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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Keep Calm and Raid Your Pantry

Spring is here, which means spring cleaning (among other things)!  While you're scrubbing floors, washing windows and cleaning out closets, why not give your pantry a fresh start too?  Even flour and spices can go bad, so it's time to clear out anything old.  This great article from Huffington Post shows some of the items you would least expect to go rancid.

Now that your cabinets and spice racks are cleansed it's time to refill with the essentials.  Here's a run-down of my favorites for a well-stocked pantry for creating delicious, flavorful meals even on the most desperate of nights.

When it comes to canned tomatoes, Pomi is my favorite all-around for sauces.  Muir Glen's fire-roasted diced tomatoes add smokiness to chilies. 

Add oomph to a salad, stir into a soup or blend into a puree.  Canned beans can instantly become the hero of any meal.  Think beyond chickpeas and combine pinto beans and lentils for a hearty, meat-free chili. 

Canned tuna is great for a sandwich, but it can be so much more.  Check out my recipe below for tuna cakes for an elevated take on this staple.  Anchovies (or anchovy paste) are also great to have on hand.  Don't be afraid of these little guys, they will add a nice umami flavor to roasted vegetables.  

Vegetables and Pickles
Olives, capers, roasted peppers and artichokes can upgrade a boring salad or dress-up plain pasta.  With some fresh herbs, nuts and garlic you can transform olives into tapenade or peppers for a romanesco sauce.        

If you're a carb-aholic like me you probably have a least 10 different types of dried pastas at all times.  Pasta and noodles are great and all, but we all know we shouldn't be making them a nightly habit.  Quinoa and farro are quick-cooking and have become my go-to's for nutritious meals.

Building Flavor
Onions and garlic are a must, but I have recently become obsessed with shallots.  They are great in dressings or fried into crispy rings for garnish.  And don't forget about the spice rack.  While I'm a total spice hoarder, I find these multi-taskers pack the biggest punch...

Smoked paprika
Curry powder
Crushed red pepper
Sea salt and kosher salt
Herbs de provence

Now, about these tuna cakes.  I was skeptical at first, not sure if these would actually be tasty or come out more like cat food.  Fortunately, these came out pretty damn good.  I just used whatever I had that night, but you can swap out the capers and parsley for pretty much anything.  Use chilies and cilantro for a Thai-inspired fish cake or dill and cornichon for a French bistro vibe.  This harissa mayo is awesome by itself too.  Make extra for slathering on sandwiches.      

Tuna Cakes with Harissa Mayo
(Makes 4-6 cakes)
2 cans white tuna in water, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
1 tbs capers
1 tbs fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup panko
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Oil for frying
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbs harissa
Lemon wedges for serving

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl.  While your oil heats up, form into patties.  Fry in batches until golden brown (about 3 minutes on each side).  Drain on paper towels until ready to serve.

In a small bowl mix the mayo and harissa.  Serve cakes with a dollop of the mayo and a squeeze of lemon.

I have a habit of buying too many potatoes, so there are times when I have one or two rolling around in my pantry.  Turn those extra potatoes into a real meal with a few basic ingredients.   The Spanish tortilla (or Tortilla Espanola, if you're fancy) may seem like a unextraordinary dish, but can be totally satisfying and absolutely delicious when done right.  Make sure your potatoes are sliced super thin so they cook quickly, and use plenty of oil to prevent sticking.  

Tortilla Espanola
6 eggs
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1/4-1/3 cup oil for frying

Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Season with salt and set aside.  Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Don't be afraid by the amount of oil, you will be discarding most of it.  When oil is hot, add potatoes and cook until they start to turn translucent.  Add garlic and cook for a minute or two more.  Drain potato-garlic mixture on paper towels, reserving some of the coking oil.

Pre-heat your broiler.  Wipe out pan and heat about enough of the reserved oil to lightly coat the bottom and sides.  Evenly distribute the potatoes and garlic and pour in the eggs.  Let cook over medium heat until the bottom starts to set.  Remove from heat and place in the broiler for 5 minutes, or until completely set.  Let cool slightly before serving.  

For the next weeknight you're strapped for time, or simply between grocery trips take a deep breath and turn towards your pantry for inspiration.  

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.