by Nancy Sweet, culinary operations manager, Lincoln Land Community College
It’s the age old question: “What are we having for dinner?” And on weekdays when cooking may not be a top priority, it is easy to get stuck in a rut of cooking the same things over and over again, or taking the easy route and grabbing take out. However, if you do some initial work and purchase a few key ingredients, you can create a very well-stocked pantry that helps in answering the nightly “what’s for dinner” dilemma. Just add some fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins such as beef, pork, chicken, fish or seafood, and you are set.
Oils and Vinegars
- Olive oil: flavorful oil for cooking and making vinaigrettes and herb sauces, and finishing dishes
- Canola oil: neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point for cooking and baking
- Balsamic, apple cider, red wine vinegars: Assorted vinegars for making vinaigrettes, marinades and sauces and adding flavor and balance to dishes.
Sauces and Condiments
- Dijon mustard: versatile mustard for vinaigrettes, sauces, sauces and cooking
- Honey: natural sweetener for vinaigrettes, sauces and glazes
- Sriracha: spicy chili sauce, often in Southeast Asian dishes
- Hot sauce: general hot sauce for adding some or a lot of heat, such as Crystal, Frank’s or Tabasco
- Hoisin sauce: sweet and salty traditional Chinese sauce for sauces, marinades and glazes
- Soy sauce: salty condiment for marinades, sauces and general cooking
Canned and Jarred
- Kalamata olives and capers: salty and briny addition to salads, relishes and pilafs
- Canned tomatoes: diced, whole, crushed and paste. San Marzanos a great choice, too.
- Roasted red peppers: pureed into sauces and soups, tossed into salads, sautéed with assorted greens, pizza toppings
- Jarred marinated artichoke hearts: use in salads, pizza toppings, dips or in cooking for pan sauces, pasta or risotto additions
- Canned beans such as garbanzo, black, great northern, cannellini, canned lentils and black eyed peas: Add to salads, soups, stews and general side dishes.
- Anchovies or anchovy paste: highly flavorful addition to vinaigrettes and sauces
- Oil packed tuna: toss into salads and pastas
- Chicken broth or stock: Flavorful cooking liquid for rices and grains and essential for sauce making
- All-purpose flour: thickens sauces, breading and general baking
- Various pastas like spaghetti and penne: different shapes to accommodate different types of sauces.
- Various rices such as long grain white, jasmine, brown: very versatile for salads, stir fry and pilafs
- Various grains such as barley, couscous, and bulger: different starches to use when pasta and potatoes gets boring
- Onions and garlic: the start of soups, stews, stir-frys and most all cooking
- Kosher salt: Less chemical taste than regular iodized and the larger texture helps when adding “pinches”
- Fresh ground black pepper: buy whole black (or several colors like white, pink or green) and grind freshly for use – so much more flavorful
Penne with Kalamata Olives, Artichokes, and Roasted Red Peppers
Yield: 2 servings
8 ounces penne pasta, cooked, with one cup of pasta cooking water reserved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 anchovy, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1, 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, cut in half
1 tablespoon capers
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, as needed
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Heat oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy and cook for about 30 seconds. Anchovy will almost dissolve. Be sure not to let garlic turn brown and burn.
Add tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and increase heat to high. Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Allow tomatoes to cook down for about 4 minutes. Add olives, capers, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. Taste to check for seasoning. Let cook for another 3 minutes. Toss in pasta, adding any leftover cooking water if pasta seems dry. Serve and sprinkle with feta cheese.
Couscous with Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Citrus
Yields: 2 servings
2 cups cauliflower, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1, 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup instant couscous
Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin until evenly coated. Roast in one layer of a sheet pan in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 and 1/12 cups water to a boil. Stir in couscous. Cover, turn off heat, and let stand for about 5 minutes.
When cauliflower and couscous are done, mix both together with chickpeas in a large bowl. Add citrus juice and zest, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Chicken Stir Fry
Yields: 4 servings
1 cup long grain white rice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 tablespoon sriracha sauce
Juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon sesame oil,
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup snow peas
1 cup broccoli florets
Bring rice and 2 cups water to boil in a saucepan over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rice is cooked through and liquid absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.
In a bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch until cornstarch is totally dissolved into it. Add in chicken stock, hoisin sauce, sriracha, and orange juice.
Heat a large sauté pan or wok over high heat. Add sesame oil and allow it to get hot. Add onion, bell pepper, and broccoli and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. All garlic and snow peas and cook another 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan, set aside, and keep warm.
Heat pan and add canola oil. Once hot, add chicken and cook about 4 minutes. Add vegetables back to pan. Add reserved soy sauce mixture and allow to come to a boil. Let cook 1-2 minutes until thickened. Serve over rice.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value-Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.