An emergency roster of quick pantry meals is a necessity around our house. While I generally work from a weekly menu, and I do not mind spending two hours leisurely putting together a complex dinner, sometimes other factors work against me (not the least of which is the presence of two small and unpredictable children in the household). And frankly, I just don’t think it hurts to have a couple tricks up my sleeve so that we can avoid last minute take-out meals, which are expensive and hardly imaginative.
Of course, when we ran out of water for about six hours on Saturday (ironically during a rainstorm) we did pick up pizzas. There is a time and a place for everything, after all.
For the most though, I try to be flexible. Sometimes extra people show up for dinner at the last minute, The Carnivore doesn’t come home from work until an insanely hour, time gets away from me, or a kid goes down sick and precipitates scrapping a trip to the supermarket (or co-op, farm, or farmer’s market, as the case may be). It is for those times that I make sure we always have staples on hand for what I call pantry meals. Bags of broccoli and Brussels sprouts are stashed in the freezer, along with tomatoes, whole-wheat pizza crusts, tortillas, and batches of pesto and marinara sauce. I keep unnaturally large quantities of brown rice, whole-wheat orzo and whole-wheat pasta in the pantry, and I make sure to never, ever, not-even-in-a-snowstorm run out of eggs, specialty cheeses, lemons, onions, garlic, canned beans (because you don’t exactly have time to soak dried beans overnight in desperate situations) and olive oil. And of course, in the summer, it would be truly rare for me to not find an array of peppers in the crisper, along with green beans and squash.
With those ingredients, a handful of choices exist at any given time for emergency meals, and many of the options can be stretched so that I can feed up to 10 people without breaking a sweat. I’m proud of this accomplishment; it was a long time coming.
And now with soccer season beginning, every Monday is going to be an emergency for the next couple of months. We will struggle – partly because neither The Carnivore nor I think soccer is a real sport – to have us all at the fields by six pm; and since bedtime will come right on the heels of our returning home, dinner will have to be cooked, eaten and cleaned up from before we leave the house at 5:45.
We will be in crisis mode, I tell you, especially since The Carnivore doesn’t exactly get home in time to help. And since not everyone keeps a library of these types of meals in their head, I think it is only fair that I share mine here while I limp through the next eight weeks or so of this not-a-sport-season.
This evening I will serve Rainbow Penne Pasta (made with peppers and garlic that I bought at the farmer’s market this past Saturday), topped with crumbled feta (purchased from Athens Locally Grown), and served with lemon-parsley bruschetta (using a baguette also picked up at the farmer’s market). And if, per chance, any extra guests show up at the dinner table, this recipe is easily doubled; plus, leftovers are scrumptious for lunches.
Let the games begin.