Dinner Dilemmas

From one of my all-time favorite movies, who remembers this scene from The Birdcage?

Armand: “What the hell are you serving us?”

Agador: “Sweet and sour peasant soup.  What you say it’s seafood chowder for?”

Armand: “What the hell is sweet and sour peasant soup?!”

Agador: “I don’t know! I made it up! I made it up!”

Who amongst us has not had this moment in the kitchen? (And if you say no, you’re lying!)  We’ve all been the exasperated Agador, pressured to concoct an impressive-enough meal and not knowing what the heck to do.  Cooking for family, friends, or even a party has quite the intimidation factor.  We run short on time, maybe short on ingredients, and certainly short on inspiration.  For me, moments like this yield either a similar Agador agony or sheer resourceful ingenuity.  Honest to Goodness will help you have the second scenario to save your sanity and your peasant soup.

Cooking shows like 30 Minute Meals and Ready Steady Cook are all about quick meals that the home cook can make for a family, sometimes even using surprise ingredients.  Before I hit that moment of exasperation like Agador, I open the refrigerator and pantry to assess the inventory.  This worked well when I visited my vegetarian sister and her family earlier this year.  I cooked for 3 nights using only what they had in their kitchen already. Take a few “for instances”:

1. Vegetarian Chili: Dried Red Beans, Dried Black Beans, Carrots, Tomatoes, Garlic, Onion, and Queso Fresco

2. Savory Dinner Frittata: Eggs, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Onion, Ricotta Cheese

3. Taco Soup (aka The Dinner Can-Can): Cans of Diced Tomatoes, Corn, Green Beans, Black Olives, and Beans (Pinto, Black, or Kidney).  Add in the broth of your choice and Mexican-style seasonings to taste.  If you prefer to add meat, brown some ground turkey, chicken, or beef first, then add the remaining ingredients.

Before you hit the panic button, take a deep breath and let your creative juices flow.  Assembling a good dinner on-the-fly is not rocket science.  You may surprise yourself and win great brownie points.  If all else fails, call your Kitchen Concierge!