When storm warnings urge us to “shelter in place,” your cupboards and pantry become your grocery store for the duration. If you had an emergency and couldn’t leave the house for a few days, would there be enough water and ready-to-eat food for you and your significant others? And what about little emergencies, like unexpected guests, or no vehicle to go to the store or just getting home late and hungry? What could you throw together from the pantry?
The cereal-for-dinner solution may work once, but consider stocking your pantry for other options to create meals that will be a comfort rather than an afterthought.
In bottles and jars, make sure you have: olive oil, assorted vinegars, soy sauce, curry sauce, honey, hoisin, mustard, a couple of favorite marinades and dressings, roasted red pepper strips, olives, artichoke hearts and peanut butter.
Canned goods include: salmon, tuna (albacore), tomatoes, a variety of beans, chicken broth (or vegetable broth), anchovies and a manual can opener.
Dried goods include: assorted rices, pastas, flour, potatoes, dried fruits, dried mushrooms, ginger, a good selection of spices and herbs, panko or other bread crumbs, crackers and assorted nuts such as macadamias, almonds, pine nuts, almonds and peanuts.
After using up everything perishable in the refrigerator, your pantry can still save the day. Here are a few simple recipes using ingredients entirely from your pantry, with little or no cooking.
Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Salad
One of my favorite go-to recipes for last-minute meals, this makes 4 or 5 servings.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
13-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
12-ounce can solid white tuna in water, drained and flaked
In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary. Add beans, tomatoes and parsley; toss gently. Stir in tuna and serve. Option: add croutons or serve with sliced bread.
Potatoes in Spicy Olive Oil
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato puree or paste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon harissa*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and salted, sliced half-inch thick
1 to 2 tablespoons dried parsley or mint
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add garlic, tomato puree, harissa, cumin and salt; stir well. Add water and potato slices; mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are almost cooked, 10 to 15 minutes. Add parsley or mint; simmer about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving dish; serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.
*Harissa is a Middle Eastern seasoning that can be purchased in tubes or jars. You can make your own and keep in the pantry: Combine 1-1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup ground cumin and 1/2 cup olive oil. Grind with a pestle until a paste forms. Add a little salt to taste and up to 2 teaspoons ground caraway seeds. Store in a covered jar.
Dried Fruit Compote
This adaptation from Bon Appetit magazine makes a nice breakfast, snack or dessert by itself or over ice cream; makes 6 servings.
3 cups cranberry, cran-apple or cran-raspberry juice
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried pears
4 ounces dried peaches
6 tablespoons honey
5 whole allspice berries
Combine ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Simmer until fruit is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl using a slotted spoon. Boil poaching liquid until syrupy, about 5 minutes, then pour syrup over fruit. Refrigerate until well chilled, or serve immediately if no refrigeration available.
Although anchovies do not come to mind as particularly high on everybody’s favorite foods list, here’s the trick: soak them in milk for 30 minutes to sweeten them. You’ll be surprised at the taste. Try this appetizer recipe from “Great Food Without Fuss” by Frances McCullough and Barbara Witt.
2 -1/2 ounce can or jar of Spanish or Italian anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, minced
Handful of parsley, minced very fine
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Toasted bread triangles or crackers
Soak the anchovies in enough milk to cover them, for 30 minutes. Pat dry and arrange anchovies on a plate like the spokes of a wheel. In a small bowl mix the garlic and parsley with the lemon zest; fluff together to blend. Drizzle the olive oil over anchovies; scatter the garlic mixture (gremolata) over. Serve with bread or crackers and toothpicks to spear the anchovies.
This is a low-cost, quickie dip to use up old bread; it whips up in seconds in a blender. Serve with veggies like carrot and celery sticks or grape tomatoes.
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
5 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 pound dried bread, dampened in water and squeezed
Salt to taste
Keep out two tablespoons of the almonds for garnish. Place the olive oil, vinegar, remaining almonds, and garlic in a blender container; blend until smooth. Break chunks of bread into blender; process until creamy. Add salt to taste and transfer mixture to a serving bowl. Top with reserved almonds.