People who do not cook regularly for themselves at home often cite expense as an issue. Certainly if you have nothing in your kitchen because you are tired of throwing out expired goods or rotten vegetables from past endeavors, it can be expensive to have to buy every single ingredient in preparation for making a meal. The following are dry goods I keep on hand in my pantry, no matter how tiny my kitchen is. Below that is a list of produce and other items that expire more quickly than the dry goods; I replace these fresh items every week or so. Having the below on-hand opens up a world of possibilities for simple home-cooked meals. You can easily roast a chicken with some of the ingredients below and a few sprigs of fresh herbs, make a vegetarian pasta sauce, or make fried rice with last night’s take out leftovers and day-old rice.
- long grain rice
- soy sauce – light and dark
- 2 pepper grinders, one for black and one for white peppercorns. Or if you don’t really cook much Asian food, one pepper grinder with black peppercorns is fine.
- ground cumin
- curry powder
- canola oil
- good olive oil
- sesame oil
- lemons and/or limes
- dried noodles and pastas – spaghetti, soba and some sort of pasta that sauce will stick to like fusilli (you crazy bastard!)
- almonds or another nut of your choice
- dried chilies
- canned tomatoes
- canned chickpeas
- tomato paste
- your favorite mustard – for my daily mustard, it’s a toss up between Dijon and whole grain
- rice wine vinegar
- white vinegar
- dried scallops
- cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon
- Oyster sauce
- all-purpose flour
- baked tofu
- your favorite hardy green – broccoli, for example, or even better, Chinese broccoli!
- trumpet mushrooms – these seem to have become popular only within the last 3-4 years; I don’t recall ever seeing them in Asian supermarkets before but now everyone carries them. They are pan-Asian and delicious! As far as I can tell, they’re available year-round.
- an onion or two
- a good loaf of bread
- smoked Gouda or a cheese of your choice
- green onion or chive buds
Now that your kitchen is stocked for me to come over and cook, here are some of my favorite quick meals:
After doing the Wildrose Cleanse, I determined to have one night a week where I ate vegan fare – Super Vegan Tuesdays, I called it. This never quite materialized but probably twice a week now, I eat fully vegan meals and don’t drink alcohol with those meals. This helps keep my metabolism in check and the weight I’d lost off! This is the meal I made and consumed every time I did yoga, which was up to three times a week. It may sound monotonous, but these ingredients are ones I love and the simple pleasure of eating fresh vegetables is heightened after sweating profusely through the asanas.
- 1 trumpet mushroom, cut into long strips
- 2 heads of broccoli with stalks, peeled and cut
- 2 blocks of baked tofu – they are usually sold in two palates that can be broken into two pieces each so I use half the package. Cut the tofu into strips roughly the same size as the mushrooms.
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 1T rice wine vinegar
In a wok or skillet, heat a tablespoon of canola oil. When hot, add the garlic and stir until slightly browned, about 15-30 seconds, depending on the heat of your wok or skillet. Add the tofu and stir it around for a few minutes. Then add the broccoli and stir that for 2-3 minutes, adding water if necessary if your wok starts to smoke and the vegetables need help releasing the liquid within. Add the mushrooms and stir all ingredients together. Add salt and a few cranks of white pepper and the rice wine vinegar, stir and cover. After 3-5 minutes, uncover and taste, then add a drop of sesame oil if you wish. Turn the heat off and enjoy! I usually wolf down about 2/3 of it and have the last 1/3 for breakfast the next morning – the perfect way for the budding yogi to begin a new day!
Noodles with Ginger-Soy Sauce
- 1 part sesame oil to two parts light soy sauce
- 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
- 3 shiso leaves
- 1 package of udon or 1 bundle of dried soba
Combine the sesame oil and soy sauce and grate the ginger into it with a microplane. If you don’t have one, mince it. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package, then drain in a colander and toss in 5-6 ice cubes to halt the cooking and cool the noodles. When they are sufficiently cool (they don’t need to be ice cold but cooler than lukewarm is best), add the sesame-oil-ginger-soy mixture and stir. Chiffonade the shiso and mix it in. If your noodles are at all warm, the shiso will turn black. If you have it, sprinkle in a tablespoon of black sesame seeds. I love the bite of ginger but if aren’t as crazy about it, decrease the amount of ginger or toss in a teaspoon of sugar to the soy-sesame oil mixture.
Spicy Pork Spareribs
Came up with this on a cold night when I knew that a bottle of berrylicious Cotes du Rhone was on its way home.
- 2 lbs spareribs – marinate with 4T dark soy sauce, 1T sesame oil, 2T salt, 3-4 good cranks of white pepper, 1T cornstarch, 3T water, 1-2 generous squirts of Sriracha.
- 1 trumpet mushroom, cut into strips
- 3 dried dates and 10-15 unsweetened, dried Goji berries – if you don’t have these, add 3T sugar in the cooking process
- 1 cinnamon stick or 2T of ground cinnamon
- 3-4 Thai bird chilies, reconstituted with hot water if you’re in a bit of a rush as it will be ready in 30 minutes. If you like to plan your meals ahead, marinate the meat the night before and soak your chilies in cold water then.
Brown the marinated meat in a hot cast iron dutch oven in 2T of canola oil, this could be less if your meat is fatty or more if it is leaner. After the meat is sufficiently browned, probably after 5 minutes or so, add the mushrooms, Goji berries and dates. Stir for a minute. Then add 1.5 cups of water or enough to cover 2/3 of the ingredients. Add 1/3c oyster sauce, sugar (if you don’t have Goji berries and dates) dried chilies with the water they were soaking in and cinnamon. Cover the dutch oven and put it into a 350 degree oven in the middle of the oven. Check it after 20 minutes, stirring to make sure that all the reduced goodness has a chance to work its flavor magic on the meat. After stirring, return it in the oven for another 15-20 minutes and then taste. Season as you wish and serve over white rice.
And as a bonus – if you only have the above lists and nothing more, roast the carrots in the oven with salt, cumin and lime juice and when they are nearly done, toss in a handful of chopped almonds. Cut up some bread and cheese and fill a small dish with olive oil. Pour yourself a glass of wheat beer and there you have an excellent, well-balanced snack!