My apartment doesn’t have a pantry. Instead, I invested in some cabinets to hold everything that doesn’t belong in the fridge or freezer, from flour to popcorn. The pantry can be a magical place of inspiration, but it can also feel like you’re staring into the abyss. It can be paralyzing, even when you have a well-stocked one. A lot of recipes these days utilize ingredients you may not have in your pantry, which makes it especially difficult to cook when running out to the store may not be the easiest thing to do. Instead, why not make your cookbook do the work for you? The recipes in these books can help you make a meal that’s greater than the sum of its parts. We talked to a few seasoned food writers about what cookbooks work for their pantries and rounded up a few others to make yours feel like a farmers market.
My Perfect Pantry
There’s something about Geoffrey Zakarian that speaks to me. Maybe it’s the well-tailored suits or the thick rimmed glasses, but whatever it is, I trust his judgement. His cookbook works through 50 readily available ingredients usually stocked in pantries and turns them into around 150 recipes for the home cook. There are even tips and tricks, like using Earl Grey tea bags to infuse ice cubes.
The Silver Spoon
If you want something that can help open your options for chickpeas (besides hummus), author Max Watman wants you to lean into The Silver Spoon. “I think of pantry cooking as ‘staring at the chickpeas’—there you are, the cabinet door open, you will soon be hungry, and you’re staring at a can of garbanzos and wondering what to do with it. The easiest thing to do is to pick up one of those exhaustive catalogs of an entire cuisine: The Silver Spoon, for instance, has about a dozen recipes for garbanzo beans. You’ll like the sound of one of them.”
Not all pantry cookbooks have to do with ingredients. Sometimes it’s more about the skill. “I don’t use a lot of cookbooks,” says writer Jonathan Baker, “but I am a fan of Ruhlman’s Twenty, which boils kitchen skills down to 20 essential ideas. With these underlying skills you don’t NEED a lot of cookbooks; you can bring any dish to life, no matter how scarce the cupboard or fridge shelves are looking.”
The Art of the Pantry
Food writer Claire Thomson teaches you about the nuances of simple ingredients like flour or grains, while also giving you tips on which spices will give you the most bang for your buck. The only addition you’ll need is some fresh produce.
Smitten Kitchen Every Day
“These days I keep most of my cookbook collection at my office, says Half-Full editor Noah Rothbaum, “but I am now, of course, working from home. Fortunately, I have a number of favorites in my kitchen, including my well-worn copy of the 2nd Ave Deli Cookbook, as well as Deb Perelman’s handy Smitten Kitchen Every Day, which are both great for inspiration.”
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