Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's your favorite pantry meal?

Pantry dinners are lifesavers sometimes, aren't they? For one thing, they're fast, easy, and pretty easily nutritious. For another, they can help postpone the dreaded weekly grocery run by a day or two if things are down to the wire (either clock-wise or wallet wise, and let's face it—in both instances we could all use a bye for a day).

However and perhaps above all else, thank heavens, nine times out of ten they're imminently freezable, which means a couple nights down the line when you're pressed for time at dinner again you can just whip one of these little babies out of the icebox, heat 'er through and feed the beast.

Well, this week I know I have to gear up to be in that latter situation more often than not, and I'm counting on the ol' cupboard and my trusty can opener to get me through. I bet just about everybody has a go-to pantry supper, and mine is a hearty, warming stew cobbled together using a couple canned staples and frozen veg.

Super simple and versatile: It can be spicy or mild and sweet, served with bread or rice or even as a soup (if you add some veg broth along with the tomatoes), easily frozen and just as easily reheated. You can add or subtract okra, spinach, cut green beans, corn, black beans for chickpeas—basically whatever's lying around the back of your cabinets and/or freezer.

What more could you want on a busy weeknight, naw'mean?

1 tbs olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2–3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalepeño, diced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (16oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can (16oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
2–3 cups frozen vegetables (okra or whatever)
2 poached eggs (optional but recommended) for serving

bread or rice for serving
Heat the oil over moderate heat in a medium pan; add onion, garlic and jalapeño, cooking until tender (about 3–5 mins). Mix in spices to coat, and cook until fragrant before stirring in chickpeas; stir all together well and heat through (about 5 mins). Mix in tomatoes with liquid; bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until slightly thickened (up to 10 mins). Stir in frozen veg and simmer another 5–7 mins, until the whole slurry is cooked through and tender. 

Serves 2–3. Scoop onto thick slices of bread (and top with a poached egg, if so inclined—delicious!), or over rice.

What pantry meal gets you out of a busy-week dinnertime crunch?


  1. I have a few: one is tuna salad with a bunch of vegetables and or canned beans. the second one is shakshuka (eggs poached in a tomato sauce)

  2. @Olga: Poached eggs in tomato sauce (a.k.a. Eggs in Purgatory) is another of my favorites! I guess there's something about a poached egg that really dresses up a pantry meal.

  3. A few standards:
    -A can of lentils souped up with curry powder, garlic, carrots and spinach.
    -A can of tuna over fresh spinach with fresh tomatoes, red onions, etc.
    -A bowl of oatmeal

    In the freezer:
    -Beans (black or pinto) for a quick bowl of beans and rice, tacos or tostadas.


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