In the next few months I plan to give you an idea of what the New Pantry of the 21st Century should look like. Some of it will seem exotic (hearts of palm), some of it is a matter of personal choice (only Tellicherry black peppercorns, please) but all of it will enable you to fix something delicious fast. Let's be honest - life in the kitchen is mostly about 'I am so hungry right now I could eat that tuna right out of the can with my bare hands' and 'Have I really spent $100 on take-out food this week?'. You need a PAR list of foods that have a long shelf life and can be combined to serve up something delicious on short notice.
I am inspired by my long time friend, NA, who has always said we should write a cookbook together. She and I have had hour long conversations on the phone about what a well stocked pantry must contain. She speaks from experience. She is the first person I had ever met that always had heavy cream in her refrigerator ‘just in case’. A little background: NA came of age in New York City during the Swingin’ Sixties. With a husband in advertising and her job as a booker for one of the top modeling agencies in the country, every evening held the potential of a party and she was always prepared. I imagine her hosting many an impromptu cocktail party at their apartment on Riverside Drive before departing for dinner at La Pavilion. In her honor we are going to start with the Dessert Pantry for two reasons. NA and I are both confirmed Chocoholics and who couldn’t use a little sweetness during tax week?
The Dessert Pantry: Even the most basic cookbook will tell you that you need basic ingredients like flour, salt, sugar, baking powder in your pantry if you plan on baking. We agree. But you also need some ready-made ingredients that can be combined to create last minute desserts. This list of ingredients will give you the tools to create something sweet that is more than a candy bar but not as elaborate as a four layer cake.
Sweetened condensed milk , 2 cans (makes fudge fast and easy. See recipe below)
Dark chocolate chips, 2 - 12 ounce packages or at least 1 ½ pounds Purchase the best quality you can afford and as far as we are concerned, the darker, the better! Chips come in handy for eating out of hand or for topping ice cream. Sometimes I just melt a quarter cup in the microwave and pour on top of a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream.
Lemon curd (can be spread on or sandwiched between shortbread cookies for a quick treat)
Shortbread cookies (good dipped in melted chocolate)
Raspberry jam (can be warmed up to use as a topping for premium vanilla ice cream)
Baking powder, baking soda, salt
Vanilla extract, Bourbon or Tahitian
The recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Cake from the first Silver Palate cookbook, page 291.
Perishable: (you will note that even these perishables have a long refrigerator life)
Heavy Cream (at least 8 ounces)
Vanilla ice cream
Butter, sweet (no salt)
Nuts (shelled whole walnuts are the most versatile, store in freezer). It is a nice touch to toast nuts before using. Spread nuts on a baking sheet, place in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes. When nicely toasted (not burnt), immediately turn out into a shallow bowl to cool.
Favorite Easy Recipe:
During times of high stress I can be found, late at night, standing over the sink with a spoon in one hand and a can of sweetened condensed milk in the other muttering to myself ‘Why in the world don't they put pull tops on these f%*$! cans?!?!’. I am not suggesting that YOU eat sweetened condensed milk right out of the can. Nor should you consider serving it to your guests. Just know that it is a great staple for your pantry and the short cut to this ultra creamy fudge. This very adult fudge is the just the post-tax treat you are looking for. And for those of you who have filed an extension, keep this recipe handy for July 15th!
16 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips, MELTED
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons freshly ground espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Stir together all of the above. Pour into a buttered 8" x 8" pan. Chill one hour. Cut into any size square you want. Or just cut it in half and dig in. No one is watching and you have our blessing!