Inspired Cooking From Your Pantry
A lot of us are finding ourselves cooking at home more than we ever had before. The key to making delicious and healthy meals is a robust pantry and utilizing a pantry space you might overlook – your freezer.
Stashing flavor-boosting ingredients is a great way to utilize your freezer as part of your pantry. Instead of throwing away small amounts of ingredients, keep them in your freezer for later use. Still have a bit of wine from last night? Freeze it in a silicone ice-cube tray, pop out the frozen wine and store in a labeled freezer bag. Use it in the next recipe that calls for a dash of wine. Egg whites, heavy cream, and homemade stock can all be frozen the same way.
Woody fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary keep wonderfully in the freezer. Place in a freezer safe bag and pull out when needed. An often-overlooked flavor enhancer are parmesan cheese rinds. Keep them in the freezer to toss into a pot of soup or stock for an extra hit of umami.
Everyone knows that pasta, rice and beans (dry or canned) are the backbone of a great pantry. But what about some more interesting ingredients that can add variety to your pantry meals? A can of coconut milk and a bottle of Thai curry paste can be used in a myriad of ways and with various proteins to whip up comforting meal. Good quality oil-packed tuna can be the basis for pastas, sandwiches and salads.
Some of your dry goods will actually keep longer in the freezer. Nuts, whole wheat flours and brown rice can get an off flavor more quickly at room temperature. Keeping them in your freezer will prolong their usefulness.
Whole grains are another bulk item that should line your cupboard shelves. Farro, quinoa and lentils all serve as a great base for filling meals. Cook up a pot of your favorite grain and keep it in the refrigerator for the building block of a healthy grain bowl. A grain bowl starts with the grain of your choice (rice, farro, quinoa or another favorite) that’s then topped with veggies, protein and a flavorful dressing. They make a hearty yet light meal.
Chickpeas (dried or canned) are pantry staple that can be used in a myriad of ways. They have a mild nutty flavor and creamy texture that enhances many recipes. Here are a few of our favorites.
Pasta e Ceci
Pasta e ceci (literally ‘pasta and chickpeas’) hails from Rome and is comfort in a bowl. Half-way between a pasta and soup, it's a simple pantry meal that is filling and flavorful.
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup uncooked ditalini pasta
2 cups water
3 tablespoons tomato paste, about half a tube
Kosher salt to taste
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
How to make it
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until it becomes lightly browned and fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and salt and fry for 30 seconds or so. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and water. Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, lower the heat, and simmer until the pasta is cooked, stirring occasionally. The pasta is ready when most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
While pasta is cooking, make rosemary oil. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skilled. Add minced garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Fry until rosemary and garlic are fragrant, take off the heat.
When pasta is ready, taste to adjust seasoning. Ladle the pasta into shallow bowls, drizzle with rosemary oil.
Crispy roasted chickpeas on their own are the perfect salty, healthy snack. They can also be used to add a crunchy component to salads and grain bowls.
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (drained, rinsed and dried)
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon seasonings of your choice
Seasonings: garlic powder, chili powder, Aleppo pepper
How to make it
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Drain chickpeas well. Once drained, spread the chickpeas out on a clean, absorbent towel and use your hands to gently roll and dry the chickpeas. Some of the skins should start coming off. Removing some of the skins will make your chickpeas crispier.
Transfer the chickpeas to a mixing bowl and toss with oil and salt. Mix well to combine.
Bake for a total of 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and dry/crispy to the touch. Rotate pan halfway through for even cooking.
Remove from oven and toss with seasonings (if desired) while still warm. Then let cool 5-10 minutes – they will continue crisping as they cool.
Serve as is or atop bowls or salads. To store, place in a storage container or jar and cover loosely, this helps them stay crispy longer.
Grain Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
This loaded grain bowl is anything but boring. Spicy roasted sweet potatoes, crispy chickpeas and a zingy lemon tahini dressing make this a meal you'll want to eat for lunch or dinner.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet potato, cut into ½” dice
2 big handfuls baby spinach
½ cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups cooked grain (quinoa, farro, brown rice), warmed
1 small avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon Tahini Dressing
¼ cup tahini
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ medium lemon (juiced)
2-4 tablespoons hot water (to thin)
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and arrange sweet potato pieces and grape tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle both with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.
While vegetables are roasting prepare dressing by adding tahini, maple syrup and lemon juice to a mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Add hot water until a pourable sauce is formed. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
To serve: Divide cooked grain into two shallow bowls, top with sweet potatoes, spinach, crispy chickpeas, tomatoes and avocado. Drizzle with dressing.