June 16, 2010

:: pantry raid! ::

i'm not organized enough in the kitchen to be able to tag my dishes with a certain dollar amount or to call them "30 minute meals." but i can safely call most of my dinners (and lunches, for that matter) "last minute meals" as i often get a hankering for one particular thing, raid my pantry and throw a meal together.

i have friends who ask me to teach them to cook. who ask me for recipes. i don't use recipes and (as previously noted), i'm not really organized in the kitchen - not enough to teach someone to cook. i think i would only confuse and frustrate someone. i have learned to cook by watching & helping my mom (and grandmothers and cooking shows), not by using recipes. it's trial and error based on love and desire; i live to eat, for sure.

but since i know i have an interested audience, i'll post a meal here (that i just finished!). it was super fast, easy, inexpensive and good! oh, and pretty nutritious, too. a great summer fare that can take advantage of the best produce this season has to offer - or not. (note the canned & frozen items used this time around for the sake of convenience).

as noted, i do not follow recipes. along those lines, i cannot (do not) write recipes. it will be up to you to figure out how to alter if you choose to leave out certain parts of this.

things to note:
when it comes to seasonings - or anything that you're adding - start light.; you can always add more pepper, garlic, etc, but you can't take it away.

i have all of the following things on hand, pretty much at all times. if you don't - well, in my opinion, you should. why not?

featuring: creamed corn, sliced cantaloupe, roasted tomatoes, baked okra, red cabbage slaw and deviled eggs.

put eggs on to boil for deviled eggs
preheat oven to 400 for tomatoes & okra

creamed corn:
drain a can of sweet yellow corn - set the liquid aside. (fresh corn from the cob is preferable, but not enough so to have made a special trip to the grocery store for it when i had canned on hand.) dump the drained corn into a skillet with a dab of butter (or not) over low-medium heat. add a few sprinkles of bacon bits (the real bacon pieces, not the hard, crunchy kind). i always have hormel bacon pieces in my fridge for salads, green beans, corn, scrambled eggs. once the butter has melted, sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour to thicken. add the corn liquid for a sweeter taste or just skip straight to adding some milk. i used organic 2% because that's what i have. cream is more traditional (and would mean skipping the flour). add a little milk. stir. mash (with potato masher, spatula, back of spoon, etc). season it. i use a good bit of black pepper, (unsalted) poultry seasoning, a pinch of kosher salt (can omit) and a little nutmeg. watch it thicken. if it gets too thick, turn down heat and add more liquid (milk and/or corn juice). the longer it sits, the better the flavor.

roasted grape tomatoes:
spread grape tomatoes on a baking sheet. drizzle with olive oil. sprinkle with black pepper, garlic powder and a tiny bit of kosher salt (if desired). place in oven (can go in before preheated). eventually, you'll hear them popping as they burst open. once they pop, remove from oven. you can remove them before then, too, but i think post-pop is when they're best. i sprinkled mine with some fresh basil from the garden after taking from oven.

baked okra:
i used frozen, sliced okra (thawed) because that's what i have. fresh, sliced okra may be used (and would have been preferable if it didn't mean making a trip to the store!). about 2 cups for the amount of stuff i'm about to tell you. really, i just used what was left in the bag i had. it's way too much for one person, but i'll reheat tomorrow for lunch. in a small dish (i used a square pyrex casserole dish - great for dredging), mix about 1/2 cup of cornmeal (i used buttermilk cornmeal because that's what i had, but the recipe i was using for inspiration called for yellow cornmeal), 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (which i don't have, so i added about 1 teaspoon of grated white onion), some cajun seasoning (which i don't have, so i used cayenne pepper and some old bay) and black pepper. in a separate bowl, lightly whisk 1 large egg. dump the okra into the egg, coating each piece. use a slotted spoon to add egg-coated okra - a little at a time - to the flour mixture. dredge . (the first batch i did was very well coated and was too crunchy, not okra-y enough for me. the second batch was just lightly breaded and was much better.) place the okra on a baking sheet, leaving space between each piece for even browning. spray the tops lightly with cooking spray. cook for 20-25 minutes or until the outside is crispy.

red cabbage slaw:
chop red cabbage. toss with a little mayo, red wine vinegar (or tarragon vinegar or white vinegar or a combination) - or just use store bought cole slaw dressing. season with garlic powder, pepper and salt (if desired). refrigerate until everything else is done.

deviled eggs:
once the eggs come to a rolling boil, remove from heat and cover for 20 minutes. then peel and cut in half, length-wise. place the yolks in a bowl. i use a metal strainer to finely mash the yolks, but a fork or spoon will work, too. just might be lumpier. add a little mustard and mayo (start with small amounts and add to it as needed) and white pepper (black pepper is fine if you don't keep white on hand). fill the egg white holes with the yolk mixture. if you're over 70, sprinkle some paprika on top. over 80, add an olive slice. (that's a joke. i like mine topping free.)

sliced cantaloupe:
slice cantaloupe.

i had a couple of cornbread muffins left over from another meal, so i had those tonight, too.

* my mom would make a meal like this and call it "all veggies" despite there being cantaloupe, tomatoes and other fruits on the bill. in our house and in the south (as far as i know) this is considered an all vegetable meal. period.

this post has not been proofread, so please excuse any typos you might find! i just wanted to hurry and get it up before i slacked off.


  1. were you referring to your pizza at laguardia when you mentioned starting out light with the seasonings? hahahahahahaha.

  2. it's so much more fun to experiment when you cook vs. sticking to a recipe. makes it more about the food science. great meal!