Yes, I’m back. To anyone paying attention: I apologize for disappearing. Let’s catch up. It’s not like we haven’t been eating.
The latest: I’ve been on the “save money, don’t go to the store” angle this week…well, actually, this month, which explains why the pantry is running thin. I’ve been getting a little too spendy on the outings (culinary and not), but that’s always a fun excuse to play the pantry challenge. What can you make based almost entirely on pantry and freezer ingredients?
(I make exceptions for essentials like onions, garlic, carrots, and lemons, which are easy to keep on hand in bulk. So can you.)
My pantry-challenge meals lean toward grain and legumes without question. The house is officially bereft if I’m out of canned tomatoes or pasta. You can always make something brilliant with those two lifelines and spices alone; even better if you’ve got some meat (bacon? pancetta?) or jars of capers and olives on hand. Talk to me about pasta. I can go on for hours.
So tonight I’ve got leftover baked pasta with broccoli and goat cheese (no tomatoes!) waiting for me, but last night I went “healthy” by hitting the dried beans. Easy as hell, and I’ve prepped the freezer for pantry raids down the road.
The procedure: The moment I walked in the door, I poured a bag of bulk dried chickpeas (maybe a little more than a pound?) in a pot with two inches of water to cover and got them going over high heat. No presoaking, no fancy prep. Dried beans, water. Poured a drink and sat down to finish some work.
About an hour later, I dug a couple of Italian sausages and half a bag of frozen spinach out of the freezer, chopped some onion, carrot, and garlic, and located the leftover tomato sauce from the pizza I made last week. Browned the sausage, then softened the vegetables in olive oil. I deglazed with some sherry — the chickpeas nearing done — and added the tomato sauce, sausage, and my favorite, pimentón.
When that mixture was bubbling satisfyingly, I ladled a few scoops of the chickpeas with their cooking liquid (and the couple of cloves of garlic I added halfway through cooking) into the pot, simmered a little while, added the spinach, some parsley, and a dash of sherry vinegar, and presto! Done. Actually quite good, and perhaps half an hour of active cooking time.
Almost as great: several pints of cooked chickpeas prepped for the freezer and an even faster meal another day.
What do you make when you’re too lazy to go to the store and too cheap for takeout?