Pantry Cooking

Once again I was sabotaged by my fridge. This time, it was a package of chicken thighs purchased well within sale date. Ancient ice box of a fridge couldn't keep then cold enough for 2 days. When I began to cook tonight... gotcha! Spoiled chicken. I was going to make crispy Asian chili sauced thighs. Now, I needed immediate backup. Too hungry to venture out and delivery to Norristown is limited, because it's Norristown. No other raw proteins in the fridge because it does often sabotage me. What's on the pantry shelf that's a satisfying Saturday night dinner?

Shelf stable spinach tortellini. Yes, yes, this will do. Not in the mood for tomato sauce either. Ooh, and here's a can of Stilton and Port soup from Scotland that I hadn't developed the nerve to eat by itself. And a hunk of Roaring 40's blue from Australia left over from a cheese plate a few weeks ago, voila! Spinach tortellini with blue cheese cream sauce was born. I added some other left over cheese bits (a small piece of La Tur from my last post), some parmiggiano that my fridge is never without and some Emmenthaler for a rich melty-ness to the sauce. Super tasty, and didn't seem like a pantry desperation dinner.

What other pantry staples do I keep around for just such an occasion? Cous cous - add anything and you have a meal. If the tortellini didn't jump out I was going to make curried eggplant cous cous for dinner. The Captive Husband wouldn't have even missed the meat. Stocks and broth equal instant soup. Add some leftover chicken or a handful of pasta and arugula to wilt in it and you have a simmered all day flavor. Speaking of pasta, multiple shapes are a definite pantry staple. A no cook sauce of extra virgin olive oil, grated cheese and fresh basil puts dinner on the table in 10 minutes. Stir warm penne into a mixed green salad dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and goat cheese, and I'm content. Canned chick peas. Whiz them in the food processor for quick hummus, add to a salad to make it hearty, toss them with a can of diced tomatoes and feta cheese and lemon for another quick pasta meal. Cured meats. Spanish chorizo, andouille sausage, Italian salumi. They all last forever, even in my fridge. Not only can you slice up a quick antipasto plate, but they can be added to eggs for a quick omelet, sauteed with potatoes for a hearty meal. Cheese. There's usually some American for the emergency grilled cheese, but there's also the leftover bits that happen there seemingly by accident. These bits that wouldn't constitute a platter end up in polenta, mac n cheese, another famous omelet and even fondue. Cheesy grit souffle. No need to specify a type of cheese, mixed with creamy grits it all becomes sublime.

I could go on and on but the message is the same. When you think there's nothing in the house for dinner, unless you're a bachelor who keeps only empty mayo containers and whipped cream in the fridge - you have more meals at the ready than you realize.

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