Friday, July 30, 2010

Pantry and freezer food for instant hospitality

Since last weekend's day of impromptu hospitality, I've been thinking of ways I can be ready to invite someone to my home on the spur of the moment. What kinds of food lend themselves to quick preparation without a lot of fuss?

I already figured out that I can serve some variation on burritos or quesadillas at a moment's notice. But there must be other things.

Some people always have sandwich fixings around, but other than tuna that doesn't work so well for me. We don't eat enough cold cuts that we can keep a large quantity around without them going bad, and I don't think they freeze well. Lettuce, tomato and other perishables are not always to be found in my house either. I could be out of bread (though usually have a loaf of French bread in the freezer).

There are always hamburgers and usually hot dogs or sausages in the freezer, though. Burgers can be grilled from their frozen state; dogs or sausages can be quickly defrosted in the microwave or boiling water before being thrown on the grill. Buns can be a problem. But even the most impromptu invitation usually allows for someone to run into a grocery store for a bag of buns. We have all the jars of condiments ready to go in the fridge. Lettuce and tomato? Most people are OK with skipping those, I think, though if we're running into the store for buns I guess it's a quick trip to the produce aisle to get those. But now we're getting complicated again.

Pasta and sauce in a jar should be in every pantry. Vegetables or meat can be added if available.

There are decent soups to be had in cans or aseptic cartons. We like Pacific brand Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato. Of course if I really had it together I would make huge batches of soup and freeze them. Tuna doesn't have to be reserved for sandwiches; a tuna pasta or casserole is quick and filling, even if it's not everyone's idea of company food.

The other night I had planned grilled sandwiches for my family. I had some boneless chicken which I sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil. Of course I had cheese, and had bought some hoagie* rolls for the meal. I brought a small container of pesto out of the freezer. Put the sandwiches together and on the griddle and dinner was ready in a few minutes. Everyone in my house likes those sandwiches. Except for the bread I had everything on hand. Leftover chicken - if there had been any - could have gone into the freezer to be ready for another meal. If I didn't have rolls, I could have used just about any plain bread. This would also have made a nice pasta dish.

*I live near Philadelphia so it's a hoagie roll. It could also be a sub roll, a steak roll, or just a bread roll. Not quite a hotdog bun, crustier and bigger to accommodate a bigger portion of filling.

See how that goes? There are lots of things we can keep around, and ideas we can keep in our heads or in a recipe notebook so we can be ready for guests anytime.

What kinds of things are always available to eat in your house?

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