Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.
Hurricane Irene may be sparing South Florida, but you can always bookmark this info for the next tropical disturbance -- or pass it along to your friends up North.
During the biggies years ago, I somehow found myself cooking for the masses, by candlelight if need be. We may have lost power, but I refused to be reduced to Spam and Ramen noodles! I know what you're thinking -- I'm a chef, so I must have all kinds of things in my fridge. But off the clock, I keep it simple. The fanciest things you'll find in my fridge are a bottled water and veg stock. Working off my very ordinary fridge, here are some things I came up with to ward off starvation when the big one hits. With these tricks, you can gourmet it up till the power comes back on.
1) Stock the Bar: Yeah, you need water, but with the heat kicking, a little nip will go a long way. Red wines are meant to be room temp, and don't forget the wonderous liquors you can enjoy neat.
2) Cook It Up: Pop some microwave popcorn, let it cool off, and save in a Ziploc for munchies. Cook up various pastas, cool them down thoroughly, toss in a little oil so they won't stick, and store them in the fridge. Turn the excess bread into croutons. Grab eggs, milk, and butter and bake something, like cookies and cakes (no frosting), that'll last at room temp. If you're feeling creative, try making bread. It's not as hard as you think and wrapped up tight can last as long as it takes to finish.
3) Drop the Temp: Freeze all your raw proteins. If you have berries and grapes lying around, freeze those too. You can use them to cool off a cocktail in a couple of days.
4) Equipment Check: Dust off that fondue set (if you have one) and get the grill gassed up, because they'll be your lifeline.
A large salad goes a long way! Now's the time to use up those deli meats, cheeses, and veggies.
In my fridge: Diced smoked turkey, diced Provolone, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, rough-chopped olives, romaine, any color peppers, sliced cucumbers, and croutons.
Toss all together with dairy-based dressing that won't survive much longer. If you don't have that, toss with oil and vinegar. If you want something a little heartier, use the short pasta you cooked off instead of lettuce for a nice pasta salad.
Dessert Idea: A little soft ice cream in some not-quite-cold soda still makes a damned good ice cream float.
Fondue night! If you don't have a fondue set then get the grill going on medium-low heat and foil it. Mean time, grab a sauce pan and cut a large garlic clove in half. Using the cut side rub the garlic all over the pan. Pop open a beer (pref a Heineken) or glass of white wine and pour into the sauce pan. Let the beer (or wine) come to a steady boil. Slowly add in the cheese (shredded cheddar works best) one small handful at a time whipping it with a fork till you get a thick sauce. Stir in some black pepper and serve with croutons, chips, pretzels, fruit, carrots, basically anything you got hanging around. Enjoy!
Dessert Idea: Now that fully melted ice cream will make a fabulous dessert sauce for that cake you baked.
Time to break into some of those proteins. Now that everything's thawed out dry rub something, marinade another meat, bbq sauce on whatever and throw it on the grill. It'll all be good. For a side, cut potatoes into large slices. Toss in oil, salt, pepper and whatever spices you have in the pantry (paprika, rosemary, garlic powder or blackening). While your meat rests throw the potatoes on the grill. Cook until fork tender.
Dessert Idea: You know what also rules on the grill? Fruit! Melons, bananas, or stone fruits maybe marinaded in a little vodka or rum and sugar. Placed on a medium-low, oiled (and thoroughly cleaned) grill and cooked till fork tender is a great way to finish this meal.
Veggie flatbread pizza anyone?
For the Dough: Well if you accomplished that foccaccia earlier in the week (and you still have some left) skip down to prepping the veg. If not you can grill some pitas, french bread or ciabatta till they're warm. If you don't have that, here's an easy recipe that can be thrown together from things in your pantry (we just need the dough recipe and kneading instructions, skip the rest). Once you've got the flatbread dough prepped, fire the grill on low heat and while it heats roll out the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Toss your dough directly on an oiled grill. Grill until you get good grill marks; about three minutes each side. Remove and put aside.
For the Veggies: Bring up the heat to medium. Slice and toss whatever veggies you are using in oil, salt and pepper.
In my fridge: Zucchini, yellow squash, peppers and onions.
Grill mark each side, depending on how thick you cut the veg about 2-4 minutes a side. Remove from grill.
To Assemble: Cover grill with foil, lightly oil foil and put the crust on the foil. Schmear the crust with some canned crushed tomatoes or sauce from the cupboard. Top with the veggies and put the lid on the grill. Let cook for about 3-5 minutes to meld everything together.
Dessert Idea: Well you've done healthy thus far so stick with what works. Chop up any protein or granola bars, toss in whatever nuts or seeds, random chocolate or candy in chunk form, cereal and if you have any dried fruits. Coat with a teaspoon of honey and spread on a baking sheet to let dry out for about 10-15 minutes. Sweet little trail mix you got there.
Day 5 (let's hope things don't get this far, but been there, done that)
Probably wondering "what is there left in my fridge that I can possibly eat?" Pasta with a wonderful farmstand salsa cruda. If you have some fresh tomatoes, cut them in half and squeeze the pulp in a bowl. Then dice the rest of the tomato and put it in the bowl as well.
Using canned whole tomatoes? Put them in a bowl and lightly crush them with a fork.
Chop up about four large cloves of garlic and toss it into the tomatoes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over your very, very rustic sauce. Snip in some basil and season with salt and pepper. Stir it up and let it stand at room temp for about 20 minutes.
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Grab those long noodles you cooked earlier in the week. You can always boil some water in a small pot on the grill to throw on the pasta to heat it up. Warm or room temp, toss your pasta in your sauce.
Dessert Idea: S'mores, anyone?