Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Returning To The Pantry

I've spent the last day with my nose in a book. (Much to the dismay of my dirty home.) After seeing several blogs this past week discuss a photo-essay published by Time Magazine, I decided I needed to read the book. Hungry Planet:What The World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio is nothing short of amazing. I will likely be devoting a post or two to it over the next few weeks, because it really has been thought provoking to me. Most notably so far is all the families who are conscious of waste. The Peruvian family who sells two sheep at the market and receives $35 which has to buy groceries for their large family for two weeks. They buy little to no meat, focusing on the staples like potatoes, beans, and rice, then they buy fruits and veggies, with nothing special or extra. The Darfur refugees who eat the same thing three meals a day, and worry about the cost of one tiny handful of dried vegetables to flavor their soup.

After a successful winter of stretching my food dollar and utilizing as much as possible out of a scrap of food, it hasn't taken long to return to some of my more wasteful methods. Truly not as bad as it once was, but I do have several containers of leftovers in my fridge that are going to need to be tossed. And I find myself at my local grocery store looking for something for dinner at the last minute all-too-often. So last night I decided to raid the pantry for dinner. I began in the freezer where I discovered a package of frozen cheese ravioli and a partial package of bacon. In the pantry I found several cans of beans, selecting the Great Northern variety, as well as a small onion and some cloves of garlic. A trip through the fridge found a small handful of cherry tomatoes that I wasn't likely going to use. After a second thought, I also grabbed a cucumber well past its prime, some blueberries, and a balsamic salad dressing that I keep wanting to like.

I made one final trip through the garden, snipping off a few beet greens and a few leaves of romaine, as well as a few tiny sprigs of my newly potted basil. Dinner was on it's way. I set some water to boiling for the ravioli, and cut off a tiny portion of the bacon, returning the rest to the freezer for another time. The bacon went into the saute pan, followed by the onion, tomatoes, and garlic, and then later on the white beans, some seasoning, and the basil. A little pasta cooking water loosened up my white bean sauce a bit, and while that simmered away I cobbled together a quick salad. My greens were washed and tossed with thinly sliced cucumber, a handful of blueberries, and that balsamic dressing- whisked with a tablespoon of honey to enrich it a bit.

30 Minute Meals indeed! The whole dinner, including the walk through the garden, pantry, and fridge took less than 30 minutes. And the pasta was fantastic! The sauce worked really well to lightly coat the ravioli, and topped with a scattering of Parmesan, it compares to pasta I've had out. The smoky sauce was balanced out nicely by the sweet/sour green salad, and the only thing I would potentially change about this dinner is the bacon. I would use it, but I would render it down and remove the bacon, crisped, from the saute pan and add it to the salad, leaving the bacon fat to flavor the sauce. Nevertheless, dinner was fantastic, and I felt really good about the pantry meal. I wrote down the recipe for White Bean Sauce with Bacon and popped that into the recipe trove. An excellent dinner on the fly, and packed with vegetables as well. No doubt, the white bean sauce would be equally good in a vegetarian version, subbing in some earthy mushrooms for the bacon, and using a little more olive oil to saute the onions and garlic.

I'm not sure I'll have much of a chance to post tomorrow. The strawberry patch is open, and that means it's time for some jam-making, so I will try if I get the chance.


Claire said...

Yum to strawberry jam...yum to that salad...and yum to white beans. I'm going to have to start cooking on the weekends for the week ahead b/c I KNOW that I won't have the get up and go to cook after hospital stuff.

Erika said...

Claire, this happens to make awesome leftovers! It reheated very nicely in the microwave.