Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 01

Episode 109: Just Open the Pantry

This week’s show, “Just Open the Pantry,” is about making hearty and delicious meals from supplies most of us have on hand all the time. Though we imagine that the pantry went out with the hoop skirt, most of us keep a ready supply of dry goods. And when I talk about the pantry, I mean not only the things you keep in your cupboard, but the vegetables you keep in a basket or bin at room temperature, the regular items you keep in your fridge at any given time, and the frozen goods you have on hand in your freezer. Just open the doors and start cooking

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Tips, Tools and Ingredients

Tips. Don’t heat a non-stick pan without something in it. Research has shown that some non-stick finishes can give off toxic fumes (which kill baby birds, remember that little canary you loved as a kid that keeled over one day for no particular reason?) when heated dry and to too high a temperature.

Don’t do all your chopping and measuring ahead. Take advantage of the time the first ingredients in the recipe are cooking to prep the remaining ingredients.

One cup of dry long-grain white rice yields three cups when cooked.

When you remove the shells from frozen shrimp, wrap the shells tightly and return them to the freezer to use when making seafood stock.

If you sprinkle smashed garlic cloves with kosher salt before you chop them: 1.The salt will act as an abrasive and speed up the chopping process and 2. The garlic won’t stick to your knife so much.

You can substitute dry sherry for rice wine in Asian dishes. For longer shelf life, store the sherry in the fridge.

Store spices and dried herbs in a cool dry place and use within 6 months. After that period of time, they are still ok to use but have lost flavor and you will have to use more to get the desired result.

Pasta should never wait for the sauce; the sauce should always wait for the pasta so that they can be combined at the moment the pasta is perfectly cooked.

Tools. There are many times when it is great to have a little leftover wine in the fridge to add to a recipe but you want to be sure that it is just as good as it was when you opened it. This is where I count on my VacuVin Vacuum Wine Saver; it preserves the quality of the remaining portion of an opened bottle of wine by removing the oxygen from the bottle. You can find it in most gourmet and wine stores as well as on line. To learn more, go to VacuVin.

I find that my old-fashioned Potato Masher comes in handy in lots of ways. In this show, I used it to make a creamy pasta sauce by mashing some of the white beans in the recipe. I also reach for it to turn gently simmered apple slices into a chunky apple sauce, to mash the bananas for banana bread or to make my favorite guacamole. Available wherever kitchen tools are sold.

Ingredients. Always keep some Parmigiano-Reggiano in your refrigerator as well as at least one other cheese that your family likes. A little Parmigiano-Reggiano goes a long way and can add a delicious finish to a dish that might otherwise not sparkle.

A selection of canned beans in the pantry gives you a head start on a large variety of quick and easy dinners.

Canned salmon is high in calcium and is a good protein source. Add some exciting flavor and your family will forget that it came from a can. When we taped this show I made two of the camera guys taste this burger because they turned up their noses at canned salmon. They loved it.


Thanks to

Sara's Weeknight Meals is produced by Silver Plume Productions and WETA Washington, DC, and distributed by American Public Television (APT) to public broadcasting stations nationwide. Corporate funding is provided by Best Buy, Gallo and King Arthur Flour. |