Last Chance Foods: A Pantry Stocked For Snow Days and Late Nights

Friday, January 03, 2014

A snowy winter storm is a daunting way to start off a new year — particularly if your resolutions for 2014 include eating better, saving money, and being healthier. One way to help meet all three of those lofty goals is to make sure you have a pantry that’s well-stocked. Late nights at the office won’t have to end in take-out, and unexpected snow days won’t lead to miserable treks to the grocery store.

“One of my favorite staples is couscous,” said Gabrielle Langholtz, the editor of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. “It’s a granular pasta from North Africa that is so fast. This is my version of fast food. It is literally as fast as making tea.”

Couscous can serve as a complement to meat or vegetables, and it can be quickly jazzed up with other pantry staples to be a main course. Langholtz also enjoys having whole grains like emmer, barley, wheat berries, and freekeh on hand, but she notes that those can take 45 minutes to an hour to cook.

“[That] is fantastic on a day like today when you just want to stay in and cook and not go out and brave the slushy sidewalk,” she said. “But couscous is something that I like to have on hand for when you get home, you’re starving, you want to eat in, like, 2 minutes.”

Langholtz keeps bags of dried beans from inexpensive brands like Goya in her cupboards, but she said that, for those who are able, it’s worthwhile to spend more on quality ingredients, as well.

“I used to stand there in the aisle at Whole Foods and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m not going to spend $8 on this bag of imported French lentils,’” she admitted. “But then, I’d find myself spending $12 or $14 on a salad or a cocktail out… Obviously, if you’re on a fixed income, you’re not going to buy and $8 little bag of lentils, but if you do the math, it’s really 15 cents a serving.”

In particular, Langholtz splurges on lentils du puy, which are less starchy than other types of lentils so they don’t get mushy when cooked.

“They are like that little black dress when something unexpected comes up and you just need something great,” she said. “Lentils du puy grow in this volcanic soil. They have this incredible nutty flavor, they cook in 20 or 25 minutes.”

When it comes to flavor boosters, Langholtz relies on shelf-stable ingredients like anchovies and dijon mustard

“I find most people think they don’t like anchovies and then they love the result when you cook with anchovies,” she said. “They’re like a stealth ingredient… If you mince it up, you can deploy this umami bomb in everything from Cesar salad or kale salad to pasta puttanesca.”

Langholtz also points out that mustard can be used on more than sandwiches. She emulsifies it in vinaigrettes or uses it to top celery root or salmon.

Here’s a list of pantry-ingredient combinations that we like. Fresh herbs are always preferable, but dried herbs can do in a pinch. We’re listing only shelf-stable ingredients, but if you have vegetables or proteins on hand, even better. 

  • Couscous + almonds + dried apricots (chopped)
  • Couscous + toasted pine nuts + craisins
  • Lentils du puy + vinaigrette
  • Lentils du puy + parsley + thyme + lemon juice
  • Anchovies + garlic + olives + canned tomatoes + red pepper flakes = pasta sauce
  • Soy sauce + lemon juice = sauce for dried Asian noodles
  • Peanut butter + soy sauce + sugar + water = peanut sauce for dried Asian noodles

What do you always have in your cabinet? What did you whip up during the snowstorm? Tell us in the comments below.


Gabrielle Langholtz

Hosted by:

Amy Eddings


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Comments [4]

Phil Raymond from Bklyn, NY

Sorry to post here, but whether by accident or design, A.E. is one of the hardest people to reach at WNYC.

First, my thanks on the wonderful job you do and have done for at least a couple of years.... If it's more than 5 (which I doubt), I'd only halfway wonder why "they" haven't found an even better niche for you.

But - sadly, 90% of communications are of the "but you didn't" variety, this one included - I was truly sad that you handled the "polar vortex" "local" story with uncharacteristic ... sloppiness. In that there WILL BE a handful of cases of frostbite even among your listeners, I believe you should have focused not on weather inside baseball but rather on "Today Show"-like tips about how to dress and what other steps one could/should take. Yes, everyone knows to wear gloves, but what about facemasks? (I'm a lifelong resident of Kings Co., so I certainly don't know the answer to that one.) ... Similarly, especially for kids, should they have (or tomorrow ... BE) slathered on vaseline? Are there "warming centers" in NYC?

I recognize that even A.T.C. CANNOT deal with ALL of life's stories - and problems - but you have some precious air-time, and sometimes being helpful in connection with your listeners' physical well-being is where that time ought to go.

Sorry for the "scold" - as stated previously, you hit 99% of your stories right on the button!

Jan. 07 2014 03:23 PM
Diane from Riverdale

Couscous has no nutritional value, not a great choice. Quinoa, with its nutty flavor is a complete protein and takes only 20 minutes to cook. Just time enough to soak and mince a few dried mushrooms, saute diced onion, the mushrooms and anything green such as parsley, green pepper, etc. or even a small jar of roasted red pepper.
So many options; from your freezer boneless chicken breasts or pieces of fish, to poach in stock with wine, soy sauce, herbs or the like added, toss in a sliced potato and for the last few minuets a green vegetable. Things to use then replace on the next shopping day. This is also a great diet dinner, but delicious.

Jan. 07 2014 08:17 AM

There's a mistake in the title, "Anchovies are the Little Black Dress of Pantries, and other Stocking Wisdom." According to the article, Gabrielle described lentils du puy as the "Little Black Dress," not anchovies. Those are instead a "stealth ingredient."

Just sayin'.

Jan. 05 2014 10:56 AM
John from Bushwick Brooklyn

You can't go wrong with having as much mixed rice, Quinoa and Oatmeal hiding out in the pantry. Personally I like to can a few times a year (especially on a good snow day), so there is always chicken stock and various pickled things hanging around as well as dried bass and ling that gets salted after a good fishing trip which has to happen at least a month :).

Vinegar, dried seaweed and Tofu with buckwheat noodles or ramen and a little ponzu always go a long way as well. I could probably go on for hours! China town is the best place to get all kinds of stuff and another favorite of mine is the spice shop on the corner of 1st ave. and 6th street. In general I try to avoid Whole Foods unless they have something that cannot be bought elsewhere.

A little work goes a long way in the kitchen when I have the time and there is nothing better than a fully stocked pantry of real good food you made yourself!

Jan. 03 2014 05:20 PM

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About Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.


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