dinner from the pantry



so, who has a pantry these days of ‘35 dollar a square foot’ apartments? i emptied a kitchen cabinet instead in past places, though now in our cottage i have the luxury of a small windowed store room, kept isolated and cold from the rest of the place.
i garner my emergency rations there. an old habit inherited from my grandmother, who lived through two wars and owned a splendid larder, with secret tins (for chocolate, i presumed), too high for me to reach. wars, earthquakes and such aside it is quite reassuring to have the stuff for a late sunday meal without first going to the store. a box-jar&can dinner. fun for me, because i am fanatic about excellent store-in-the-pantry foods. all manner of dried durum of course. i discovered dried sheets of deep-green spinach lasagna at yesterdays market. into the pantry it went.

taking stock of my cupboards, cycling through items long on the shelf has become habit. hunting stores and the net for provisions and finding tins, boxes, jugs and jars, biddles and bottles owning variant whatnots is to me like collecting stamps, with the obvious difference. all you get to do with stamps is lick them, if that.
so i keep tuna, anchovies, sardines and clams, canned cannellini and black beans, tomato and paste, capers, green peppercorns, mustards and oils. some soups, mostly chicken broth, chowder and mushroom. breads, like pumpernickel and knäckebrot. all manner of pasta, japanese all buckwheat, certainly spaghetti both black and white. there is fusilli and bucatini, pappardelle and strozzapreti and stephanie’s favorite orzo. chipotle peppers, pickles and gherkins. almonds and pignoli, pastis, membrillo and sarabeth’s blood orange marmalade. and there is always chocolate and not on the top shelf either. excepting the stuff in the freezer, that’s mostly it. your pantry likely looks different, i’m sure, but each to his own, as a cook once said: you show me your pantry (almost omitted the ‘r’) and i know who you are.
yesterdays times brought the notion home. bittman, ever inventive, loves his larder as much as i do and came up with this concoction of southern italian origin: a sardine and spaghetti combo laced with roasted bread crumbs, capers, lemon zest and olive oil. i made it last night and it was softly delicious, a bowl of dark flavors and unctuous pasta, perfect for a inglenook dinner that rainy night. to add dusky depth to the dish i mashed anchovies with a head of roast garlic. onion, garlic, lemon, though not really staples, are always at hand. stephanie loves orange zest, so i switched from the lemon...
the whole thing took some twenty minutes and was devoured in less than five. oh, and if you’re vegetarian or worse, and don’t do sardines, there is always that splendid dish of dean martin’s: pasta fazool. you can sing along, come on, sing: when the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool, now, that’s amore.