Though it may not seem so at first glance, there's a huge lesson to be learned from this picture. What you ask? Does she have to be so cryptic? It's Monday morning and I can barely think straight, let alone decipher her forkful-of-pasta photo. Ok guys, sorry for all the drama. Here's my riveting little tidbit for the new week and it's really nothing new (back when stores kept normal hours, this is something our grandmas all did)--If you keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge, on any given night, you can whip up a nutritious, delicious and even out-of-the-ordinary dish in less than an hour! Yup, that's right. That forkful of pasta coated in a spicy, peanutty sauce with strips of white meat chicken and some scattered scallions is really saying, "look at how organized I am!" That's because this wonderful one-bowl, Asian-inspired pasta dish is entirely made with ingredients that you can keep on hand in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Imagine it's 5:00 pm and you have no idea what dinner will be but the natives are getting restless and you know it's going to get ugly if there is not a meal on the table within the hour. Now imagine opening up your pantry and fridge, doing a little bit of chopping and measuring and serving them up a plate of this deliciousness in under an hour. Can you hear the cheers? Can you feel that smug smile stretching across your face? I promise it can be done with one good trip to the market to cover your bases. "I could make this if only I had some________in the house!" will escape your lips less and less. How's that for some Monday morning inspiration?!!
The picture above is my new pantry from our kitchen redo and I purposely had it designed into blocks so that I would keep my famous shoving-to-the-back-impulse at a minimum. I also like the blocks because I can keep my ingredients sorted by category, you know, one square for oils, vinegars and sauces, one for canned goods, one for flours, one for sugars and a large one for chocolate, ha ha!! Now, I realize that not everyone has a big pantry or lots of cupboards where they can store ingredients, but if you can find a way to keep things stocked even just a little bit, it'll make your life so-o-o-o much easier because the beauty of most of these sauces, vinegars, oils, pastas etc. is that they rarely spoil or need replacing other than when you use them up (that doesn't go for spices though--spices need to be replaced about once a year, I believe). Plus, I find that when I purchase off-the-beaten-path ingredients for us like for example, tahini, which figures largely in this recipe, I'm more apt to turn to other new recipes that make use of them since I already have them on hand. Whew! Sorry for the rather long-winded explanation! If you're already a model of preparedness and organization, ignore what's below and skip down to the recipe. But for the rest of you, here's what I basically keep on hand at home:
Canola, Vegetable, Peanut, Safflower Olive, Coconut, Sesame and Toasted Sesame (I like the Trader Joe's brand), Nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Things like walnut or other nut oils that spoil more easily should only be bought on an "as needed" basis.
Balsamic, Red Wine, Apple Cider, White, White Wine, Sherry, Rice, Champagne, Malt
CONDIMENTS & SAUCES
Soy Sauce (I always buy low sodium), Mirin, Chili Oil, Hot Sauce, Chili Sauce, Sriracha, Ketchup, Mustard (regular brown, yellow and Dijon), Mayonnaise ( I buy light), Salsa, Tomato sauce
NUTS & NUT BUTTERS
I keep all nuts in the freezer to help keep them fresh and we eat a lot of nuts so I usually have Trader Joe's toasted slivered almonds, walnuts, pecans and shelled pistachios on hand. As far as nut butters, the natural peanut butter gets stored in the fridge after opening. All others get stored in pantry and they are: regular peanut butter like Skippy or Jiff, Almond butter and Tahini.
CANNED AND JARRED GOODS
Chickpeas, Black and Red beans, Baked Beans, Diced tomatoes, Whole tomatoes, any fruit (like pineapple), Chicken/beef/vegetable broth, Pickles, Applesauce, Tomato Paste
STARCHES & GRAINS
Dried pastas, Rice (long grain, brown, basmati, arborio, wild), Barley (pearl and quick cooking), Quinoa, Couscous (Israeli and regular), Polenta, Breadcrumbs (plain & Italian), Panko, Oats (Old-Fashioned and Steel Cut), your favorite cereals, your favorite bread
SPICES & EXTRACTS
Kosher salt, regular salt, fine sea salt, flour de sel, black and white pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, bay leaves, paprika, parsley flakes, dry mustard, basil, curry powder, sesame seeds, chili powder, oregano, hot pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg (I don't like the last 3 but they are considered pantry staples), cream of tartar, espresso powder, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, almond extract
I really like the King Arthur brand and I use their All-purpose white, wheat, white whole wheat, bread, cake and self-rising exclusively, Cornmeal (yellow and white), Gluten-free if you need it. I keep pastry flour and whole wheat pastry flour on hand as well as wheat bran, wheat germ and rye flour on hand but these are not necessary unless you really bake a lot.
SUGARS & SWEETENERS
Granulated, Brown (light and dark), Demerara (also known as sanding sugar) , Confectioners', Corn Syrup (light and dark), Molasses, Honey, Pure Maple Syrup, Agave
OTHER BAKING ESSENTIALS
Baking Powder, Baking Soda (replace every 6 months) Cornstarch, Malt Powder, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Evaporated Milk, Graham Cracker Crumbs, Marshmallows, Shredded Coconut (sweetened and unsweetened), Cocoa Powder (regular and Dutch-processed), baking chocolate (unsweetened, semisweet, bittersweet and white--I like Trader Joe's large bars for taste and economy), chocolate chips-mainly Ghiradhelli but Nestle is good too (semisweet and bittersweet and mini), cupcake liners, dried fruits like raisins (dark and yellow), currants, dried cranberries etc, yeast
Sticks of unsalted butter, cream cheese, sour cream (regular and light) , Milk, Large Eggs, Yogurt (for eating and baking with, I usually keep Greek and regular on hand), a hunk of Parmesan cheese for grating, Cheddar or other favorite hard cheeses, Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Lemons, Limes, Apples
Frozen veggies, Chicken breasts that can be quickly defrosted, Ice Cream and Sorbet, of course!
This is by no means a comprehensive list and I'm sure there are lots of things I've left out that you consider absolutes. In any case, hope this helps and makes it whole lots easier to whip up delicious stuff without last minute grocery runs!! And as for this pasta dish, which has gotten rather short shrift today, be sure to give it a try--it's full of spicy, sesame flavor and you'll love the "magic" way the chicken gets cooked!
Now, head to the store to stock up and start making all your kitchen experiences a whole lot more fun!! And let me know what's in your kitchen!!
Sesame Chicken Noodles
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes (but a lot of this is hands-free)
- Kosher salt
- 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 8 ounces dried fettuccine (or other spaghetti-like pasta you like--it's about half a box)
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup peanut oil
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chili oil (use less if you want less heat)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2-3 shakes cayenne pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
1. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Salt the water well, add the chicken breast making sure it's submerged in the water, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let sit about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender. If it's not done enough let it sit covered a few minutes longer. Then remove the chicken and transfer it to a plate but don't throw out the water.
2. Bring the water in the pot back to a full boil over high heat and add the pasta. Cook to al dente according to the package directions. Then drain and rinse the pasta in cold water until cool and pat it dry with paper towels a bit.
3. While the pasta is cooking, you can make the sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 teaspoon sesame oil, peanut oil, tahini, soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, honey, cayenne and garlic until smooth.
4. Place the pasta in a large bowl and toss with remaining sesame oil. Shred or chop the cooled chicken and add to the bowl. Pour the sauce over everything and toss to coat well. Top with the scallions and serve.
Note: Recipe adapted from Cravings by Chrissy Teigen.