Last Supper at Casa Appetite East

On Monday morning, a tag team of movers will descend upon my doorsteps and take over the joint, packing up the contents of every nook and cranny (and yours truly, if I'm not careful).


A very partial view of the soon-to-be dismantled MA pantry. (Kim O'Donnel)

Among the "critical do's and don'ts" on the company-provided moving checklist is a big fat "don't" for hosting a dinner party on packing day. Sounds reasonable, dontcha think?

Translated: If I'm to engage in my final act of cooking and say farewell to my Arlington kitchen, I need to arrange my culinary swan song this very weekend and not a minute too soon. Ideally, I'd like to use what I've already got on hand and refrain from buying anything, unless something at the farmer's market Saturday morning (see you there, GAFF!) is calling my name.

Besides, my dry pantry is brimming with stuff begging to be used before I begin parsing it out to eager hand-me-down recipients. The photo, above, is a very unglamorous sliver of the many shelves jammed with cans, bottles, bags and boxes of dry goods. There's three (no, four) different kinds of rice, quinoa, instant couscous, red lentils, canned black beans and garbanzos, brown sugar from Costa Rica, hot sauce from all over the place, several kinds of oils, cocoa powder, salt, both flaky and pebble-y, Mister MA's favorite weird pretzel chips - and that doesn't even scratch the surface - or the scary spice den in the freezer. In anticipation of your question, my answer is No: I've chosen not to keep unopened items (well, with the exception of my nutmeg stash from Grenada and the smuggled-in Sichuan peppercorns from my pal JW) and ship them to Seattle. And here's why: I want a fresh start. I love the idea of building a new pantry in a new kitchen in a new city (aka Casa Appetite PacWest).

So here's where you come in: For my last supper in Casa Appetite East, what should I make from the contents of my pantry? Assume I've got all the spices and plenty of fresh local fruit and veg in the fridge. For Saturday night, I'd like a snack/app dish, a main course and at least one side and a dessert. Add your menus to the comments area and the reader who comes up with the longest ingredient list will win a pantry prize (unopened, of course) and a postcard from the road. A prize will also go to the reader with the most creative use of ingredients.

Now, go! Give me the best pantry user-upper menus you've got!

By Kim ODonnel |  July 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Pantry
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Comments

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I would make a rice salad with lentils and garbanzo beans tossed in. Your dressing could be heavily seasoned with the spices in your freezer and a couple of splashes of hot sauce.

We'll miss knowing you are here, but enjoy Seattle.

Posted by: 20010 | July 25, 2008 8:23 AM

Hi Kim,
I suggest you cook up a storm, invite lots of friends, and send them all home with "care packages" of left-overs, putting them in all of the old plastic containers you've accumulated. They will feel and taste your love even after you've headed out!

Posted by: paula | July 25, 2008 8:52 AM

Okay,

Start with hummus - use up the garbanzo beans (and some of the oils/spices if you heat it up), some fresh veggies from the Farmers' Market, and maybe Mr. MA's chips.

Then maybe a skewed tabouleh-esque salad with the quinoa or couscous, some interesting oil/s and spices, and handfulls of fresh parsley, cilantro, garlic - light and tangy after the hummus.

For dessert, a loose, custardy rice pudding topped with caramelized brown sugar and sea salt. Add some fresh raspberries or blackberries (something with some acid to it) you're good to go.

I have now made myself very hungry. I'm gonna have to go home and cook tonight :-)

Anyway, great good luck with the move!

Posted by: aellura | July 25, 2008 9:02 AM

Here are my suggestions -- it's a lot of food, but I was thinking you had a lot of people coming over?

Saturday night dinner:

Starter:

--Cold Zucchini soup. Uses the following pantry items: walnuts or some other nuts for richness, various spices for heft, and if you are trying to finish up yogurt or cream from the fridge, even better. You haven't packed up the hand blender yet, right?
--Serve soup with Arancini. That way you use up arborio rice and breadcrumbs (or leftover bread in the freezer). Also, since arancini can be stuffed with different fillings,w hether cheese or meat or veggie based, you can play around with different fillings. Or you can make the risotto with peas to add summeriness to the arancini?

Main course:

--Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatos and Almonds ( from Nancy Harmon Jenkins the Essential Meditteranean, also available here: http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/journal/2007/5/29/chickpea-consolation.html ) -- that takes care of any dried chickpeas (you can take the unopened cans with you, right?), saffron, and almonds.
--Quinoa or couscous salad, uses up lots of different things depending on what vinegars you want to use etc
--Spinach or other green, wilted quickly with dried cranberries and pine nuts
-Crusty bread to soap up the goodness, or maybe make some flatbread to use up flour?

Dessert
--I saw cocoa powder -- maybe that agave chocolate cake from a few weeks back?
--Or a very "runny" rice pudding, with cardamoms and pistachios, topped with fruits caramelized in the brown sugar?

Also, I am a huge believer in your red lentil dal. It's seriously food for the soul, and has an element of magic to how much better it makes things. So, while this is labor intensive, maybe make little take-home kits for your guests consisting of: 2 cups of red lentils in a large ziploc, a little ziploc with the whole spices and the turmeric, and another little ziploc of mustard seeds. Put all three ziplocs in a brown paper bag and the red lentil recipe and add one of your bottles of hot sauces, and on the bag, use a sharpie to write "If you miss Casa Appetite, Open This"

I think that's all I can think of. Having moved many times between New York and DC, the pantry is always an issue -- I usually just pack any canned goods, and focus on using up packages of rice, pasta, dried fruit, quinoa, nuts etc.

Posted by: Valerie | July 25, 2008 9:42 AM

Kim, please tell me you are giving away the food and not tossing it.

Posted by: oh no! | July 25, 2008 10:28 AM

Oh no!: I wouldn't dream of tossing the food. I'm giving every last morsel to eager recipients.
Keep those ideas coming!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 25, 2008 10:41 AM

Start off with a appetizer of bruschetta or spicy mussels in white wine sauce. Next, a mild Indian dish of chicken and garbanzo beans over the couscous. Spinach with hot sauce could be the side. Use the cocoa powder to make a Black Forest cake for desert or use the brown sugar to make bananas foster (or do both!). The black beans could be made into dip to munch on throughout the weekend. Also make some antipasto which will help use up the oil, garlic, olives, and whatever else may be available.

Posted by: Sherri | July 25, 2008 10:43 AM

Hey Kim...this is a fun one...

Here's my suggestion, based on the the ingredients u mentioned and others we assume:

APPETIZER(s):

Hummus(drats, I'll say it too):
garlic, oregano, olive oil, cumin, fresh lemon, red bell pepper.
serve with pita bread triangles or the typical vegetable choice of celery and carrots.

Black bean dip: corn, tomato, garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper, green pepper, olive oil, lemon/lime, even mango would be nice if you have some. serve with blue corn chips.

Tapanade: olives, olive oil, salt, maybe some hot sauce for a kick, oregano, more cumin, garlic...

MAIN DISH:

Spicy tilapia: parsely, garlic, kalamatta olives, crushed red pepper, cherry or grape tomatoes, salt/pepper. Serve with white long grain rice. Here's the recipe:
http://www.flanboyanteats.com/cooking_recipes/identity-crisis/
SIDE:

tostones: green plantain and fine sea salt; you can sprinkle some fresh nutmeg (this is what I call Latin *fusion*

DESSERT:

espresso flan: milk, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, espresso.
Here's the recipe: http://www.flanboyanteats.com/cooking_recipes/a-midnight-snack-better-than-se/

Enjoy & have a great weekend!!!

Posted by: Bren | July 25, 2008 10:44 AM

Kim, Enjoy your last days on the East Coast as you venture to the WEst Coast. Arent you a little sad, leaving your family & friends behind? Have a great weekend & your final meals in CA East!! We will miss knowing you are close by, even though you are just a click/email away!!
Happy cooking and packing.

Posted by: East Coast | July 25, 2008 11:17 AM

Ok, I'll buck the hummus tide. . . how about creating a dip with the black beans pureed with some of your hot sauces and spices? Additionally, you could make my mother's fabulous "Mock Chopped Liver".

Ingredients: onions, vegetable oil, lentils, walnuts, 2 hardboiled eggs, kosher salt & pepper. (Sorry, I don't have quantities, but you want about 2 cups of cooked lentils).

Sautee 2-3 onions in lots of vegetable oil--you want some left over (not olive, they didn't have olive oil in the old country--of course, the original would have been make with schmaltz, but that defeats the purpose of this low-cholesterol version).

Meanwhile, cook the lentils until they are soft.

In a food processor, process walnuts until they are chopped.

Add in the onions, oil, lentils, 1 of the hard boiled eggs, salt & pepper to taste, process until blended, can have texture, but should not be chunky. Garnish with finely chopped 2nd hard boiled egg.

Can make the day or so before, storing in the fridge.

For the main course, you could make your fabulous curried chickpeas, using up more spices and hot sauce, and serve it over one type of rice, along with tabouleh using up the couscous and greens from the farmer's market and using up still more herbs/spices you may have.

For dessert, why not combine the brown sugar and cocoa powder and make a flavored rice pudding with another type of rice.

Enjoy! and have a safe and fabulous drive out west! We'll all miss your local tips, but we'll be eager to read about your new adventures.

Posted by: Bethesda Mom | July 25, 2008 11:42 AM

Kim:

To get rid of some of your dry ingredients:
Appetizer:
Black bean dip or hummos with chips or pita crisps
Main Course:
Your fabulous Vietnam based chicken with your choice of rice (perhaps a rice salad might work as well)
Green Salad w/ any leftover dried fruit or nuts with your choice of dressing (sprinkle on any leftover feta or gorgonzola cheese as well)
Dessert:
Fruit Crisp or Cobbler (you will want to get something at the Farmer's market.) :)

Posted by: Capitol Hill | July 25, 2008 11:52 AM

appetizer/snack -

mini bean burgers/croquets - using the black bean burger recipe as a base, use either your black beans, or your chick peas, or both, but form into 1" balls or little patties. This uses up some canned beans, bread crumbs, and I bet it would be great to dip them into tahini and/or hot sauce!

main dish -

a couscous (or quinoa) salad, using every type of dried fruit, seed or nut you happen to have in your pantry. i wouldn't go beyond 2 parts couscous:1 part dried fruit, but why not try a little bit of everything you've got? i like to chop up my dried fruit and put it in with the dried couscous, garlic, salt, and saffron threads, then add the boiling water, cover the container and let the magic happen. once it couscous-ifies, add TONS of nuts, seeds, and farmers market onion, cucumber, tomato, eggplant (cooked seperately), summer squash...

side -

look in that pantry, kim. look long and deep! same with the fridge and freezer! i am sure that somewhere in there, you will find a neglected box of TOFU. (if not, it is only 99 cents at the whole foods in clarendon, so stop on your way to or from the farmers market.) you've got tons of spices, oils and vinegars at your disposal - why not do a nice baked (or sauteed) tofu. or if it's too hot for that nonsense, how about just eating it cold with some soy sauce, hot sauce, and ginger?!

dessert -

you're going to want a nice cold beer after all that packing/organizing, etc... but lets face it, you are NOT going to want a guiness. use up that stout in a chocolate guiness cake. obviously, you are going to top this with A TON of fresh, local berries!

and don't worry, i will take the leftovers off your hands.

Posted by: melissa | July 25, 2008 12:24 PM

the only thing you need to buy fresh: kale or chard, unfortunatley it makes 6 hearty portions, which might be a bit much unless you're heading a small hord of hungry people

Curried Lentil Stew

5 c water
1 c brown lentils
2 Tbs curry powder (mild to medium heat)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion (diced)
a few cloves of garlic, diced
1 bunch of chard or kale, roughly chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
(opt) sour cream or yogurt to top

Heat the oil in the pot, sweat the onions, and once transulcent add the garlic and coat everything in the curry powder
-add the water and cook the lentils (45 min, I think...)
-about 5 minutes before the lentils are done, add the greens and the whole can of tomatoes (juice/water and all)
-finish cooking the lentils

serve hot with sour cream or yogurt ontop, or cold as is

Posted by: DeenaJR | July 25, 2008 2:00 PM

I would seriously consider going out to dinner. Moving is hard enough without the extra hassle of cleaning up a dirty kitchen. On the other hand, you could try to prepare everything on the grill. Maybe you have some paper plates to use up?

Posted by: Dave | July 25, 2008 4:25 PM

Appetizer:
I'd probably try to do a lentil pureed dip. I did one a while back that was a little sweet and savory with caramelized onions (Sweet) and cumin.

Main course
Couscous salad:
Let your couscous soak w/tumeric, and dried fruit. Stir in cilantro, garbanzos, bunching onions and if you have it a little Orange juice vinagrette (Orange zest, juice, olive oil, possibly some other spices here). You could also add some cukes and toms or grated carrot in here too.

For a side dish I'd probably want something kind of light since the salad is pretty filling. Here's what I made from the farmer's market yesterday:

Gazpacho salad
Basically tomatos, cukes, red onion, and red pepper all diced up.
Add a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar, olive oil, a few tsp. of smoked paprika (KEY) and sea salt. My sweetie and I at this along w/ some crusty bread (the whole loaf!)

Dessert
Black bean brownies. Sally Squires uses a pureed can in place of the oil/eggs. But Heidi Swanson also has a recipe.
http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/amazing-black-bean-brownies-recipe.html

Posted by: EmilyL | July 25, 2008 4:35 PM

If you have friends over for dinner, I think you have a ready made "dinner party game." Since you won't be able to use everything up, especially spices, have everyone draw a number and then in that order everybody gets to pick one item at a time to take away. You can do multiple rounds until its all gone -- you can also allow stealing (up to 2-3 steals per item) if you are up for it. Basically a food white elephant game -- only the prizes are tasty things.

You might also consider checking the dates on all the unopened food and donating the good stuff to a food pantry -- I did that at one point to force myself to reconsider what we really eat and need. It's cut my pantry by 80 percent.

Have a lovely drive! We'll be waiting for your dispatches.

Posted by: KitchenCat | July 26, 2008 10:22 AM

Kim, how about a BLT with the toms and bread you bought this morning?

You have surplus and didn't bring me some? Hee hee!

Posted by: GAFF | July 26, 2008 6:07 PM

Sliced radishes & jicama with lime juice, salt & chile powder from the spice rack

Chicken enchiladas with homemade tortillas (gets rid of your dried chiles & flour or masa in one fell swoop)
Black beans & Rice
FM corn, zucchini, & scallion saute

Dessert - brown sugar ice cream & fresh FM berries

Posted by: 20001 | July 28, 2008 10:37 PM

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