Your kitchen, amidst Coronavirus mania

From one quarantined cook to another: let’s fortify that pantry, kids.

In the spirit of the impending threat of Coronavirus, many of us are now practicing social distancing if not hibernating altogether. 

This new, unexpectedly cramped lifestyle is probably going to require some level of basic cooking, and I intend to help inspire some of y’all to do so. But first things first — you’ve got to set yourself up for the long haul and a bunch of versatile meals.

This, I think we can all agree, is more important than hoarding toilet paper.

If you know anything about me, you know that I love to cook, and that I truly lean into the challenge of using what I have on hand — especially ingredients that are already on their way out, like wilting vegetables and herb stems. It’s less wasteful, it’s more satisfying, it makes me feel like I’m part of a cooking show that has yet to take off (Scrap Battles, coming soon  to a network near you).

These days, as a nomad without a permanent residence, I have to dial the production back to basic. I don’t have an oven, or extensive kitchen equipment, and I definitely can’t be loading up on sauces and spices and vinegars only to move on in a few months. (Though now we all might in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future?) 

That might be what a lot of you who cook less often are looking at too — the desire to eat something that isn’t peanut butter or frozen pizza rolls, but the unwillingness to drop a lot of cash in this unsure moment of time.

The good news (that’s correct, the phrase “good news” has not yet been cancelled) is that you can still make awesome grub with a limited cache of stuff.

One thing you won’t find on my list of ingredients is much meat; that’s because 1) Since I lack an oven, I can never roast or bake anything and 2) I’m working hard to reduce my meat intake to “occasional” rather than regular (trying to help Mama Earth over here). Still, if you’re not ready to let go of being a rabid meat eater, you can add some chicken breasts and beef cuts to the freezer and/or some sliced lunch meats to the fridge, and implement those in recipes I’ll be throwing this direction. (You can also buy a whole roast chicken, dissemble it, freeze the parts you won’t eat right away and save the skin separately to fry up on its own. I might be doing that too, for when the cravings hit.)

Here we go:

Basic pantry items stacked on a counter

PANTRY

Basics:

  • Chili flakes
  • Oil (if you can have two, olive oil and vegetable or peanut oil are great)
  • Vinegar (red wine vinegar is my go-to if I can only get one)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Curry powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Fresh garlic
  • Onions (yellow and red)
  • Tomato paste (getting canned crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce is great too, but as that’s not widely available at my grocery store, I stick with the paste)
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili sauce (if you can’t achieve chili sauce, just use the chili flakes)
  • Chicken/vegetable stock

Legumes/starches/proteins:

  • Beans (red beans and black beans are great —dried are best, but canned work too)
  • Rice (I usually go for jasmine rice, but whatever you can find is fine)
  • Pasta (if I get two kinds, I go for a dried spaghetti or linguine and an Asian-style noodle, like rice sticks or Udon)
  • Lentils
  • Canned tuna (I like tuna packed in oil for most things)
  • Canned anchovies or sardines (anchovies are better in my opinion, but harder to find in some parts of the world, such as Central America)
  • Canned white beans (jarred works too)
  • Canned garbanzo beans
  • Instant noodles (such as cup o’ noodles)
  • Peanuts or almonds

Basic fridge items stacked on the top shelf.

FRIDGE

Produce:

  • Parsley or cilantro
  • Lemons or limes
  • Scallions or chives
  • Tomatoes (I like to buy Roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes)
  • Avocados (hard, so you can control their ripening)
  • Jalapeños
  • Durable vegetables like broccoli, carrots, potatoes

Dairy:

  • Butter
  • A hard cheese, like parmesan
  • Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream or something like that

Basics:

  • Bread (rolls, sandwich bread)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Olives or capers or pickles
  • White wine

Protein:

  • Hummus
  • Eggs
  • Roasted chicken

Great, ready to start cooking? I’ll be hitting you with some Coronavirus-inspired recipes soon.

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