All photos by Susan Axelrod
In a perfect world, my refrigerator would be stocked with fresh, locally sourced, wholesome foods at all times. But my world, while perfectly fine (and often quite nice), thank you, is far from perfect. That doesn’t mean, however, that I resort to Cup o’ Noodles or a frozen dinner when Ted’s away and I’m cooking for just me.
No, I turn instead to my pantry, which is always (well, almost … since I’m not perfect) stocked with cans of tuna, beans, and tomatoes, boxes of pasta and grains, and a plethora of spices, oils, vinegars and other seasonings. This stuff lasts for a long time, so if I see a sale on the brand of tuna I like or cans of artichoke hearts, I buy a few at a time. How’s this for a quick recipe? Saute a little garlic, throw in a can of chopped or crushed tomatoes, simmer it for a few minutes, add a can (drained) of cannellini beans and some salt and pepper, ladle it over pasta and you have a healthy and filling dinner. Beans, especially, are great to keep on hand as a source of protein.
I feel lucky to work right in downtown Portland, where the numerous nearby lunch options range from the El Corazon food truck to Kamasouptra’s soups and my favorite smoothie — the Kale Storm — from the Maine Squeeze. But in an effort to keep an eye on my clothing size and my bank account, I bring lunch from home most days. And green salad, even doctored up with Weight Watchers-friendly vegetable toppings, gets pretty boring.
Cans came to the rescue earlier this week, when I made a big bowl of Tuna, Chickpea and Artichoke Salad — one can of each providing plenty for dinner and lunch the next two days. It’s flavorful and satisfying over greens, but if you’re craving something warm, you could also toss this with cooked pasta. Note: Italian tuna packed in olive oil, not water, is essential for this salad. It has so much more flavor than bland, water-packed tuna.
1 8.1 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
1 15 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 can tuna packed in olive oil (not drained)
Juice of half a lemon (I actually didn’t have a lemon, so used a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.)
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dump the artichoke hearts, chickpeas and tuna into a bowl.
Add the lemon juice, parsley and chives. Blend everything well.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If there’s nothing in the fridge, you can still put together dinner by keeping these items on the shelf.
Canned tomatoes — whole, chopped, crushed
Canned tuna — oil-packed has better flavor
Canned beans — chickpeas, cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans
Canned artichoke hearts
Canned broth — chicken, beef, vegetable
Pasta — linguini or spaghetti, rigatoni or ziti, orzo
Rice — white, brown, jasmine, basmati
Sundried tomatoes in oil
Olive oils — extra virgin, infused with lemon, basil or garlic
Vinegars — red wine, balsamic (red and white), sherry, rice wine
Nut butters — peanut, almond, tahini
Note: pay attention to dates on cans and packages — this stuff doesn’t last forever. I keep grains, lentils and breadcrumbs in glass jars to keep bugs at bay; it’s pretty gross to open a box of breadcrumbs and have little moths fly out!