I've never known a food lover who didn't love the idea of a trip to a warehouse store. Sure, we're all big on farmer's markets, specialty food stores, ethnic markets, bakeries and health food stores, but there's something irresistible about the prospect of an hour (or three) spent trolling the aisles of a big box store. Call it the thrill of the hunt. Since the selection changes often and with the seasons, you're always guaranteed to find new products and produce. Who knows what amazing thing you might turn up?
Every cook's favorite brand of canned tomatoes, to begin with, along with some excellent cheeses (Grana Padano, feta, and a very good white cheddar, to name just three) are at your fingertips. Sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives, pine nuts, capers, sausages, and richly marbled steaks make the trip worth it. And that's just a start. Good cooks know: The warehouse stores (along with some of the markets that now carry bulk buys) are stocked with top-notch finds at bargain-basement prices.
Of course when you let a cook loose in a place like that, with all those options at low, low prices, you can guess what's going to happen: We're going to fill that outsized grocery cart with more food than any single family can consume in the space of a week. That flat of blueberries looked far too gorgeous to pass up; that side of salmon had "great barbecue" written all over it; and that big bag of avocados sang out to the guacamole lover in you. In the end, we haul our treasures home, unload the bounty, and begin the process of trying to find refrigerator/cupboard/garage space for it. That's when the niggling worry sets in: How on earth are we going to use it all up?
That's also where this book comes in. It's packed with great recipes for doing just that: Using it all up. All those roasted red peppers, those beautiful haricots verts, those perfectly ripe mangos. As we see it, buying in bulk offers an opportunity to get cooking, to celebrate the many delicious possibilities in any of the big buys you simply can't not buy.
Take that wheel of brie. You probably would have passed it by if you'd seen it at your local market, where it might have been on the costly side and perhaps a little long in the tooth. Not the one at the big box store; it's cheap, ripe, and calling out to you. Go on, give in. Once home, cut yourself a wedge to enjoy with grapes and crackers, and then let the cooking begin. Brie on crostini, warm and melting, with dates and walnuts. Brie, ham, and tart apples on a toasted baguette, with a hit of Dijon mustard and honey. Brie in the best-ever version of fondue.
And what about that big bag of multicolored fingerling potatoes, another ingredient you might not buy elsewhere, if only for the typically steep cost? Not at the big box store. Don't ask why, just buy, and then try them pan-fried (with some Southwest seasonings); in a warm salad (with red-wine vinegar and chives); and roasted (with shallots and fresh rosemary). Grill some steaks (you did buy that six-pack of New York strips, we're assuming) to go with any of these options, and dinner's on the table.
This book takes its inspiration from a regular column in Fine Cooking magazine, where the conversation about what to cook with who's-bought-what is an everyday topic. Each issue of the magazine features one of our latest Big Buys, with creative recipes for using it up. And on our website, finecooking.com, we're keeping the ideas coming--and hoping that you'll join the party, too, and share your ideas and discoveries and recipes. The more, the merrier--and the more reasons we have to run on over and see what's new in the big buy aisles.