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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dinners from the pantry

As I've said before on Lady Scribes, I like cookbooks. Since I work at a public library, I can easily browse new cookbooks, check them out for a test drive, and buy the ones that works for me. About a month ago, I checked out Sauces and Shapes by Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant. I don't generally make a lot of Italian food at home, but there is an appeal to the ease of a pasta dish for dinner. I've been trying some of the recipes and they've been good.

Then I got broccoli rabe in my CSA and decided to try something different. There is a recipe for pasta with broccoli rabe, ham, olives, and capers. I had everything but the ham around my house, so I added that to my shopping list and thought, "worth a try." I like all the ingredients (the recipe also calls for onions, garlic, and pecorino romano cheese), but I'd never thought of having them all together.

It was the best meal I'd had in weeks--sweet from the ham, onions, and garlic, a little bitter from the broccoli rabe, salty from the capers and cheese, and there was loads of olive oil for a satisfying mouth feel. I filled up my bowl, ate the whole thing, and had to stop myself from going back for more. This recipe will be new regular for me, especially because I keep so many of the ingredients on hand.

Pantry dishes are convenient and I love when the simple ingredients combine to be something sublime. Especially during the holidays, knowing you can throw a meal together with what you have sitting around the house removes some of the stress.


The Middle Eastern dish
mujadara is another popular pantry dinner at my house. There are tons of recipes for it online, but I like the one in Recipes from the Root Cellar  by Andrea Chesman. The dish is basically rice, lentils, and onions that have been slowly browned until they are golden and melt in your mouth. Some recipes add tomatoes, Chesman's recipe adds buttermilk, which gives the dish an unexpected tang (and helps you excuse your desire for buttermilk pancakes because now you have a use for the rest of the buttermilk!). Mujadara is one of those dishes that is far, far more than the sum of its parts and you will be surprised by how delicious the humble ingredients become when mixed all together.

So, share with the group--what are your most delicious "pantry" meals? And, what do you keep on hand in your pantry so that you are always able to toss together a meal. Leave a comment and I'll give away a paperback copy of my January release, A Promise for the Baby.


Mujadarra
Mujadarra
Mujadarra

14 comments:

  1. Jennifer,
    Your pantry meals put mine to shame. :D
    I usually have stuff on hand to make my family's favorites - chicken Alfredo, meatloaf, and tacos. I also keep stuff on hand to make soups in the winter. I'm making a vegetarian chili for tonight and tossing everything in the crockpot.

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    1. I'm not sure they put yours to shame--I don't keep anything in my pantry to make chicken Alfredo, meatloaf, or tacos!

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  2. I always have the makings on hand for taco soup. It's a tomato based soup that's a little spicy and full of different beans, corn, hominy, green chiles, etc. It's always easy to toss together and absolutely delicious.

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  3. That sounds really good. And perfect for cold fall and winter nights.

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  4. Years ago, my mom came up with a "spaghetti" recipe. It isn't really Italian, except for the pasta part and has a very vegetable taste. I can make this recipe in my sleep, and I always keep the ingredients on hand to make a pot.

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    1. Besides having ingredients on hand, it's also always nice to have recipes in your back pocket that you can make on the drop of a hat.

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  5. Well this post has made me quite hungry! : ) Your broccoli rabe sounds amazing. One of the, easy to manipulate, not your typical recipe, my husband and I play around with, is a take on Pasta Fagioli. By nature of who we are, we always tend to have canned tomatoes and various types of beans in our pantry. When we are not without the typical ingredients, we will experiment with the different beans and it ALWAYS works! In addition, if we don't have our fresh cheese for grating, we substitute with the shaker cheese and it comes out, so, so yummy.

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    1. Beans and tomatoes are a staple in my pantry. As is a pressure cooker so I can make a bean soup in no time!

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  6. I keep quinoa on hand. Love to first sauté some portabella mushrooms and drain the broth from them. I use the broth plus added water to cook the quinoa for 15 minutes. I then add some sun-dried tomatoes, the cooked mushrooms, pesto and parmesan cheese. It makes a great side dish to serve with whatever meat you want. Quinoa is full of protein and fiber, sticks to your ribs and is a comfort food. You can get very creative with it. Let your imagination run wild!

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    1. Quinoa is one of the grains I've never gotten into. I make teff for breakfast but quinoa... Ill have to try it again. Your recipe sounds delicious.

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  7. My pantry meals are fried rice and pasta gratin. The fixing are always in the fridge and pantry. Leftover rice and plain left over pasta makes it easy to throw these two dishes together.

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    1. Fried rice is one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers. In fact, I make extra rice just to have fried rice later in the week.

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  8. Lol I always have eggs in the house, so I can make you a nice omelet. Often with ham and cheese, sometimes I add mushrooms or sweet bell pepper or onions, or all of them.
    For dry staples, there is usually spaghetti and sauce, macaroni, rice, things that keep long.

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  9. Eggs are such a good thing to keep in the house! I have chickens, so I always have eggs around (although it's slim pickings this time of year).

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