Bittman's on fire in this week's Minimalist column, which does double duty as the Dining section's cover story. The focus is the freezer, and Bittman thinks that you're doing it wrong. And he has a point:
If I tried to sell you a new appliance that could help you save money, reduce food waste and get meals on the table faster, the only thing you’d ask would be “How much?”
The answer is “Nothing.” You already own it. For just as the stove comes with a hidden and often overlooked bonus — the broiler — so does the refrigerator: the freezer. Why not use it?
I know: you do. In that messy box you have some ice cubes, some stuff you bought frozen — a pizza? Lean Gourmet? peas? — and maybe, if you cook a lot, some stock or hastily stored leftovers. You also have a load of things you’ve already forgotten about and will eventually toss, even though you would have been guilt-struck if you had discarded them when they were fresh.
But if you conscientiously use the freezer in two ways, you’ll value it as never before. The first: take raw ingredients you have too much of — or whose life you simply wish to prolong — and freeze them. The second: take things you’ve already cooked — basics like stock, beans, grains and the like, or fully cooked dishes — and freeze them.
The thing is worth a read, full of helpful factoids (freezers are more efficient the more jam packed they are) and tips that range from the unexpected (cover pesto with a layer of olive oil to prevent freezer burn) to the obvious yet often overlooked (label your stuff, because fish stock looks like chicken stock looks like lemon juice once it's frozen).
And! Don't forget to check out the related post on Bittman's blog Bitten, where the comments section is bursting with even more ideas for maximizing the use you get from your freezer. I like this one:
In cool months, I regularly make a big batch of steel cut oatmeal , then spread it on a cookie sheet, freeze, cut it into serving size rectangles, and take them to work where I microwave them for breakfast. Quick, easy, and much better than instant.Leave your own ideas over there, or in the comments below.
Oh, and also worth a read: Harold McGee's fascinating piece about asparagus.
Freeze That Thought [nytimes]
The Freezer (Comments) Section [Bitten blog]
Asparagus' Breaking Point [nytimes]