For my husband and me, summer means weekends on the Chesapeake with grandchildren, a steady stream of friends and relatives, and impromptu get-togethers.
So I need to be able to whip up meals without running to the supermarket. The solution to the problem? A well-stocked pantry and freezer — essentials that simplify summer cooking.
From pantry or freezer to table is easy. If you have frozen fillo tartlet shells, place them for a few minutes in a preheated oven and fill with a savory mixture, such as salmon salad crowned with a cherry tomato.
A soup based on canned broth and chopped veggies and herbs sparkles when a splash of fresh lemon juice is stirred in.
For a finale, spoon ginger preserves into little chocolate cups, which you should have in your pantry — no need to freeze — and top with a swirl of whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping. Garnish with chopped crystallized ginger.
Ready to use pantry and freezer items provide the foundation for delicious dishes. What follows are:
My Pantry Essentials
· Items such as salt, pepper, spices, flour, sugar and condiments of your choice should always be on hand. Add your own special favorites, delete those you or the family don't enjoy.
· Vegetable juice, such as V-8
· Bloody Mary mix in a bottle
· Unusual preserves, such as ginger and black currant
· Canned diced tomatoes, black beans, chickpeas and cannelloni beans
· Canned salmon and tuna, water packed
· Chicken and vegetable broth, canned or cubes
· Jars of salsa
· Packaged instant couscous
· Packaged rice pilaf mixes
· Pasta, such as bow ties or noodles
· Dried cranberries and raisins (may keep in freezer)
· Mini chocolate chips (may keep in freezer)
· Canned chestnut puree
· Apricot cake filling
· Packages of chili seasonings
· Panko crumbs
· Pie crusts
· Puff pastry
· Miniature fillo tart shells
· Ground turkey or chicken
· Salmon cut in portions
· Ground soy
· Chopped onions
· Petite peas
· Mixed vegetables
·Nondairy whipped topping
· Frozen yogurt and ice cream
· Nuts, such as walnuts or pecans
· Petite chocolate cups
· Pound cake
· Macaroon cookies
And here are some recipes to spark the imagination (they may be doubled or halved).
Basil Spiked Vegetable Soup
(Pareve or Meat)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
11/2 cups frozen chopped onion
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
1 yellow zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cups green beans, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup spinach leaves, coarsely shredded
1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, shredded
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, zucchini, green beans, bell peppers. Saute 2 to 3 minutes. Vegetables should still be crisp.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and basil and return to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with bread sticks.
Serves 4 to 6.
Quick Spicy Gazpacho
4 cups Bloody Mary mix
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut in chunks
2 ripe medium tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, snipped finely with scissors
celery sticks with leaves for garnish (optional)
Place all of the ingredients except the parsley and celery in a blender jar or food processor.
Whirl until cucumbers and tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Pour into a pitcher and stir in the parsley. Chill.
Add a celery stick to each serving (optional).
Serves 4 to 6.
Chili with Summer Vegetables
Use a combination of canned beans, such as garbanzo, navy and white beans. This freezes well.
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen chopped onion
1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 cans (15.5 oz.) beans, drained well
1 package (1.25 oz.) chili seasoning
2 Tbsps. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups bottled Bloody Mary mix
1 can (15.5 oz.) diced tomatoes or medium tomatoes, diced
1 package (12 oz.) veggie ground round
3 Tbsps. chopped cilantro or parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini, bell pepper and apple. Saute 5 minutes or until vegetables and apple are almost softened.
Add the beans, chili seasoning, lemon juice, Bloody Mary mix and tomatoes. Stir and bring to simmer. Crumble in the veggie ground round and stir to mix. Bring to simmer and cook 5 minutes longer.
Stir in the cilantro or parsley. If desired, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over corn bread.
Serves 8 to 10.
Crisp Parmesan Salmon
4 pieces (4-5 oz. each) frozen salmon filet, thawed
2 Tbsps. mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Arrange the salmon in one layer in the prepared baking dish. Spread thinly with mayonnaise.
In a small bowl, combine the cheese, panko crumbs and seasoning. Spoon equally over each piece of salmon, pressing down lightly. Bake in preheated oven until topping is golden brown and salmon is cooked according to taste, 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Fruited Wild Rice Salad
1 package (6 oz.) long grain and wild rice mix
1 firm pitted peach, diced
1/2 cup pitted cherries, quartered
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange rind
3 Tbsps. olive oil
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh mint
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup walnuts or pecan halves
Prepare the rice according to the package directions. Add all the remaining ingredients except the nuts and pepper. Toss to mix well. Season to taste with pepper. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours to allow flavors to blend.
Before serving, garnish with walnuts or pecans.
Serves 4 to 6.
Lebanese Turkey Pie
1 pastry pie shell (9-inch)
1 lb. ground turkey
2 Tbsps. water
1/3 cup fresh dill, coarsely snipped
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. orange extract
5 Tbsps. vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3 scallions, sliced thinly
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 Tbsps. panko crumbs
Preheat oven to 400°. Prick the bottom and sides of the pastry shell with a fork. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the pastry has lost its raw look. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the turkey, water, dill, cumin, cinnamon and orange extract. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey mixture. Cook, stirring often until no pink remains. Cool slightly, then spoon into the pastry shell.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet (no need to wash). Add the onion and scallions. Cook for 8 minutes or until onion is beginning to brown. Spoon over the turkey mixture. Top with the sliced tomatoes. Brush tomatoes with remaining oil and sprinkle with panko crumbs.
Bake for 30 minutes or until tomato is soft and golden. If browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Cut into wedges to serve.
Serving suggestion: Serve with sliced cucumber salad.
Serves 6 to 8.
Serve this in wine glasses for an instant show-stopping dessert.
6 macaroon cookies
1 cup canned chestnut puree*
1/2 cup apricot cake filling
3 cups nondairy whipped topping
3 pitted apricots, each cut in 6 wedges
mint sprigs to garnish
Crumble a cookie into each of 6 wine glasses. Set aside.
In a bowl, place the chestnut puree, apricot cake filling and whipped topping.
With an electric hand mixer or a whisk, whip until combined and smooth. Divide the mousse equally, spooning over the cookies. Garnish with apricot wedges and mint sprigs.
* To make chestnut puree, process 1 cup cooked chestnuts from a package with 2 to 3 tablespoons light cream and process until smooth.
Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.