As the coronavirus continues to spread and self-quarantine now a reality , we are facing the consequence of spending more than the usual time confined home alone or with family / partners etc. Planning a “pandemic pantry” for these trying days can be challenging for anyone, but on the positive side also a chance to practice our cooking skills as well an enlightening way to while away the time.
With the onslaught on the supermarkets and the exaggerated stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer we are also stocking up on all those canned, dried and frozen food stuffs we wouldn’t dream of purchasing under normal circumstances.
No one knows when the virus will peak or how long restrictions will last. So with all this excess time on our hands and the concern of having enough to eat, as well as nourishing our bodies and souls we are likely to have some enhanced gastronomic fantasies…In other words, we’ll want to cook! So here are a few of my suggestions and recipes for culinary delights to brighten up our emergency menus and to keep ourselves and family satisfied and sated in our isolation.
Firstly to stock up on some pantry essentials. Canned and dry goods are no-brainers to have on hand but it is also good to think a little outside the cupboard with a few extra goodies to play with. Now is a perfect excuse to indulge without too much guilt so definitely we should have on hand our favorite pastas, grains and rice as well as instant ramen noodles and P’titim (Hebrew: פתיתים, Israeli couscous).
When it comes to choosing our tins, tuna, sardines, anchovy, diced tomatoes, corn and tomato puree, beans: Pinto, black, garbanzo, kidney or cannellini are obligatory to name a few. Dried mushrooms add instant Umami and different oils are recommended, olive and sunflower are best.
Spices are the next pantry necessity to liven up your crisis creations; cumin and turmeric, smoked paprika, chili flakes, garlic powder, ground ginger and dried herbs, especially thyme and oregano, ground black pepper and Himalayan pink salt.
A few exotic essentials can be instant dashi powder, low-sodium soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, and miso paste, pickled capers and olives. Stock up on frozen vegetables, I am a big advocates of frozen vegetables as they have as much nutrition as fresh ones do, peas, broccoli, chick peas, green beans ,sweet corn etc.
Cooking is definitely very therapeutic and also relieves stress, so even though we’re spending more time at home and away from others, we can still enjoy a wonderful home cooked meal.
Lemon spaghetti with tuna & broccoli
A little good olive oil, canned tuna and broccoli with your favorite dried pasta and the addition of olives, capers and lemon can be made into a fabulous and indulging pasta dish
- 350g spaghetti (or any other favorite pasta)
- 250g frozen broccoli
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- 85g pitted green olive, halved
- 2 tbsp capers, drained
- 200g canned tuna in oil
- Lemon zest and juice
- Olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- Boil the pasta in salted water for 8 mins.
- Add the broccoli and boil for 2 mins more until both are just tender.
- Mix the green onions, olives, capers, tuna and lemon zest and juice in a serving bowl.
- Drain the pasta and broccoli, add to the bowl and toss with olive oil and black pepper.
- Serve with a little extra olive oil drizzled over.
And if we are still with the canned tuna my own particular favorite…
Canned Tuna and sweet potato patties
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 small sweet potato, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 whole eggs, Beaten
- 2 -3 cans tuna in oil, Drained
- ¼ cups breadcrumbs
- Salt / Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 bunch chopped parsley
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil, For Frying
- Combine all ingredients (except olive oil) and let stand to combine for 20 minutes.
- Form the mixture into patties.
- Add olive oil to a large nonstick pan over medium heat.
- Add the patties and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain any excess oil
Spicy p’titim (Israeli couscous)
- 250-gram p’titim
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 cups water
- In a pot, fry the onion in the oil on a medium flame.
- Add the p’titim, stir and let brown lightly.
- Add the spices and the water, cover, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer until the water is fully absorbed, let sit for a minute or two with the flame off, and fluff before eating.
Nature’s protein and vitamin bomb…farm fresh eggs. Omelets are fantastic and can be made with whatever you have kicking around in the fridge and our own shakshuka is a meal in its self
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 medium red pepper, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can whole tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika /pinch cumin (1/8 teaspoon) /1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 eggs
- chopped parsley
- Pour a swig of olive oil into a frying pan on medium heat.
- Add onions, red pepper and garlic and fry until soft.
- Add tomato paste to the pan letting it brown slightly.
- Add chopped tomatoes, water, paprika, cumin and salt.
- Stir all the ingredients, cover and let simmer on a low flame until thickened
- Once tomatoes are cooked. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Make a well with a spoon in the surface of the sauce. Crack an egg into the well.
- Arrange sauce so the egg is below the surface of the sauce. Repeat eggs.
- Cover and let simmer on a low flame until the egg whites are set, between 5-8 more minutes. The yolks should be covered with an opaque film when done.
- Remove the lid, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with plenty of bread
Cioletti cacio e pepe
Simplicity is the key to pantry staple cooking. An absolutely delicious dish we can create out of the pantry is “cacio e pepe,” with plenty of Pecorino cheese and black pepper.
- 225-gram spaghetti
- 2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano, grated
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + 60-gram butter
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil with five or six teaspoons salt. Add the pasta to the boiling water to cook
- Heat the oil with a little butter in a separate pan
- Pour the pepper in the hot oil and stir around for about a minute or two.
- When the pasta is “al dente“ strain leaving one cup of the hot pasta water aside.
- Add ½ cup pasta water into the pan with the oil and pepper.
- Pour in the pasta. Stir around and add an additional 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Simmer the pasta for about 2 minutes, remove from heat and add the grated Pecorino Romano, stir vigorously until a creamy consistency. Divide and serve.
Homemade Ramen Bowl
A basic of pantry essentials; instant ramen noodles. The umami flavor profile of Ramen broths is wonderfully complex with sweet, spicy with subtle hints of dashi. You can create a kicking bowl of Ramen with just a few specially sort out pantry ingredients from your local Asian store.
- 1 tsp sesame oil +1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms reconstituted in warm water and sliced
- 4 cups instant dashi flavored stock
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
- 2 packets of instant Ramen noodles (discard the flavor packets)
- Sliced scallions, sesame seeds, shredded carrots, soft-boiled egg
- Heat sesame and olive oils and in a wok or pan over moderate heat
- Add garlic and ginger, and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the carrots and mushrooms, fry until they soften, stirring frequently.
- Add the broth, Sriracha sauce, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer for about five minutes. Taste, and adjust heat and taste to your liking
- Place the Ramen noodles into the pot of simmering broth and allow to cook for approx. 2-3 minutes, or until cooked and tender.
- Carefully transfer the soup and noodles to bowls, and allow to cool.
- Boil water in a small pan. Add the egg(s), and boil for five minutes. Remove the egg(s) and place them into an ice bath to cool then peel, slice in half, and place on top of your Ramen. Garnish with your toppings of choice.