This week we dove into a few cookbooks to look at recipes that exemplified what it means to cook fresh from the pantry. The expected canned and jarred foods make an appearance, but the real lesson here is that cooking fresh from the pantry all depends on how willing you are to expand the definition of fresh.
Expanding the Pantry
There isn't anything novel about the idea that you should cook from your pantry. After all, that's why we have them — so every meal doesn't require a trip to the grocery store. However, in order to bring an element of discovery and spontaneity to your cooking, you have to bring new items into the fold. Consider Ruth Reichl's approach. She has basic pantry staples — flour, sugar, butter, etc. — and then unusual pantry staples. This is where you'll find the Sriracha. Perhaps it's time to make fish sauce, coconut milk, anchovies, tahini, and a whole slew of jarred peppers a part of your repertoire, so recipes like Ruth's Savory-Sweet Pasta for Michael require nothing more than a fresh head of cauliflower.
Fresh Ideas for the Pantry
Oftentimes, the remedy for a lull in cooking inspiration is to see how someone else is doing it. This is when I head to my favorite cookbook authors to see how they use the items I have in my pantry. Jamie transforms canned tomatoes, paprika, and roasted red peppers into a smoky, spicy pork goulash, and Nigella takes that jar of green curry paste and transforms it into an irreverent dish of turkey meatball curry. These cookbooks are friends I go to for inspiration, and they usually deliver with a solid set of fresh advice. Bringing something new to your pantry sometimes means consulting with the peanut gallery.
(Image credits: Maria Siriano; Faith Durand)