By Susan Lane of Susan A. Lane Events
What prompted me to do this blog is my move to a new house taking place this week. As I packed my kitchen up, I realized the key to cooking quick meals for my family is having a stocked pantry/freezer/refrigerator of crucial ingredients. Of course, I can’t find them half the time because I have every spice, oil, vinegar, known to mankind. Moving helps me to edit what I really need and use.
Below is a helpful list of items to keep on hand so that at 6pm when you’ve just arrived home and your kids are screaming, “what’s for dinner?”, you are prepared. I’ve also included some fast and easy recipes that are kid tested!
Some cooking tips:
Try not to buy already grated cheese. Buying a block of imported Pecorino Romano or imported Reggiano Parmagianno is far superior to those containers of already grated cheese. After opening the block of cheese, wrap unused portion in moistened paper towels and place in a zip-loc baggie. They will stay fresh for a very long time and you will notice a tremendous taste difference.
Oils become rancid after 6 months on the shelf. I can’t tell you how many times I go into a client’s home and open their oils to find they are rancid. All it takes is a quick sniff before using. If you don’t use the oil often, purchase smaller bottles. And, never buy oil in a discount store like Marshall’s. They come to the store after being on another store’s shelf for a long time and are always rancid by the time you buy them.
When using olive oil, never use extra virgin oil to cook with. It has a high burn rate and can tend to burn your sauces, etc. Use regular olive oil for cooking and reserve the virgin oil for vinaigrettes or cold sauces.
Spices go bad as well. Any spices over a year old should be thrown away and replaced.
Aerosol spray oils are very expensive. Instead, consider placing your oil (olive, vegetable) in a hand-pumped sprayer.
Dried basil and parsley are useless. Always buy fresh. They’ll last for a week in the fridge.
Notice that I always mention Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. It makes all the difference in the flavor of your dishes. I keep a small bowl of kosher salt in my cooking area along with a good quality pepper grinder. I always buy a 4-5 pepper blend, usually available at TJ Maxx or Marshalls or good supermarkets.
Risotto Gamberti-6 servings
2 T. Olive oil
3 T. butter
2 medium white onions, finely diced
3/4 c. dry white wine
1 t. kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
12 frozen uncooked shrimp-defrosted under running cold water and chopped into large dice- maybe 3-4 pieces per shrimp (21/25 count),*available at Costco or BJ’s or any supermarket
1/2-3/4 c. light cream
1/2 cup Basil leaves, julienned
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
In large heavy stockpot sauté onions in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add rice and stir until grains are coated.
Add stock slowly, one cup at a time, until rice absorbs liquid. Continue until rice is al dente and the consistency is still a little soupy. You do not, I repeat, do not have to use all of the chicken stock called for.
At this point, add your shrimp and cook until they turn their lovely salmon color. Add light cream and basil. Turn out the rice onto a nice platter and serve with the freshly grated cheese.
Leftovers the next day are even better!
Serve with a loaf of crusty bread and a nice salad. Make your own dressing for the salad by combining ¼ c. of white balsamic vinegar (my favorite!), ¾ c. regular olive oil (I find virgin oil to be too heavy), 1-2 cloves of minced fresh garlic and a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pasta with Pancetta and Peas- for 4
Four ¼ inch thick slices pancetta chopped- from the deli section of most markets- if frozen, let sit out for ½ hour before chopping up.
1/8 cup Olive oil- not virgin
Red onion- medium- chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
Bag of frozen peas – placed in colander and cool water run over.
Chopped tarragon or rosemary- 1 T. or more
Light cream- ¾ c.
Grated Romano cheese
Pasta- either linguine or shells- I use Prince.
Heat up good sized frying pan. Add olive oil and when hot add chopped red onion. Cook until translucent and then add chopped up pancetta. Brown in pan. Add garlic. Saute for 30 seconds on medium. Add light cream. Cook down one minute. Add peas and chopped tarragon or rosemary.
Cook pasta to al dente. Drain and pour into pan with sauce. Mix together. Serve with lots of grated romano cheese.
Poached Salmon with Soy, Mirin and Sesame oil – serves 4
4 Salmon steaks
½ c. Soy sauce
¼ c. Aji Mirin- sweet rice wine (in Asian cooking section of store)
½ c. Sake- rice wine- in liquor stores or Asian cooking section of any good food store. It lasts on the shelf a long time!
3 t. Sesame oil
2 T. Roasted Peanut Oil
In pan, add soy, mirin, sake, sesame and peanut oil. Heat. Add salmon steaks. Cook on both sides (3 minutes per side). Test area near bone for doneness.
Serve with white rice topped with chopped scallions.
Sauté up some chopped bok choy with peanut oil and sesame oil as a green side dish.
If your kids love salmon and Chinese food, this is a healthy alternative and delicious. Just be careful with the bones. If you prefer, filets can be used- less bones. Use a tweezer to pluck the bones out before cooking if wanted.
Low sodium Chicken broth
Cans of whole tomatoes- Muir Glen
Short grain Arborio rice for risotto
White rice/brown rice
Pasta- different types
Linguine, shells, spaghetti
Bags of different beans, peas
Canned Coconut milk- not sweetened
Whole grain Dijon mustard
Apple cider vinegar
Rice wine vinegar
White or red Balsamic vinegar
Roasted peanut oil- must be roasted
Extra virgin olive oil
Sake rice wine
Aji-mirin rice wine- sweetened
Panko bread crumbs
Thick slices of pancetta
Garlic bulbs or Shallots
Tomatoes- cherry or fresh local
Pickling size cukes
Onions- red and Vidalia
Romano cheese block
Olives- Kalamata, nicoise, etc.
Unsalted or salted butter
Spices and seasonings – dried
Whole pepper blend
Old Bay seasoning
Red pepper flakes
Chipotle or chili powder
Herbs de Provence
Pure vanilla extract
Cooking Tools to make your job easier
Spice grinder- or coffee grinder
Hand – immersion blender
Heavy duty blender – for ice crushing