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Raid the pantry for quick, easy dinners

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

This time of year is tough. It’s still too warm for chili, stews or big, heavy meals.

The summer repertoire is a bit tired. The endless salads are getting old. It’s hard to find local produce, espcially after Hurricane Florence.

It’s also the time of year when days get shorter, but busier. There’s always something going on, not to mention homework and the terrifying thought that Christmas is less than three months away.

It is a good time to restock your pantry. Look for sales at the grocery store. Plan to have several kinds of beans — pinto, kidney, black beans, white (cannellini) beans, chickpeas. Those are great for quick and hearty meals. A can of beans and a pot of rice — brown is better — and you can get a protein-filled meal you can jazz up any way you want to.

Keep all kinds of tomatoes on your shelf, whole, diced, crushed, fire roasted or with green chilis.

Stock up on pasta in all shapes and sizes, not just macaroni and spaghetti.

Get bags of frozen vegetables for your freezer, such as peas and carrots or mixed vegetables. Frozen peas thaw in minutes and can add green to any meal. Frozen corn adds sweetness to lots of dishes.

Find your favorite pasta sauce and keep several jars on hand. Add a few cans of mushrooms, if you can’t get fresh, maybe some artichoke hearts. Olives add a salty punch to many dishes, from salads to pastas. Or sandwiches.

We’ll explore more on this topic later this fall, so if you have any ideas, please share them with us, via email to lifestyle@salisburypost.com, or post to our lifestyle facebook page, SalPostLifestyle, or mail to Recipes, PO Box 4639, Salisbury NC 28145.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Serves 6 to 8

2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes (do not drain)

6 cloves garlic, peeled

8 fresh thyme sprigs

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes (optional)

1 large yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup tomato paste

4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium vegetable broth

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the whole tomatoes from the cans (reserving the juice), cut them in half if large, and lay them out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Scatter the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if using. Roast until soft and caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sauté until the paste has deepened in color, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

When the tomatoes are ready, discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic cloves to the pot, then add the reserved tomato juice in the cans and the vegetable broth. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover the pot, and simmer 20 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a stand blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

10-Minute Black Bean Tacos

Serves 4

For the tacos:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup water

8 corn tortillas

For serving:

1 bag cabbage slaw or shredded cabbage

1 medium avocado, sliced

Salsa

Lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the beans and water.

Cover the pan and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, then uncover and use the back of a fork to partially mash the beans, leaving about half whole.

If there’s any remaining water in the pan, simmer the mixture uncovered until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Meanwhile, heat the tortillas. Stack them on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave in 30-second bursts until warm.

Fill the tortillas with the black bean mixture and top with slaw or cabbage, avocado, and salsa. Serve with lime wedges.

Spinach Tortellini Soup

6 cups low sodium chicken stock

1-2 tsp. minced garlic

1 (9 oz) package cheese tortellini

Dried basil

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed

Salt and pepper

1 can Italian style stewed tomatoes

Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, bring stock to a simmer. Stir in tortellini and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Stir in spinach, garlic, basil, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Return to a simmer and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Lemony Broccoli Pasta

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound dried spaghetti

4 to 5 cups broccoli florets (from about 2 heads)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/3 cup olive oil

Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon

Juice of 1 medium lemon

1 cup frozen peas

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Two minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli.

Meanwhile, place the Parmesan, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, then drain the pasta and broccoli. Return the pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add the Parmesan mixture and peas and toss to combine, adding the reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with additional Parmesan.

You can use any pasta shape in this recipe. You might want to add some red pepper flakes or toss in a few kalamata olives to give it a briny bite.

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