Quick Meals – Cook What You Have

Quick recipes are sometimes the best thing when you need a meal and you forgot to plan or defrost something. Even better when you can create a meal in just a half hour or so, out of pantry staples, like this tomato soup recipe from Milk Street. The new cookbook from Milk Street called Cook What You Have is offering a different take on what to make for dinner using what most of us have already in the pantry.

The first chapter is devoted to expanding the items considered ‘staples’, going beyond what we normally think of. I keep frozen shrimp, frozen cheese tortellini, a variety of cheeses, pastas, rices, grits and flour tortillas for my go-to quick meals. The book recommends keeping a wider range like canned tomatoes and beans, vinegars, panko, eggs, and a few more exotic ingredients like mirrin, oyster sauce, sundried tomatoes in olive oil, sesame oil and a few more things, to give you a lot of flavor choices for quick meals. Then the book gives a variety of recipes in international cuisines using those pantry staples. You can also add leftover proteins and vegetables to many of the recipes to use them up.

Here’s a good example, Cream-Free Tomato Bisque with Parmesan Croutons (link to pdf downloadable recipe). You may have everything you need in your pantry now – canned tomatoes, butter, olive oil, onion, thyme, salt and pepper, bread and Parmesan cheese. In the photo below, the picture on the left is a different recipe, using most of the same ingredients, and adding eggs.

The soup starts with making the croutons out of bread, a few days old is fine. Butter, olive oil and dried thyme coat the bread cubes, then are toasted in the pan.

Take them out when browned, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Allow to cool while the soup is made.

Saute onion and garlic, add tomatoes, water and more bread, cook about 10 minutes.

Blend until smooth in batches. It took two full blender carafes to get all the soup pureed. It made a lot.

Serve the hot soup topped with croutons and Parmesan cheese. Yum!! This was perfect for a freezing cold day!

Next time I might add a grilled cheese sandwich, as I have enough soup for days. I’m going to freeze some, and I think it will do fine.

The next day, I added some leftover pasta and sausage to make it bit more hearty for a chilly day. The croutons were still a little crispy, and next time I might try to crisp them up in the oven first.

My Sweet Babboo got me some goat cheese crumbles on his last trip to the store, and I thought they would be tasty added to the croutons on top. Then I thought, why am I not using my Christmas dishes? I grabbed a bowl off the table, filled it with hot soup and added the goat cheese. Yum!

Seems to me this would be wonderful in the summer made with fresh, home grown or farmer’s market tomatoes. If you are eating gluten free, just use your leftover gluten free bread.

Download the recipe and give it a try – Cream-Free Tomato Bisque with Parmesan Croutons.

A cookbook for the non-cook as well as the home chef, Cook What You Have has something for everyone. I am looking forward to trying a lot of these recipes, and expanding my pantry staples. What do you keep in your pantry for quick meals?

8 thoughts on “Quick Meals – Cook What You Have

  1. Linda B

    Looks good…I do more cooking to put meals in the freezer in individual portion sizes, then just warm up in the oven or microwave: an egg casserole with sausage, a hamburger stroganoff, and of course left over pot roast from the slow cooker, sausage patties to eat with scrambled eggs. When I am starving, nice to have some sliced cheese and crackers and maybe a few olives within reach while I wait for the food to warm up. Speaking of warm up…been -10 here all morning…Yikes!

  2. I always try to keep my pantry stocked and the freezer half way full – because I really ever really cook for two which I intend to but always end up with too much I usually have enough left for a lunch or another full meal and it goes in the freezer – it really helps to have plenty on hand doesn’t it?

  3. jseccurrtwcnyrrcom

    This soup recipe looks yum and easy too! I ordered the cookbook from the library as I like to preview the recipes before I buy.

    I freeze leftovers for another time in individual and family size containers for when I’m tight on time. The pantry always has pasta and sauce. We stock canned salmon, tuna, soup and vegetables in case the power goes out or we’re snowed in.

    A perfect day to share a soup recipe! Brrrr!

  4. Joan Sheppard

    Soup always! Easy, absolutely – I’m in! I call this “Dump Soup!” The worst part is when you make the PERFECT soup and have no idea how I made it! Was it leftover chix with a special blend of spices? Stay Warm – it’s brutal up here – perfect for soup!

  5. Mary

    Once again you come up with a good recipe. I got The World in a Skillet from the library and have already made a couple of recipes from it. I’m sure this new book is equally as good. I also got the Vegetable book to have a look at. The recipes are all so doable. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. I shall order this last one as well. Then will come the purchase day!!
    Have a brilliant Christmas even though the weather is causing much havoc with making difficulties for travellers trying to get home for Christmas. :))

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