Good Food For Hard Times: Make Meals From What's Already In Your Pantry
You're stuck at home for weeks. The local supermarket is running low on staples like pasta and rice — not to mention toilet paper — and your home freezer is down to ice-encrusted "mystery" packets. Even in normal times, you don't have a lot in your pantry. But these times aren't normal.
Still, you need to eat. You love good food. You're tempted to order take-out, but most of the local restaurants are closed.
How will you cope?
Take a deep breath. Let's take a look at some of the options.
The thing about grocery shopping these days is that it's hard to shop in the traditional way you're used to — with a list. You kind of have to go with the flow: shop what is there versus what you wish was there. Look for the freshest ingredients you can find and buy food that will last or that you'll use in the next few days.
Don't hoard, but shop sensibly thinking about what you might eat for a week or 10 days at a time.
It's worth checking out smaller mom and pop neighborhood stores. Sometimes these smaller shops have items that the big stores have sold out of. Plus it's always important to support these small businesses.
In many areas, farmers markets are still open. Outdoor activities, while still possible, are always a good idea. Supporting local farmers is crucial right now. Since many of them grow produce for restaurants that are no longer open, they have a whole lot more of their locally grown food to sell.
Buy gift certificates to your favorite restaurants to help keep them in business during these trying times. It could mean the difference between them shuttering forever and reopening when the pandemic has passed.
How do you create community when we are all advised to keep our distance from one another? Here are a few suggestions:
Following traditional recipes can get complicated as you suddenly learn that you only have access to half the ingredients — or less. What follows are some tips and loosely written recipes using items you just might have in your pantry or be able to easily pick up at a local store.
A new side dish I created this week searching through my pantry:
Sautéed White Beans Provencal-Style
I found a can of white beans, an onion and some garlic, a few fresh tomatoes (you can also use canned or sun-dried) and a jar of roasted red peppers and created this 15-minute dish. Don't have tomatoes or roasted pepper? No problem. You've still got the makings of a great side dish or lunch. Crusty bread? Pita bread? Add some salad greens and you've got a whole meal.
Here's a recipe for Shakshuka, a simple, highly satisfying baked egg dish on tomato sauce:
Shakshuka: Baked Eggs, Tomatoes, Chilis And Cheese
This baked egg dish is said to have originated in North Africa but is extremely popular in Israel and throughout the Mediterranean. It works equally well for breakfast, lunch or dinner and features eggs cooked on a bed of roasted spiced tomato sauce. Serve with warm crusty bread and hot sauce.
“Pantry Tuna Niçoise”
Yes, you can make tuna sandwiches, salads or even fish cakes. But here's a recipe I came up with for "Pantry Tuna Niçoise.” Serves 2.
Vegetable scraps: As fresh produce becomes more and more precious you might consider keeping all vegetable scraps (carrot peelings, onion skins, zucchini ends, etc.) to make a pot of vegetable stock. Here's the recipe:
Recycled Vegetable Stock
The first time I made my own vegetable stock, using scraps of vegetables I had in the refrigerator bin I was amazed at the depth of flavor I got from food I would have otherwise thrown away. This stock takes about an hour and is so superior to supermarket bought vegetable stock you will be hooked. Plus, it's the ultimate in recycled food.
Start a bag collecting vegetable scraps: Think carrot peelings, the outer layers of onions and garlic, the top, dark green section of leeks, ends of squash or peelings from squash, trimmings from broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage, fennel fronds, potato peelings, celery leaves, parsley stems, roots and more. When you have about 1 or 2 pounds or more, you're ready to make stock. You can always double the recipe.
The only catch is balance. If you add 3 cups of cauliflower or cabbage or Brussels sprouts trimmings, your broth will have a heavy brassica taste — you want to try to balance out alliums (members of the onion family) with carrots, celery, etc. That's why it's good to collect scraps for a few days using a balance of the week's cooking leftovers. Always be sure to wash vegetable peelings and scraps and thoroughly dry in a salad spinner before making the stock.
Makes about 8 to 10 cups.
Immune Boosting Foods
I am not a nutritionist or a medical specialist but many nutritionists suggest that these foods are particularly good for helping to build up your immune system — something we can all use these days.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.