When I did the Kitchn Cure last month, I did a thorough clean-out and reorganization of our fridge, freezer, and pantry. In getting through these tasks, I realized that we have a LOT of food in our apartment. While there are perfectly good reasons for keeping a good supply of food around (what if there’s an earthquake? or 20 people show up unexpectedly for dinner?), our stocks were starting to stress the storage limits of our small space. So, I began a small and unofficial project to start using up some of the little bits and pieces that were accumulating in the freezer. When M. returned from his summer backpacking adventure, we crunched some numbers on our 2014 grocery spending to date and decided to kick our efforts up a notch and make a more concerted effort to “shop the pantry”. We have one hard and fast rule (no purchasing of a new food if there is a functionally equivalent food still available), and a general agreement to structure our meal planning each week to take advantage of foods we already have available.
We’ll be measuring progress based on the fullness of our pantry/freezer, and the size of our grocery bill.
So, for the next few months, I’ll probably be posting a few more “pantry-friendly” recipes. To kick things off, here’s one of my most reliable pantry meals: black bean soup. We purchase dried black beans in bulk, 15 lbs at a time, so there are usually plenty on hand. I ate it pretty regularly through grad school, as evidenced by this vintage photo:
Fortunately, M. loves black bean soup as much as I do, so it’s remained a staple of our fall and winter meals. It’s a very easy soup to use for absorbing odds and ends in the fridge also, which means it’s a bit different almost every time I make a batch. True to the “pantry” theme of this post, the recipe I’m sharing today is the ultra basic version, but I often like to mix it up by adding one or more of the following:
-A cup or two of kale or spinach
-a cup of corn kernels
-a small chopped sweet potato or a cup of cubed butternut squash
-a zucchini or two
-red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
-a handful of chopped cilantro
If you want to get fancy with your soup, you can also try topping it with cilantro, cheese, or avocado. Add a pan of cornbread on the side and a loaded version of this soup makes an easy and delicious cold weather meal to share with friends.
Basic black bean soup
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4-5 cloves crushed garlic
2 carrots, diced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 cups cooked black beans
28 oz can diced tomatoes
4 c. water
salt and pepper to taste
1.In a large stock or soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Saute the onions for 6-8 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes more. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and thyme, stir until onions/carrots are coated with spices.
2. Add the black beans, tomatoes, and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for another 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.
Dried legumes are currently taking up a lot of our pantry real estate, so expect to see more soup recipes this fall and winter! If your pantry is also overflowing with beans, here are a few older recipes you might enjoy trying: