For January, Cooking The Pantry (and Freezer, And Fridge) Dry

It started when my husband bought me a new appliance for Christmas. (An air fryer. It’s very entertaining if not exactly necessary.)

New appliances must be stored. This requires that one make some room in a cabinet, which requires moving things into another cabinet, which requires asking oneself why the pasta is in one cabinet and the rice is in another and the canned beans in still another, which necessitates taking it all out and putting it on the counter to reassess.

Then I cleaned out the fridge. And then, to store the ravioli and cappelletti my mother and I made over the holidays (more on that family tradition here), I opened the freezer.

We have a lot of food.

We are fortunate, but we can’t possibly be alone in that good fortune: Americans throw away roughly 35 million tons of food a year; as much as 40 percent of our food supply. Some of that’s restaurant waste, but much of it comes from our obsession with big-box stores and stocking up on more Nutri-Grain bars than any one family could possibly want to eat. We don’t have that much storage space (and no Costco membership), so that’s not my problem, but we do have a lot of food stored up, from cans of beans to a freezer full of meat to a fridge drawer full of grated cheese in packets. I would estimate we could eat for a month while buying little beyond milk, fruit and vegetables.

Photo
One frozen pizza dough. Tomatoes and mozzarella past their salad days. Sausage from the freezer, a can of tomatoes pureed into sauce, and dinner is done.Credit KJ Dell'Antonia

So that’s what I’ve set out to do this January: Eat our pantry (and our freezer, and the contents of the fridge). It’s in keeping with the frugal spirit of January, and a need to step back, to spend less and eat at home more. This week, that meant using a bunch of sad vegetables (and one purchased stick of lemon grass) to spark up boxed broth, making mac and cheese with all that grated cheese and the odds and ends of a holiday platter, and putting together pizzas with dough from the freezer and assorted ingredients we already had on hand.

For next week, I asked some of my favorite cooks for their go-to “pantry only” recipes:

Melissa Clark: “Pasta With Anchovies, Garlic, Chiles and Kale is my favorite pantry meal. If you don’t have kale, leave it out! I often do.”

Jenny Rosenstrach: “I am so into fried chickpeas right now. I keep flatbread in the freezer, too, so I’m usually set for an easy vegetarian dinner. It’s best with yogurt and cilantro, but works without those, too. Also: Cold Sesame Noodles. If you make extra peanut sauce, drizzle on steamed spinach later in the week for goma ae. The best.”

Catherine Newman: “Start with good, well-salted whole wheat pasta and butter-fried breadcrumbs as the bottom and top layers. Then you can slide in whatever else between: canned beans, thawed chili, Crock-Pot chicken, wilting vegetable friends of all kinds. A squeeze of lemon, a flurry of Parmesan, call it “dinner,” and so it is. A recipe, here. And for the fridge full of vegetables, a pair of soups, one for cauliflower, one for root vegetables and one to put almost anything in.”

What’s your favorite recipe for when you haven’t been to the store, or you’re aiming to cook the pantry dry?** Give me one to use up my half-empty jar of hoisin sauce and we’re friends for life. I’ll share the best ideas, and any great plans you have for cooking your way through the food you have on hand, next Wednesday.

**I’m borrowing that phrase from Jenny Rosenstrach, who says she borrowed it from Mark Bittman. Whoever said it first, that’s the goal.

Source : https://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/07/for-january-cooking-the-pantry-and-freezer-and-fridge-dry/

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