Tag Archives: Washington DC

Gazpacho Galore

It’s 102 degrees out — or it was the last time I checked, which was at 11:30 this morning. With a massive July heatwave affecting at least half of the lower 48, one’s thoughts naturally turn toward any kind of food that requires no cooking. Thank God for gazpacho.

My kitchen counter is overflowing with tomatoes this summer. Time for gazpacho!

Because it’s July, I also have a bumper crop of tomatoes in my garden which need to be eaten in copious quantities on a daily basis before they rot on the kitchen counter. I could, of course, also slice them and put them outside to sun-dry so that I can relish in their intense flavors when the snow begins to fly, but, honestly, I don’t want to go out there. It’s too hot, even for this Florida girl.

Gazpacho is, of course, so easy to make that I am embarrassed to bring it up at all, but I have learned that sometimes the simplest recipes are the ones that people are afraid to make. A basic gazpacho requires no more than a blender and a lot of tomatoes — you can pretty much do anything you want with it at that point. You’ll also see fancy bistros touting dishes like White Grape Gazpacho on their sidewalk chalkboards, so, if you’re so inclined, go ahead and experiment.

On the left, golden pear tomatoes in the blender; on the right, a variety of red tomatoes pulsed into submission.

However, tomatoes are generally cheap and plentiful this time of year, not to mention incredibly flavorful and refreshing on a seriously hot day. There are basically two types of gazpacho — chunky or smooth, rather like peanut butter. The chunky version is generally tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers (and salt and pepper), pulsed in a blender to a loosely chunky consistency. Just chop ’em up and throw them in, skins, seeds, and all.

I call this my Bloody Mary Gazpacho, which I made with red tomatoes, celery, and cucumber and a touch of Tabasco. Topped with a chunky celery leaf guacamole and cucumbers that were briefly marinated in apple cider vinegar.

The smooth version is pretty much the same, only blended to a smooth consistency and then strained through a sieve. I personally like to make the smooth version, because it makes a lovely cold soup to which I can then choose to add more chopped veggies, including tomatoes, cukes, and zucchini, as well as chopped fresh herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, or oregano. It’s a nice touch to add a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt to serve as a creamy yet tart counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho, inspired by the amazing version at Busboys and Poets, one of my favorite DC restaurants. I kept the soup simple and focused on the sweetness of the yellow tomatoes, then topped it with chopped avocado and a spoonful of labne (a Middle Eastern thickened yogurt).

You’ll want to let the gazpacho chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving; it’s so easy to make that you can blend it up before work — or going to the pool — and then enjoy its lovely refreshing coolness when you get home. A perfect pick-me-up when you are soggy and wilted from an overdose of global warming.

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A Big Salad for Big Papi

This Cobb Salad is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

When the weather gets hot around here, as it usually does in DC during the summer, my family often requests the Big Salad for dinner. A Big Salad is, of course, a perfect summer meal, since it doesn’t require heating up the kitchen and you can pretty much throw anything you want into it. It is the summertime version of a casserole — all the little leftovers that are taking up space in your refrigerator can generally take up residence in a Big Salad just as you might use them up in a casserole: half a cup of shredded carrots, that Tupperware container that still has a few spoonfuls of tuna salad, a handful of toasted pine nuts, and so forth.

Last night was the Home Run Derby, and through a roundabout route, I was inspired to make a salad to accompany this annual slugfest that takes place the night before the All-Star Game. I am a baseball fan; my dad is from Connecticut and raised me right — meaning that I follow the Red Sox. My husband and I were Baltimore Orioles fans for several years (okay, I admit that I rooted for Boston when they came to town) and had season tickets for all the Sunday games, but Cal Ripken’s retirement and the constant internal turmoil caused by owner Peter Angelos finally wore us out.

We tried being Washington Nationals fans after DC finally got a team, but, honestly, they make it really hard to enjoy watching their games. Another error, another half-hearted run to first base, another phenom pitcher who doesn’t live up to the hype. The stadium vendors wear shirts that say “Eating is not a spectator sport” — likely referring to the fact that a lot of fans seem to spend more time lined up for half-smokes at the Ben’s Chili Bowl stand than actually watching the game — but, at Nationals Park, I’m not convinced that even the players would agree.

The Big Salad of choice last night was a classic Cobb Salad. Hopefully some of you have already made the connection between the Home Run Derby and what is often called the “quintessential American salad”, but here’s how my brain got there for those who are scratching their heads:

Home Run Derby = Anaheim (where it was held this year) = California = Hollywood = Brown Derby Restaurant = Cobb Salad.

The Brown Derby Restaurant, early 1960s. Photograph by Chalmers Butterfield.

The Cobb Salad was the signature dish of the Brown Derby Restaurant, a landmark of Hollywood during its glory days from the 1930s through the 50s. Sadly, the original restaurant is gone, but the salad still remains as a truly American creation, rumored to have been dished up out of bits and pieces from the kitchen by owner Robert Cobb in 1937 as a late-night snack for famed movie theater owner Sid Grauman. It features cold chicken, crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes and avocado, and sometimes includes crumbled blue cheese and chopped black olives. I chose to make the classic version which includes a really wonderful blue cheese dressing made with a red wine vinegar base.

Not unlike a good baseball game, the key to the Cobb is layers. When you order it in a restaurant, it should arrive with each ingredient lined up across a bed of lettuce. You can then choose to mix it all up together or savor each flavor independently. A Cobb Salad is a team of individuals — together they can form a perfect amalgamation of flavors, but they can also each stand alone if necessary, supporting each other and enhancing the overall result. A classic salad is the perfect metaphor for really good baseball.

Big Papi encourages Ramirez to cool off in between swings at the Home Run Derby. Of course, it may have just been a diversionary tactic — if it was, it worked.

Last night’s Home Run Derby was a big night for Big Papi — David Ortiz, the 34-year-old designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz had a tough season in 2009 and people had pretty much written him off for this year, but he seems to be back in form, with 18 homers so far this season and 57 RBIs; he became the first Boston player to win the Derby, hitting 32 long balls in Angel Stadium. The best part of the Derby, however, was probably the display between Ortiz and his closest rival of the night, Hanley Ramirez, a 26-year-old fellow Dominican who was briefly with the Red Sox before being traded to the Florida Marlins. He openly considers Ortiz to be his mentor and their supportive relationship was clearly evident as they cheered each other on during their at-bats. If the Red Sox and the Marlins were to square up against each other in a World Series, there is no doubt that Ortiz and Ramirez would be fierce competitors, but they’d probably go out together for a salad afterwards.

We generally don’t think of avocado and chicken as ingredients that fit together and they rarely share the same plate other than when part of a Mexican menu. But, somehow, within the confines of the Cobb Salad, they are logical, even perfect, companions, the mild flavor of the chicken balanced against the subtle nuttiness of the avocado. Add in the smokiness of the bacon, the sweet tang of tomato, and the sharp bite of the blue cheese, and you have a group of individual flavors that should not fit together in a logical way, yet add up to a mouthful of Utopian delight. If you have ever loved the Red Sox, or the Cubs, or the Mets — have a Cobb. It’ll make perfect sense to you.

Here’s a link for the perfect Cobb Salad recipe — it takes a little time to assemble but is worth the effort.

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On the importance of birthday cakes

Madison's first birthday was the day before Thanksgiving and we had six houseguests, so I whipped up a quick chocolate layer cake with whipped cream for the frosting. I topped it with roses because her middle name is Rose.

I love birthday cakes. Growing up, birthday cakes were not a big part of our birthday celebrations, probably because my mom, who is an amazing cook, is not really a huge fan of baking. She also had a full-time career to manage along with her family, so birthday desserts tended to be something fairly simple like strawberry shortcake (my mom makes the best, with huge homemade lightly sweetened biscuits and fresh whipped cream) or, if I was lucky, I got to pick up a Pepperidge Farm cake out of the freezer aisle, preferably Devil’s Food or Coconut Layer.

A classic Devil's Food cake with a rich marshmallow-like frosting.

I happen to really enjoy baking, however, and I have always made it a point to make birthday cakes for my daughter’s birthdays. It helps that her birthday is in late November, a time of year when I enjoy warming up the kitchen anyway — she might be out of luck had she been born in August. Because her birthday often falls on or near Thanksgiving, I have made a concerted effort to not just stick a candle in a pumpkin pie, although I have occasionally been tempted.

Ah, the 5th birthday cake — it was a Clifford the Big Red Dog party, so I used a 16" x 16" pan to make a chocolate pound cake (much sturdier when you want to cut a shape), then I drew out a template and carved it out. A lot of work but totally worth it.

For family birthday dinners, I have generally made a classic Devil’s Food cake — not because it was Madison’s favorite, but because, as you probably guessed, it is one of mine. In recent years, she sometimes flips through my cookbooks and makes a different request; when my niece Kelsey was visiting just before her own birthday one year, she chose two different varieties of cupcakes from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero — they were amazing cupcakes and you really would never have known they were vegan at all. For birthday parties, I sometimes went over the top and created enormous creations swathed in colored frosting that left Madison and her friends smeared in food coloring for days.

My most recent foray into birthday cakes was for my husband Rick, who just celebrated his 50th birthday. We gathered our friends and family at the Biergarten Haus, a new German-style beer garden on H Street here in DC, not far from our house. Rick is a first-generation American whose parents, who are of German descent, grew up in Eastern Europe and Germany, settling in the United States in the early 1950s. So, it seemed appropriate to celebrate at a place that would remind him of that heritage, and we had a great time dancing the polka and drinking way too many litres of schwarzbier.

Because there were a lot of things going on at the time — final exams and term papers for Madison, work commitments for both me and Rick, and an onslaught of houseguests — I confess that I first looked into just ordering a birthday cake, rather than making one myself. But here’s the thing: I’m picky about cake, and a decent cake from a good bakery is not inexpensive, and I simply could not bring myself to spend a minimum of $150 on the type of cake I wanted.

One of the things I really wanted for the cake was to include an edible image of Rick when he was 3 years old dressed in his lederhosen. It seemed like a must-have, and a quick search on Google yielded that it was pretty easy to order custom cake toppers printed on edible sugar paper. I chose to order from Icing Images and a perfectly-sized image arrived in the mail just 24 hours later, at a cost of about $20.

We celebrated my husband's 50th in style with a personalized Sunshine Cake, complete with edible lederhosen. It was a hit, and he was inordinately touched by the custom beer can candles — although that may have just been a result of a few litres of good German beer.

Since it was June, I wanted to make a cake that wouldn’t seem overly heavy, so I went for a cake recipe that is quite popular in Florida, where I spent much of my youth; it’s citrus-based, of course, and is generally known as a Sunshine Cake. I wanted to do a Grand Marnier buttercream, so imagine my joy when a jaunt through epicurious.com not only provided me with a Gourmet Magazine recipe for Sunshine Cake with Citrus Butter Cream, but the buttercream recipe actually included Grand Marnier. Some things were just meant to be.

I made two 9 x 12 layers and changed up the Gourmet recipe slightly by spreading the bottom layer with orange marmalade (something you’ll find in a lot of the older Sunshine Cake recipes) before adding the first layer of buttercream. It was quite easy to add the edible photo, which I just had to trim down to fit so that I could add beer can candles (which I customized with tiny labels of Winged Lion Lager, the amber beer that Rick brews for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill).

So, the next time you’re faced with the prospect of a birthday cake, I am hoping that you’ll be inspired to make something original for that special birthday boy or girl. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the store-bought variety — I crave those Pepperidge Farm cakes every time I walk past them in the supermarket — but there’s a certain sense of accomplishment you’ll get out of the ooh’s and ahh’s that come with “You made that yourself?”

Here’s the recipe I used as the basis for Rick’s birthday cake:

Sunshine Cake with Citrus Butter Cream

If you’re looking for more cake inspiration, check out my friend Kim’s blog, Sweetly Savory. She makes very cool fancy cakes with fondant and other fun stuff.

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Safeway Snobbery

A fireplace and wifi at Safeway? Okay, that is kinda nice.

Two new Safeway grocery stores have opened up in Washington, DC in the past couple of weeks. One is just off Capitol Hill in the Waterfront neighborhood and the other is in Georgetown. The one at Waterfront is nestled between public housing projects and riverside condominiums; the Georgetown store — long dubbed the “Social Safeway” in reference to the well-heeled single yuppies eyeing each other longingly across the cereal aisle — has a parking lot filled with Lexus SUVs tagged with diplomatic license plates.

I will say up front that I am a Safeway Snob, and not necessarily in a good way. My experience with Safeway in DC goes back more than 20 years, when I first frequented the “Soviet Safeway” in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, nicknamed for its tendency to run out of everything, leaving its shoppers to peruse shelves bare of pretty much every basic necessity except the occasional loaf of Wonder Bread and a half-eaten banana.

Things didn’t improve when I moved to Capitol Hill, where my husband and I would wheel our portable shopping cart on the three-block trek to what some called the “Social Security Safeway”; that particular store’s claim to fame came from some snappy investigations in the 1960s by local resident and Washington Post columnist Marguerite Kelly, exposing the store’s practice of raising prices — coincidentally, of course — on the same day that welfare checks were issued to low-income families. There were not a whole lot of grocery stores in the city at that time, so the aisles were so crowded that you could barely move your cart. We used to try to shop during Redskins games, since we didn’t really care about football and it was the one time when you could count on the store being empty.

My hairdresser was really excited about the new Safeway by the Waterfront and told me that it was beautiful and that I needed to check it out — she’s a Safeway Snob, but in reverse. Actually, I have a lot of friends who swear by Safeway and shop there religiously, but it has just never been my cup of tea; they just never seem to carry the kinds of foods that I like to buy. I’m sure my friends think I’m a Whole Foods Snob or a Trader Joe’s Snob, and they could be right.

But there was such a hubbub about the Social Safeway on opening day last week that I impulsively pulled into the underground garage as I was passing by. Crowds of shoppers streamed up the escalators clad in carefully-distressed jeans and Gucci loafers; my first vision was a gleaming sushi bar nestled beside a gourmet cheese display where a cheerful employee gave out samples of an imported Gouda being sold for $17.99 a pound. Black truffles were located in a locked plexiglass case in the produce section for $999.99 a pound. Welfare moms need not apply.

I’ll admit that I called my husband and gushed “Wow, this place is really cool!” I was standing next to the automated deli kiosk where I had just placed an order for a roasted vegetable sandwich on focaccia with garlic aioli, which seemed like a steal for $6.99. Excited shoppers were lined up at the gelato bar, bursting with over two dozen exotic flavors, the cabernet gelato beckoning like an amethyst jewel.

Alas, I had no time to shop, so my husband and I decided to stop at the Waterfront store on Sunday. It was all there — the sushi bar, the Starbucks, the wi-fi café featuring a central gas fireplace. And, as we began going through the aisles in search of food, there were all the other things I remembered: the Wonder Bread, the cans of Hormel Chili (on special with your Club Card), the towering pyramids of Spam. The produce section was definitely better than I remembered from the past, and I was pretty intrigued by the fresh garbanzo beans, like miniature tomatillos in their papery green husks.

But, yeah, for me, it’s still just Safeway. Some people dislike Trader Joe’s in the same way, while I can look past its deficiencies (like those shrinkwrapped packages of zucchini — why, Joe, why?) to find well-priced food that I want. Safeway sure doesn’t need me, serving its purpose for so many others as it continues to thrive, building a Shining Store Upon a Hill that brings yuppies together to share cappuccino and coy glances and provides candy-free checkout lanes for tired working moms with three kids under the age of 5 stuffed into a shopping cart with a week’s worth of juice boxes and Rice Crispies.

Still, I have to admit, the fireplace and wifi is pretty nice, especially on a rainy and unseasonably cool spring day. Maybe I can learn to live with Wonder Bread.

Wonder Bread Soufflé

I used to adore this dish when I was a kid — it was a recipe that my mom would make only for dinner parties. She made amazing cheese soufflés from scratch using the recipe from the huge Larousse Gastronomique that graced our kitchen, but she also liked this recipe when she had to whip up something elegant after a long day at the office.

One loaf of Wonder Bread, crusts removed and each piece buttered

3 eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

Make the custard by combining the eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish and place a layer of bread in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese, then continue with two more layers of bread and cheese. Pour the custard evenly over the whole dish, being sure that all the bread is soaked in the custard, then sprinkle the chives over the top. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and as long as overnight, then bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40 – 45 minutes, or until risen and golden on top. Serve immediately.

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Stewed up over dumplings

Yes, somewhere beneath all that root-vegetable goodness, luxuriating in a complex and savory broth, is a charming little dumpling, fluffy and plump.

Snowed in as we are here in DC, we were unable to travel out to a friend’s Superbowl party this past Sunday, so I decided to make a stew for dinner. Diving into my pantry, I pulled out some of those items from my last blog (“Panty…uh… Pantry Raid!”) that are necessary to the perfect stew. Stews should be savory with just a touch of sweetness; you can do this with tomatoes, dried fruit (like prunes or, as they are called these days, “dried plums”), or some of each. To balance out those flavors, I make a Salted Apple Dumpling, which combines chopped tart apples into the dumpling dough and is then lightly dusted with kosher salt just before they steam.

I got this idea a few years ago from one of my favorite cookies — a local favorite here in DC — known as a Salty Oat Cookie. I cooked at an event some years ago with the pastry chef from 1789, a fancy-schmancy Washington restaurant favored by politicos; she had created the cookie for another restaurant, Teaism, a cool Asian-fusion casual eatery that Rachael Ray once profiled on that show she does about how to eat out on $40 a day. The Salty Oat Cookie is truly delicious, and I am not a big oatmeal cookie fan. It is big and tender and it has this dusting of salt across the top which perfectly complements the subtle sweetness of the cookie itself. I have tried to replicate it but can never get it quite right, so I came up with the Salted Apple Dumpling instead. Sometimes you gotta know when to move on.

Don’t be afraid of dumplings — they are basically just steamed biscuits, and they have a fluffy texture that makes your mouth sing, especially when they soak up that luxurious stew broth. My stew recipe below is vegetarian, but you should make yours exactly the way you like. Pork, beef, and chicken would all work really well for this recipe, just make sure that you are browning them properly first and stewing those meats until they are cooked through. The vegetarian version comes together quite quickly because vegetarian proteins are really already cooked, so they are just being browned and then heated through; give yourself more time if you are using actual meat. I used a meatless “beef” strip, but it would work equally well with tofu, beans, or portobello mushrooms.

People often ask me why vegetarians bother even being vegetarian if they are going to put meat-like substitutes in their recipes. The simple answer is that many vegetarians grew up eating meat; we like beef stew as a flavor, but we don’t want to eat actual beef. My teenage daughter, however, has actually never eaten meat; when she was about 5 years old, she was with a group of friends before school in the playground and one of the boys was talking about how he had recently eaten a piece of alligator. Another child asked “What did it taste like?” The boy considered this and finally replied “Like chicken.” Everyone nodded their heads wisely, except our daughter, who stared at him for a moment before asking “What does chicken taste like?”

Here is the stew in progress, with the raw dumplings just added to the top, ready to steam into fluffy perfection.

Winter Stew with Salted Apple Dumplings

for the stew:

One pound protein (see above for suggestions)

2 cups potatoes — any variety — chopped into 1-inch pieces

1-1/2 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered (trust me)

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 cup carrots, coarsely chopped

1 cup celery, coarsely chopped

1 cup mushrooms, quartered

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup prunes, chopped

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped

3 cups broth (any variety — I like to use mushroom broth)

1 cup red wine

salt/pepper/herbs (I like to add a couple of bay leaves, a little crushed rosemary, some smoked paprika, and a dash of cayenne)

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

for the dumplings

1 heaping cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp. melted unsalted butter

1/3 cup milk

1 apple, chopped (Granny Smith is good, or soak some dried apple in hot water for 15 minutes and chop that up)

kosher salt

Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil over moderate heat in a stockpot. Brown your protein, then add the Brussels sprouts. Stirring frequently, allow the sprouts to get just slightly browned, then sprinkle a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over the sprouts and protein. Stir for a minute, then add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, then add the potatoes, carrots, and celery. Cook for another 5 minutes, still stirring frequently, then add the mushrooms, prunes, and sundried tomatoes. Stir together for a minute, then add the broth, wine, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and cover loosely with a lid (that is, allow some steam to escape, but not too much). Cook for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender but not mushy. If you are using meat protein, check for doneness (i.e. not pink in the center).

Add the frozen peas and corn and stir well; if the stew is losing liquid, add a little water. Keep heat very low while you mix up the dumpling dough. To make the dumplings, mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the wet ingredients and mix together until you have a soft dough. Fold in the chopped apples until they are somewhat evenly distributed.

I can get about 6 large dumplings out of this amount of dough. Use a soup spoon to measure each one out — it will just look like a large lump, which you will nestle right into the top of your stew. Add each dumpling to the stew, about a 1/2 inch apart and sprinkle the tops of the dumplings with just a small pinch of kosher salt. Cover with the lid and let steam for about 12 minutes or so over low heat. They are done when the tops are springy to the touch and no longer sticky. Spoon a dumpling into each bowl and ladle the stew around it. If the stew broth has thickened too much while the dumplings were steaming, then just add a little broth or water to get it to the right consistency — not too soupy, but like a thin gravy. Serves 4.

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Panty — uh — Pantry Raid!

I saw this little stash in a pile of snow on the sidewalk as I went on a walk yesterday. Who needs the grocery store when you can find this stuff on the street?

Snow is coming to Washington, DC. We are not Chicago, or Fargo, or Buffalo, and we don’t handle snow well. And this is not just a little bit of snow, but major snow — perhaps two feet. It has been seven years since we had that much snow on the way, and the city shut down for a solid week back then.

There was panic at the grocery stores yesterday, and, from all accounts, the shelves have been stripped bare. I find this amusing, since we live in a major metropolitan area, not in the wilderness — it is unlikely that people are going to starve. We should be more concerned about making sure that the homeless are sheltered and warm. The rest of us will be just fine, and statistics would indicate that a lot of us could do without a meal or two.

My only nod to the grocery issue was to pick up a half-gallon of milk, thinking that we might want hot chocolate this weekend after tromping through the snow, or I might want to make a loaf of bread, and my favorite recipe calls for a cup of tepid milk. However, otherwise, I have decided that this coming storm presents a perfect opportunity to raid my pantry.

This shot is only the tip of the iceberg for my pantry, which is embarrassingly overloaded.

Our pantries tend to be chock-full of really weird things, along with the requisite bags of stale chips and cans of pumpkin that we forgot to use at Thanksgiving. The corners of my pantry are always tucked with those jars of things that come in gift baskets at Christmas; I tend to feel guilty about getting rid of the fancy jams and milk chocolate truffles, and then they seem to breed like rabbits. This morning I discovered Maple Mustard Dip, Hot and Sour Wasabi Mixed Nuts, Candied Apple Caramels, Cocktail Onions, and a pound of Dried Kiwi. Now, that’s a meal.

Of course, once you get past the Kirsch Royale Chocolate-Covered Cherries, there’s a fair amount of decent stuff stashed away in my pantry. I figure that a pantry should have enough stuff in it to save your dérriére on those nights when you actually don’t have anything fresh to cook. A pantry should also include your freezer, which can be stuffed with frozen fruits and veggies, various proteins (mine are meatless, but yours may be chicken, sausages, and leftover turkey hash), and, of course, really good ice cream. I am one of those people who picks up things like frozen challah out of the “Hebrew Foods” section in the “Ethnic Aisle” (I love the way they categorize things in grocery stores). You can pull it out of the freezer in the morning, set it out to rise while you’re at work, and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes when you get home. There is nothing like the smell of baking bread to make even the worst day at the office suddenly insignificant.

I have gone through my pantry today and found enough meals to get my family through the Storm of the Century and keep me out of the grocery store insanity. Even if the air is soft and warm wherever you are, check out your own pantry, and see if you have enough to ride out the next calamity. Here’s what I found:

Pretty sure we're not going to starve.

Pasta E Fagioli: One pound of Dried Tubetti, can of Great Northern Beans, can of diced Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, jar of Cocktail Onions

Thai Curry Stir-Fry: Rice Noodles, can of Coconut Milk, Extra-Firm Tofu, Cashews, Red Curry Paste, Frozen Bell Pepper Strips

Cuban-Influenced Black Beans and Rice: Can of Black Beans, package of Minnesota Wild Rice, jar of Sundried Tomatoes in Olive oil, bottle of Uncle Brutha’s Fire House Sauce No. 9, supplemented with limes and onions from my produce bin

Winter Stew with Salted Apple Dumplings: Flour, Dried Apples, Dried Morels, Yves Meatless “Beef” Strips, Frozen Petite Green Peas, Frozen Sweet White Corn, Dried Plums, Mushroom Broth, Red Wine, supplemented with Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, carrots, and Brussels sprouts from my produce bin.

Garbanzo Beans with Curried Polenta: Dried Polenta, can of Garbanzo Beans, frozen shredded zucchini (from my garden last summer), dried currants, jar of Farmhouse Chutney, supplemented with frozen Garlic Naan bread and yogurt from the refrigerator.

What’s in your pantry? Let me know!

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