I love it so much that I’m totally going to jump the gun and write a post on the subject now. This is really timely because I did an empty cupboard meal tonight that I was pretty proud of and just thinking about how nice it is to have a habit of keeping certain pantry staples such that I can toss together a meal in a pinch.
My comment at bearing’s blog got out of hand so I decided to just make it a post here. I’d sort of been thinking about writing something on the subject of keeping a well-stocked pantry and especially how important it has turned out to be during what is shaping up to be a very long stretch of postpartum cooking blahs when I often can’t find the energy to do the kind of cooking I used to do and when Dom’s schedule is such that he is no longer home early enough to make dinner on the days when things just get away from me. More and more I’m finding that I’ve got to simplify and be more willing to serve up sandwiches or quesadillas for dinner.
Last week having just come back to Florida I just didn’t have it all together. I couldn’t face a two-hour grocery trip with all four littles so I had groceries delivered by PeaPod. But their selection isn’t great and of course trying to order online I forgot all those things that I would have remembered as I walked down the aisles and seeing the items would have jogged my memory. So I got a stop-gap grocery order and have been running low on a few key ingredients. Last night was quesadillas and the night before that was soup. Last night was supposed to be salmon cakes but I didn’t actually have the can of salmon in the pantry that I thought was there. Nor did I have tuna, my other canned fish standby.
So anyway, about tonight’s dinner…. I made soup and salad and served them with a five Minute a Day bread that had been lurking in the fridge that I baked yesterday and with a side of leftover squash from last night’s dinner.
The soup was definitely a cupboard-cleaner kind of thing. I often rely on soup when my creativity is flagging or the groceries are getting low. Or when I’ve had one of those days with the kids and my nerves are frayed. Soup is calming and oh so easy since I never follow a recipe.
Well, I don’t have a recipe but I do have a sort of rubric. I usually start out with onion, celery and carrots. I add a meat (I often keep ham and sausages in the freezer precisely to toss into a soup), a bean, a pasta or grain, some kind of greens, and an assortment of vegetables. Add some seasonings and that’s my basic formula. It’s always a little different and almost always well-received.
Today I was totally out of stock so after Ben went down for his afternoon nap I pulled out some bags of chicken bones from the freezer and tossed them in a pot with the last of the celery, a couple of carrots, and an onion some bay leaves, pepper corns, and a bit of dried bouquet garni herb mix. Usually we try to keep some stock stored up in the freezer in a bunch of two and four cup containers. (It used to be Dom’s job to make the stock but his work schedule has changed and so I’ve realized that if I want it, I’ve got to learn to make it myself. This was my third attempt and I think I’m getting the process down.)
For the soup I used more carrots and onions, (no celery because I used it all) canned tomatoes (I always have those in the pantry but only add them to soups when my sister won’t be joining us as she can’t eat tomatoes) and canned chickpeas (I always keep a good variety of canned beans on hand for quick soups.) I threw in the last scraps of chicken from the roast we made on Sunday. Also some frozen kale (I froze the last of a head that was starting to wilt. Just shredded it and put it in a bag) and frozen peas. For a grain I tossed in a handful of ditalini pasta. I seasoned with a bit of vodka (alcohol activates some of the flavor compounds in tomatoes so I always want some in a tomato sauce and we didn’t have any likely wine on hand), some dried basil and oregano, salt and pepper.
The salad was pretty fresh since yesterday was our CSA pickup day; but this early in the growing season we’re only getting a few things. I sauteed the chard, radish greens and arugula with the garlic scapes last night. Tonight’s salad was mixed greens with radishes, cucumber, and scallions. We didn’t have much else to toss in it.
What did the kids think?
Ben and Sophie had bread and butter and Ben poked a bit at the soup while Sophie had the last of the fresh cherries and completely ignored her soup. Usually she likes soup but she was cranky tonight.
Ben also had some squash. He loves squash.
Bella doesn’t like crusty bread so she skipped the bread and butter. But she piled her plate high with salad greens topped with dried cranberries. She ate quite a bit of the salad too. This is a new development this summer. She is smitten with the farm and will eat just about anything that comes in the CSA share. She even tried the radishes and green onions but then did reject them because they “made my mouth hurt a bit.” She ate a good deal of the soup but declined the squash. She ate quite a bit of the squash last night, though, so I didn’t even try to push it.
As for Dom, I’m lucky that he loves soup. I could probably give him soup every day and he’d be fine with it.