I mourn my cans of expired tomatoes that went unused because I abandoned my inspired bouts of Italian cooking and I marvel at the huge inventory of ingredients that I must use now before they follow suit. This time around, I've got to smile at the huge number of dulce de leche bottles that made it to my pantry--some given to me by dear friends who thought I could use another one, and others bought on a whim. Thank goodness, it's summer and I'll use those to make ice cream and sticky-gooey cakes to take to picnics with family and friends (the same ones who gifted me a bottle may even get their own cake as a thank you gift from me).
As you can see, my pantry is organized once more and that means I must be ready for another project. Once more, my kitchen is pristine and quiet as I cook for play and pleasure. This time around, I was pleasantly surprised to find a half-used bag of bulghur and a can of chickpeas that were nearing their expiration date. Here is the salad I made with them.
Pantry Bulghur and Chickpea Salad
2 cups bulghur wheat
3 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped tomato
1 1/4 cup chopped English cucumber
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions (light and dark parts)
1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained
2/3 cups lemon juice, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the bulghur in a large bowl and stir in the boiling water; cover, and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain the bulgur in a sieve to remove excess liquid and place it in a large bowl; chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and fluff it up with a fork. Stir in the cucumber, tomato, parlsey, cilantro, green onions, and chickpeas. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oil. Pour the dressing onto the bulghur and stir well; chill for at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) before serving.
Makes 6-8 servings
©Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2012; All Rights
Reserved. This recipe as a whole or its parts may not be used, photocopied,
copied, distributed, taught or disseminated by any means, without express
written consent of the author.