the power of the pantry

May 18th, 2008 · 32 Comments

there are times when the mere thought of whipping up a dinner is just more than i can bear.  and although you may have guessed this about me, the act of cooking  – just being in my kitchen and creating something delicious – is in my world, one of life’s most wondrous pleasures. 

but still…

instead of a full blown production including a trip to ‘whole foods’, there are those times that dinner begins with a simple charcuterie plate. these days it’s mostly all about d’artganan’s saucisson sec and duck prosciutto. but i’ve also become somewhat enamored  with this smoked liverwurst – and with an exceptional cheese or two and some white truffle honey – coupled with the latest greatest cracker find, what more could you ever ask for?  oh, except these crazy olives that i somehow fell upon last year… i urge you to try them.  they are meaty and addictive and most definitely unique

or maybe instead,  a bowl of some interesting artisan pasta with some amazing olive oil and the best parmegiano you can lay your hands upon, grated liberally with perhaps an anchovy or two thrown in with some very finely minced garlic.  or that same pasta with a tin of really amazing smoked piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna, the can thrown into the boiling pasta water to heat.  i’d happily take either of these alongside my favorite salad of romaine, arugula, walnut oil and – well, the best salt that you can lay your hands upon…  it’s all about the pantry, people.  it’s the power of the pantry.

i look forward to these simple dinners more than you might expect.  they are borne of the immediate options at hand, with the added bonus of a light cleanup, all the more reason that they most definitely have their place within a life that is sometimes a bit too busy, sometimes a bit too lazy – often numbering a few times a week around here. 

but, quite honestly, another aspect that motivates me is that i’m perpetually curious about what extraordinary products exist in the universe.  and it can be overwhelming.  so much great food, so little time… the grocery bill goes relentlessly over budget, guiltlessly spilling into the restaurant allowance.  as it should…

recently we had a pantry dinner and afterwards, i was craving something sweet.  so i dug deep into the ‘way back’ – and came up with some italian organic candied orange peel and a bar of pralus single note chocolate.  nothing unusual.  nothing complicated.  but for me, it’s as good as nearly anything…

i may not be jetting off to europe this spring, but my pantry is quite the culinary wonderland.  and you know, i feel pretty damn good about it all…


Tags: chocolate · dessert

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Marc @ No Recipes // May 18, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Digging through my pantry is always like going on a treasure hunt. It’s one of the 5 things I do when I need food inspiration.

  • 2 Stephanie // May 18, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    I’ve been stuck in the house for days with a bad head cold, so my pantry is getting cleaned out but good! And you’re right…sometimes all it takes are a few quality ingredients to make a fantastic meal.

  • 3 nina // May 19, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Just reading your post had me salivating and then when I started clicking on the links, I was a gonner, Delicious stuff.

  • 4 diva // May 19, 2008 at 3:08 am

    O when i actually have a steady income, my pantry is gonna be my mecca of world ingredients and all that jazz. :) it’s always great to have the basic stuff but also one or two of those fancy pants ingredients that to make life more exciting.

    i suppose that’s why, like you, my grocery bill always go way beyond what I expect. like way wayyyyy beyond

  • 5 claudia // May 19, 2008 at 4:36 am

    marc – and the other 4 are?

    stephanie – sometimes you just need to get in there and have a good look around. and toss the bad purchases/mistakes… and use some of that stuff!

    nina – those links are dangerous…

    diva – my grocery bill is silly high. i admit it. but i forgo other things. like botox and manicures and ummm, long weekend jaunts to barcelona…

  • 6 Donald // May 19, 2008 at 6:01 am

    I hear ya! I think if we were ever to be stranded, my pantry would keep us sustained for the next 10 years! I am like my grandfather, I just like looking at the stuff. I get nervous if one of my shelves begins to look barren.

  • 7 michael // May 19, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Great post – AND GREAT LINKS! — I just found a great new pantry item here in Tartu – Lingham’s ginger garlic chilli sauce from Malaysia. Here is a link to their home page


  • 8 Paz // May 19, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Oh my! Looks so tasty! How creative!


  • 9 MichaelG // May 19, 2008 at 8:16 am

    I found some boneless beef rib on sale Friday. Ground it up for burger that night. Excellent! Moist and flavorful. Better than chuck. Ate it with fries twice cooked Belge style.

    Had a huge artichoke Saturday night, fresh and tasty. That was all I needed. Yum. And yeah, I live in California.

  • 10 evil chef mom // May 19, 2008 at 9:17 am

    the power of the pantry! it’s the only thing that gets me through the kids baseball season. if i didn’t have a good pantry we’d be eating mc’donalds four night a week. yuck.

  • 11 lisa // May 19, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I’ve been wanting to try duck prosciutto, and now I’m inspired to place the order!

  • 12 Dana // May 19, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    I have to be careful when I go grocery shopping — sometimes the bill tally is a little shocking. But I agree — I love seeing all of the yummy and inventive products out there! I just have to be careful how much I buy :).

  • 13 Mary Coleman // May 19, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    My pantry went with me on vacation. I’m not kidding. But when you’re used to having certain things available to you on a regular basis, you take them with you.
    It’s worth it.

  • 14 michelle @ TNS // May 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    nice link collection.

    brian rejects the idea of charcuterie dinner, but i could happily eat it every night. considering that he doesn’t like bagels or ice cream either, i often have to wonder about him.

  • 15 Brittany // May 19, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Wow! Fuck the farmer’s market! All of that had me salivating.
    And if we all stock up, we can be well fed in case of nuculear holocaust.
    Thanks for the public service, Claudia. : )

  • 16 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // May 19, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Chocolate for dinner = perfect. That bowl is gorgeous, too :) My cupboard is rather tiny but surprisingly full of, well, surprises. I like being inspired by a good dig through it (until all the packets and containers inevitably fall into the sink underneath…)

  • 17 The Spotted Apron // May 19, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    i love this post. i wish my pantry was as well stocked as yours! but i completely agree on enjoying simple dinners. one of my simple meals is fresh mozzarella, good quality tomatoes, chives or basil, sea salt and olive oil. i also love a good cheese but i’m terribly intimidated by those fancy cheese stores. i’ll have to start mustering some courage to not look like such an amateur and try some different ones. my current fav is an italian truffle cheese i get at trader joes.

  • 18 You Know You're a Food Snob if... // May 19, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    What a fun excursion! I love lists, and I love when people whose palates I trust make it easy for me not to cook once in awhile. It is quite the multi-cultural pantry you’ve got there.

    What kills me (almost literally, sometimes!) is when I find stuff in my cupboard that I had long forgotten about. Sometimes it’s a happy surprise, sometimes, well…

  • 19 democommie // May 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm


    Oh, sure, rub it in. I don’t got no kitchen, nevahmind a damn pantry! But, hey, I do got a 2’x4’x2′ 16Ga steel “Job box” that I keep most of my dry goods in (another squirrel in the trap, yesterday). None of the stuff in there is high end, but it’s still fun to root through it and find something that I can throw together in fifteen minutes.

    Last night I used my little Forman Grill to do a couple of pork chops and then sliced a zuchhini into nice long slabs and let it grill on the pork fat and brown bits that were clinging to the grill.

    I sliced a half decent tomato, threw it and some nice oil cured olives on top of the zuch with a balsamic vinaigrette, put the pork chops on the same plate and enjoyed!

  • 20 Shari // May 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Nothing as fancy here — bbq chicken with Chef Paul Prudhomme! I’ll have to seek out the items you’ve mentioned to attempt to turn my kitchen into such a culinary wonderland!
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  • 21 FrenchLaundryatHome // May 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Once a month or so, my neighbors and I throw a “clean out your fridge and pantry” party — the rules are loose, but essentially, you can’t go shopping and must use things you already have and bring whatever you want to dinner. Some of the creations are amazing, and others end up in the trash.

  • 22 Peter // May 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    What you left out, though, was the fact that you curated your pantry with perfect taste and adventurousness; there are plenty of pantries that are full of nothing but boy-ar-dee, canned water chestnuts, and mayonnaise.

    Is your linking finger sore?

  • 23 NOBLE PIG // May 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    You are so creative, I mean how cute is this?

  • 24 melissa // May 19, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    How beautiful, Claudia, what a really nice post.

    I am saving the links to the oil and the salt. You have that “the difference is astounding” bit up there on the right… it’s the first thing I read when I came to your site and you have added to it once since, but I have never forgotten it. Your words played in my head the other day when I made myself buy olive oil twice as expensive as my standby, but twice as luxurious. It made a difference. :)

  • 25 Heather // May 19, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, but sometimes the necessity is to “not shop”.

  • 26 Vincent // May 19, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    It seems you feel guilty for this post yet it comes across with claudia-ish-iss-ness. Yes – its a word.

    I keep my pantry stocked luckily due to the fact that I have several ethnic markets close at hand. Today I bought steamed ramen, 2 parrot fish (fresh), baby bok choy, sweet soy sauce and a bucket of fried shallots. My kids ate it and they loved it.

    Great post.

  • 27 mari // May 20, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Nothing like a well stocked pantry.

    Enough said.

  • 28 Ethel // May 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    You put me to shame. Tomorrow starts my big “throw-away” from my pantry. I know all my spices are old and I will replace them. Buy fewer but better quality. I looked in my pantry and most of the spices I haven’t used in ages.Thanks for giving me the incentive.

  • 29 Meg // May 21, 2008 at 12:29 am

    I like pantry dinners, too.
    I need to have them more often, as some of the cans and jars I have stacked in there (with the juice boxes) come clattering down whenever I reach in.

  • 30 katy // May 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I brought that salt back from Paris in February and it’s almost gone already! I’m a little embarrassed to admit that. My favorite easy dinners are bread, cheese and fresh fruit… with maybe a little chocolate for dessert. Does it get any better?

  • 31 fluffernutter // May 22, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Chocolate and marshmallow is nature’s perfect food combination — I’ve said that before — but you know what the second one is? Chocolate and orange. My favoritest. I would have skipped supper, or maybe just eaten the tuna in peppers (damn does that look good) and made a meal of the chocolate and oranges. Maybe a marshmallow for getting the last of the chocolate out of the corners…

  • 32 Blake // May 22, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Claudia, you must make your own duck prosciutto sometime soon. Couldn’t be easier.

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