Monthly Archives: October 2009

Raid the Pantry

Everything I know about putting dinner on the table I learned by getting my hands, along with the stovetop, counters and kitchen table, dirty. I’ve been cooking ever since I got married 21 years ago. I credit my friends in the kitchen for teaching me how to make pretty good dinners. By the way, my “friends” don’t actually live in my kitchen but their books do. I’m talking about my favorite cookbook authors. One of them, Nathalie Dupree, popped up recently in the New York Times food section. Dupree was quoted in an article about reactions from Southern chefs to the latest Paula Deen controversy. Though arguably not as famous as Deen, Dupree is a cooking celebrity in her own right. Among the many cookbooks she’s written,  “Everyday Meals From a Well Stocked Pantry,” sits on a shelf in my kitchen.

My copy of “Everyday Meals” has food stains on it, a bent cover and worn-out spine, which should tell you something about where the book ranks on my personal cookbook bestseller list. I like the book because it shows home cooks how to save time and money using ordinary ingredients. In these thrifty times, who doesn’t want to do that?

Unlike those cookbooks that force you to spend an arm and leg on ingredients, “Everyday Meals” encourages home cooks to use what they (probably) already have in their pantries and freezers.

Lynne's cupboard photo

One of my favorite recipes, “Middle Eastern Ratatouille with Grilled Chicken Breast,” uses bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, which are much tastier than the more common boneless and skinless breasts. But it’s the ratatouille that makes this dish really special. Mixing traditional ratatouille vegetables with Middle Eastern spices, the recipe puts a tasty new spin on a traditional French vegetable dish. Make this for your family or even for company. You can impress your guests without blowing your budget. Truth be told, the ratatouille is not simple to make but once you make it, you can freeze a portion for a future dinner. Next to pantry raids, freezer meals are a home cook’s best friend.  Thanks, Nathalie! You can find out more about her here.