While I do love to experiment with the best of them, some of my most satisfying kitchen moments come from using the humblest of ingredients well. Over the last five+ months of living out of the back of a Chevy Suburban while my husband and I travel around the US, we have been a little limited in our pantry, not only because of space constraints, but because of lack of refrigeration and funds.
You may think that cooking from cans all the time sounds dismal, but with a few handy tricks up your sleeve, eating from boxes and tins can be a pleasure. Here are a few ideas to keep in your repertoire, so that you’re never stuck when you’re too lazy or broke to go the the grocery store.
1. Chickpeas—Check out Molly Wizenberg’s Chick Pea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs from this April’s issue of Bon Appetit.
2. Oatmeal—Can’t face plain porridge? Try a savory version like ChichaJo’s at 80 Breakfasts for a quick weeknight supper.
3. Sardines—You want a cheap meal, you’ve got it. Mario Battali’s Spaghetti con la Sarde is a weekly favorite in my house, er, car. As Leslie Kelly points out in her article on cheap meals, it’s fine to skip the fennel pollen.
4. Tomatoes—Never go without canned tomatoes. Shashuka, a one-pot Israeli breakfast, is a crowd-pleaser and easy enough to whip up for brunch after a big night out. Saveur gives its version here.
5. Chorizo—No, it doesn’t come out of a can or a box, but it’s cured which means that it keeps for a very long time. A very little bit will add tons of flavor to whatever you’re cooking, so you can eke out a little piece here or there to give a meaty impression to your dish. I keep it on hand all the time for dishes like this chicken and chorizo stew.
Photo by ChichaJo at 80 Breakfasts