This time, without pedophilia scandal! I know, I'm no fun.
I participate (with tepid enthusiasm these days, sorry) on a gaming forum called f13.net in which I started Voodoolily's Snacktastic Cooking Thread awhile back. Yesterday I saw the following post by a member:
I get food bank access once a month and I'm trying to make it last as long as possible. Any suggestions about what to do with the following items would be helpful:
3x cans of green beans
1 head of cabbage
1 can of corn
1 can of chili (no meat)
2 bags of lentils
1 can of tuna
1 can of salmon
1 can of albacore
1 small onion
I looked at it for a bit, thought about how my culinary point of view was formed by being poor when I was a kid, and again, later, when I was a struggling college student living on a 15-hours-a-week coffee shop job.
Back then I was a vegetarian, so I could get a bag of groceries for about $10. Beans, rice, a loaf of wheat bread and fresh peanut butter from the grinder were staples. A sack of curry powder, oregano (not that kind), garlic, salt and pepper were the only seasonings I had, unless I pillaged the neighbor's herb garden a few blocks away. Luckily, everyone in SE Portland seems to grow rosemary and sage in their front yard, and besides, I only took a sprig or two at a time, and only from the part of the bush nearest the sidewalk.
I felt that I could help this poster eat a few good meals on a dime, or that I should at least try. Assuming my food-banking friend has access to basic staples, I would start with making a salad of 1/2 cup of the lentils (cooked al dente should yield about 3/4-1 cup), 1/2 can of the tuna, and half can of the green beans. Dressing can be made simply from olive oil, white wine (or other mild) vinegar, a spoonful of brown mustard (or mustard powder), and some salt and pepper. If the tuna came packed in oil, you could use that for the dressing. A diced, hardboiled egg could be sprinkled on top for extra richness. Gilding the (Voodoo)lily would be to include grilled garlic scapes and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Cabbage goes nice and sweet when it's roasted, so I would slice half the cabbage and half the onion into thin slices, salt and pepper it, drizzle with oil and roast until slightly browned and sweet. This would be nice to eat Cantonese-style with a simple sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, corn starch, ginger, garlic, salt and sugar. A little sesame oil would be nice if it was just lying around the pantry. This could be eaten with some steamed or poached egg and a bowl of rice. Gilding the (Voodoo)lily would be to include stir-fried dou miao (pea shoots) and plump, wild-caught prawns or diver scallops.
I really don't know what to do with canned green beans. I grew up eating them, the fuck boiled clean out of them in salted water with a splash of white vinegar and some bacon. This, in my opinion, is really the only way canned green beans are edible. Or as a casserole. Gilding the (Voodoo)lily would be to make a savory green bean galette with some egg custard and chopped pine nuts.
Anyways, this is a start. Gah, I can hardly remember what it's like to not have a real pantry to cook from, since I've been stockpiling good ingredients for years. Now, I could probably eat for two months off my stores. I should make more effort to utilize what I have and show a little solidarity with those affected by rising food costs. So should we all, I guess.