Ask cookbook author Yasmin Fahr what essentials she keeps in the fridge and pantry and you won’t hear about the typical rice and beans. For Fahr, pantry staples mean ingredients that offer quick, bold flavor. Onions, garlic and anchovies in the pantry, and miso or Dijon mustard in the fridge. She also thinks about ingredients that she can batch cook to use in multiple ways and ones that will hold up particularly well the next day.
The author of “Keeping It Simple” is teaching a livestream class with Milk Street Cooking School (details here) where she’ll focus on quick and easy vegetarian recipes that you can make for dinner and save for the lunch the next day, including a mushroom-ricotta toast and avocado and kale salad. We caught up with Fahr to ask her about what she regularly keeps on hand in her own kitchen to keep it simple every day.
Go-To Pantry Staples
“In the fridge, I always have Dijon mustard, a Parmesan rind and miso paste,” she says. She loves the strong, umami flavor of Dijon and miso for whisking into dressings for heartier grains like farro or Israeli couscous, or for marinades.
She also regularly keeps fresh herbs on hand for adding brightness to dishes just before serving. “Cut them right before you use them so they don’t brown too much,” she says.
Finally, she always keeps feta on hand. She’ll use it to crumble on top of grains, salads or roasted vegetables, or she’ll bake it to mellow its flavor and give it a creamier texture.
Out of the refrigerator (at least until opened), it’s onions, garlic, shallots, Pomi tomato sauce and anchovies.
“Pantry staples are the key to adding a lot of flavor in a short amount of time,” she says.
Favorite Foods to Batch Cook
Fahr also is a big fan of using her oven to batch cook ingredients that she’ll use in multiple ways all week. Roasted root vegetables are an obvious option, and she’ll dress them with everything from toasted pumpkin seeds to that feta she keeps in the refrigerator.
She also frequently roasts whole cherry tomatoes with red onion, which she’ll toss in a little olive oil, season with herbs or spices—oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes and cumin are some favorites—and roast in a 400°F oven for about 25 minutes. She’ll use the tomato mixture on salads, toast or alongside other vegetables, where they offer a nice contrast.
Fahr also often toasts nuts and seeds in a dry skillet and uses them to finish dishes. “I'll season them with salt, cayenne and/or cumin in the pan and then leave them in a jar to use throughout the week to spruce up salads, roasted vegetables and grain bowls or just snack on.”
The Key to Better Lunch Prep
Instead of starting from scratch for lunch every day, make extras of dinner ingredients that are light enough for an appealing midday meal, but sturdy enough to hold up overnight, Fahr says. Kale, like the kale salad Fahr will teach in her class, is a great example. Fahr also likes farro and orzo, which retain flavor well and work well hot or cold. And if you’re roasting vegetables, make two sheet pans instead of one.
Photo Credit: AndrewSisk