I don't know if it's the cold weather or the darkness or the fact that I'm feeling lazier than usual, but we have been subsisting almost entirely on pantry staples for over a week now. Normally, I go to the grocery store almost every day, just to pick up a fresh bundle of greens or a grapefruit or two, a little bit of fish or chicken, or to get quick inspiration from the aisles before I trundle home. But it's been a rough week, I guess, and I haven't had the energy or the stamina for that. So instead I'm working through the cans and sacks in the kitchen and whatever I can find in the crisper drawer or the fridge.
Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food has been helping us out nicely - I made a seriously abbreviated and yet totally delectable Chicken Tikka Masala on Wednesday that had us hunched over our plates in glee, though we ate it up so quickly I couldn't take a photo for you; and I've got big plans for a bag of frozen peas and an onion come Monday or Tuesday. (The excitement! I know, you can barely stand it.) There are other things, too - our old workhorse: pasta with tomato sauce, and our new favorite, Molly and Brandon's black beans, which has been our Saturday lunch for the past three weeks and counting.
(It's kind of amazing, all the things you can do with well-stocked cupboards and some inspiration...)
And then there is this chickpea salad, which does an amazing job of cleaning out your entire fridge (what do you mean, you don't have a bundle of parsley, a handful of green olives, a couple of eggs, and some dodgy-looking radishes hanging around like a bunch of thugs in the back? Who are you?) in addition to tasting pretty darn good, packing a nutritional punch and looking much like spring on a plate, which is a highly desirable thing in the miserable depths of winter when all you can do is think long and hard about how uncomfortably hot it will surely get, once again, just be patient, mmhm, mmhm.
You layer smashed and unsmashed chickpeas, dressed with a sharp lemon vinaigrette, with a spiky little salad of parsley leaves, quartered radishes, green olives and some scallions for good measure (though those were the one things that I didn't have, and I wasn't exactly going to go out and buy some, was I, so I did without - you can, too). Then you balance wobbly eggs cooked to molten-yolk perfection on top. With crusty bread waiting in the sidelines, you gleefully use your fork to split open the egg and watch the yolk ooze around the plate, dressing the salad with its sweet, sticky, yellow self.
It's quite a strange little meal, and I mean that in the best way possible. It's a kitchen-sink salad, and though I don't usually like kitchen-sink salads, this one's different, somewhat special, weird and funky, strange but tasty. More than anything, it's fresh. Which might seem funny considering that all of the ingredients had been knocking around my kitchen for longer than anyone would care to think, but that's the odd genius of it.
So tell me, readers: what are your favorite pantry meals? What do you cook when you just can't bear going outside to the store again and you have to make do with what you've got?
Chickpea Salad with Four-Minute Eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup small green olives, pitted
10 small red radishes, quartered
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1. In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, lightly crush half of the chickpeas; mix in the whole chickpeas. Add half of the vinaigrette to the chickpeas and toss. Add the olives, radishes, parsley and scallions to the rest of the vinaigrette and toss. Spoon the chickpea salad onto 4 plates and top with the parsley salad.
2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil over moderately high heat for 4 minutes. Drain, then rinse the eggs under cool water for 1 minute. Using the back of a spoon, gently crack the eggs all over and peel the shell off.
3. Set an egg on each salad and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the salads with salt and pepper and serve immediately.