Sunday, May 4, 2014

Finding Ingredients for Fast Food 4 Recipes

As Jeff promised, the recipes in Fast Food 4: Beyond the Basics has ingredients not used in his previous recipes. I spent the past few days hitting every store in a 10 mile radius in this, the crowded county of the most crowded state of the country.

For the mushroom barley soup he mentions the barley he 
uses his the quick-cooking version. Not one grocery store had it, but I found a dented dusty box way back on the top shelf in one of the 2 Wal-Marts I hit. When that's gone I'll just make the regular pearl barley ahead of time.

The only place that even heard of black lentils was the local
HFS, and he said he never saw any canned. I picked up a bag of dried, as well as a bag of Christmas lima beans. I love those limas and might make some up to keep in the freezer for the recipes on this DVD that require lima beans.

Fava beans was something else that was elusive. The HFS manager said none of the brands his store carries ever had them canned, but he did have dried organic ones, so I bought a pound. None of the grocery stores had them dried so this was my only option for now, or so I thought. I figured I would cook the dried for now then order the canned from VitaCost. This morning I hit a local bodega for the Sunday papers and wandered the aisles until the line at the registered thinned. There on the shelf I found 2 cans of Progresso brand fava beans! No, they're not organic like the Westbrae at VitaCost, but are they no-salt added, and they were canned! A good rinse and they'll be ready for use in the Couscous, Fava Beans & Peas recipe.

And although Jeff used tahini in a number of recipes in his FaceBook, My Simple Recipes album, I rarely made the sauces and I recently used up what tahini I had making that Yummy Sauce of Chef AJ's. The can I had of Joyva brand was a few years old, anyway, so I was glad it was finally finished. This time I decided I'll try for something better, something that didn't have 3 inches of oil floating on the top and still be as solid as cement under that oil. I discovered that the grocery stores didn't even have that Joyva on the shelves any more. Uh, oh! I wound up paying $10 for a 16 ounce jar of Woodstock brand tahini. Searches on-line show that this is about the going price for that sized jar of organic tahini now. I think that last can of Joyva was only around $3. I don't think I'll be making as many of the new recipes that require the tahini-sauce. With the basic sauce 1 part tahini, 1 part lemon juice and 1 part water, the suggested amount on the DVD being 1 cup of each, one jar isn't going to last too long. These SNAP recipes will no longer be that "affordable" unless I stock up from a cheap mail order source.

I mentioned in an older post on the Kasha Varnishkes how difficult it was to find kasha in this city. When I did find the one store that was selling it around Passover last year I bought 6 of them. That store didn't have any this year, so it looks like this will be another food item I'll have to buy on-line when I run out again. 

Where the heck does one buy millet that isn't intended as bird seed? I've never seen it in grocery stores by the other grains. While roaming around the HFS with my list yesterday I overheard a customer asking one of the clerks where the plastic container of flax seed was moved to, and was told it was moved over by the peanut butter, right next to the millet. My ears pricked up. Millet?? They actually have it? By the peanut butter?? A few minutes later I wandered over that section in search of the tahini, and there was a section of the shelf with a few of these plastic containers that old-fashioned candy is usually sold in. They had dark and golden flax, whole and ground, sesame seeds, and millet. I bought about a cup of it, almost wiping them out.

Last in my whine-fest about hard-to-get items are the pine nuts called for in the same Mediterranean Millet recipe I needed the last ingredient for. The HFS was out and said there's a shortage and they had no idea when they would get any in. In all the grocery stores I visited, the tiny bags usually displayed in the baking supplies aisle alongside the tiny bags of crushed and whole nuts were gone, too. I finally found a small plastic container in the produce aisle, next to the containers of sun-dried tomatoes and garlic cloves in water, with about a half cup of pine nuts. $7 for that tiny amount, but since only an ounce at a time is used in the recipe, I'll pack these things up in a freezer container and store them in the freezer so they'll always be fresh when I need them.

Well, people asked Jeff for something different, and these recipes certainly does that. For people who live in areas with loads of stores that carry these ingredients and at decent prices, you probably have most of these items on hand already. But for those of us who don't have stores like Trader Joes or Whole Foods nearby, be prepared to go on a treasure hunt, and don't be surprised if some items will have to be purchased from on-line. 


  1. HI Veggie Sue--and easy way to make tahini is with hulled raw sesame seeds. Just grind them up in your food processor. It takes a few minutes and stopping to scrape the sides down, but you don't get the layer of oil, and it keeps very nicely in a the fridge for a long time. If you can find them where you live, the seeds themselves are much more economical than the jars of tahini. Most places that have a good bulk section have sesame seeds. Good luck

  2. "Places that have a good bulk section" is my problem. The ONLY store that has a bulk section at all is the HFS, and remember that section I mention where I found the millet and flax? There was an empty plastic bin labeled "sesame seeds" in the row, but was empty. No price was posted on it, either, so I wonder if they ever had any seeds in there. The only other way to buy sesame seeds in this city is where the pine nuts usually are - in those tiny 1-ounce bags hanging in the baking items aisle @ around $3 a bag. It's the little things like this I can't buy locally that's the reason my UPS guy and I are on a first name basis.