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When the Cupboard is Bare

I love the challenge of making a decent meal when there’s almost nothing in the cupboard and fridge. I was put to the test last night. I’ve been cooking like crazy lately, testing recipes for my fall 2009 book, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, and buying only the groceries I needed for each batch of testing. The previous day, I had tested the final recipe I had shopped for and just didn’t feel like going grocery shopping for another round. After spending the day at my computer yesterday, I was oblivious to the fact that the refrigerator and pantry were nearly empty. Then suddenly it was time for dinner. Fortunately, some lonely brown rice and canned beans were among the few remaining items in the pantry — a good start. But what about vegetables?

Even when I have a full larder, I often look to vegetables to inspire a meal, but the only vegetable I had in the house was a bag of frozen baby Brussels sprouts. I usually like to roast Brussels sprouts in a hot oven and spritz them with lemon juice. But for this meal, I decided to cook the tiny orbs the way I would broccoli rabe or escarole. After a quick blanching, I sliced them and sautéed them in garlic and olive oil until tender, sprinkled with basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and hot red pepper flakes. I then added capers, black olives, and cannellini beans and sautéed everything until hot. Served on a bed of brown rice, it turned out to be a satisfying and flavorful meal. Of course, now the cupboard REALLY is bare!