Back-to-school time is always chaotic–soccer practices, piano lessons, and getting the kids back on their homework schedules. For those days when I just can’t get to the market, I like to keep a few “pantry meals” in my rotation. The dinners usually revolve around a starch, such as gluten-free pasta, rice, or lentils, plus a few easy additions that are likely lingering around my fridge.
I keep several types of lentils in my pantry, but my favorite varieties for salads are either black beluga lentils or the French green “verte du Puy”. These particular lentils hold their shape well, making for not only a stunning salad, but one that feels like you’re eating something substantial enough to call a meal. Look for these lentils in the bulk bins or packaged near the dried beans. You can absolutely use regular green or brown lentils as well; be sure to take them off the heat before they get too soft and start to lose their shape. Do avoid red lentils, though, since they literally melt into a puree once they’re cooked.
While the lentils are cooking, I sauté some onions, carrots, and celery–certainly vegetables I’m likely to have around the kitchen–and then hit them with a hefty splash of red- or white-wine vinegar to add acidity and cut through the starchiness. I toss the lentils with the vegetables and a handful of toasted almonds and chopped parsley and serve them as-is or on top of a bed of lightly dressed baby spinach leaves. (The residual heat of the lentils does a great job wilting the spinach.) I’m a big fan of serving this type of one-dish meal as an entrée, but you could certainly consider it a side dish to some simply grilled sausages or a piece of salmon. Then you may be lucky enough to have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!
What are your go-to pantry meals? Share your ideas in the comments sections. Cheers! ~LbR