Sorry it has taken a while to share anything food-related. Even simple pleasures become redefined at times like this.
It has taken me a week to get my food system in place and my considerations have vastly changed from a pre-COVID 19 world. For NYC living, math based on food square footage, is largely dictating grocery lists – how do we maximize refrigerator, freezer and shelf stable in a way that’s productive.
In addition to your staples, these ingredients are helpful to have on hand. No Parmesan for your pasta? Add some miso from the extra depth of umami!
Here’s what I am stocking up on and why.
- Miso (preferably white) – adds cheesiness, meatiness, intense depth in flavor
- Eggs – Eggs are super sustaining and can be used from pancakes (try making savory pancakes as an alternative) to quick Carbonara
- Butter – You can also freeze some. Just a knob adds a luxurious creaminess to a dish
- Packaged cold cuts – the prepackaged cold cuts have longer shelf life until opened as opposed to deli counter sliced. In addition to sandwiches, they can be used for fried rice & pastas and salads
- Dried lentils – the canned option takes up too much pantry space. 1 cup of dried lentils, when cooked yield a whole lot more than 1 cup of canned beans/ lentils
If there’s a choice, go with dried lentils unless you have a pressure cooker/ Instapot to break down stubbornly hard beans
- Lots of spices – Turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander powder- whatever flavor profiles rock your boat – If you have access to an ethnic grocery store, these spices are often available in 1lb. bags – get one of each – you wont need more, so leave some for the others. Even if you happen to be low on oil, spices can really amp up the flavor. In addition, spices are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties – turmeric is recognized for this, but most spices are known to add functional benefit
§ A word on turmeric – To maximize benefit, it is believed that it should be cooked in a meal with black-pepper and fat. I’m not a doctor, but we were raised with this practice and it is believed to stay in the system for longer and better absorbed. Again, don’t over do the use of this spice. 1 tsp. in a dish that serves 4 is both palatable and possibly easier to tolerate.
- Grains: Pastas, quinoa, rice, rice and egg noodles and 3 minute ramen noodle packs – get 2 varieties of pasta – penne/ fusilli sized and smaller that can be added to soups. Also, I suggest all 3 or mealtime will get really boring, really fast.
- Condiments – Capers, olives and preserved lemons, pickles, jarred jalapenos– a small amount yields massive flavor when fried in a little oil before you add a sauce or any other wet ingredient (yes, you can add pickles to bases of sauces). Also great for a quick bahn-mi or sandwich
- Canned tuna
- Canned tomatoes AND also tomato puree in a tube (doesn’t take much space). The puree adds a concentrated, umami flavor and again a tablespoon added to the base of a dish
- Shelf stable ginger and garlic – Cook with it or add to dressings and marinades for instant oomph
- Cereals/ oats – cereal doubles up as a handy snack for kids (maybe not Weetabix) and oats are versatile and can be eaten savory – think congee
- Canned fruits – we love lychees and they work well with fresh fruit too
- Nut butters – great for throwing together a quick pesto in addition to toast. Can lightly thin nut butters down to drizzle over yoghurt or cereal
Not everyone has massive freezers. I certainly don’t. These are items I have found helpful:
- Frozen corn – apart from adding to sautés, its great for a quick salad, sandwich filling
- Carrots and peas combo
- Frozen Shrimp, great for a quick lunch or dinner and a little can go a long way if its used with other ingredients
- Chicken/ beef – washed, prepped, portioned, spread out in to storage bags in a single layer for ease of defrosting
- Freshly minced ginger/ garlic – process in food processor in freezer bags, flattened to thin sheets and frozen – you can easily break a piece off as you need and keep the remaining frozen
- Left overs not using previously frozen ingredients (rice, pasta, mashed potatoes)
Also, when cooking with meats, consider braising with lentils/ veggies and a decent amount of stock/ simmering sauce – it will yield a much larger portion and leftovers
– Freeze leftover meals (unless you have used previously frozen ingredients) so that you feel like you have a brand new meal to look forward to the following week
– Any amount of leftovers can be used the next day. Even a cup of rice when sautéed with veggies and protein can be just the amount you needed
– Make excellent fillings for: wraps, omelets and frittatas and savory pancakes