- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Everyone runs short of ingredients. It’s easy to let your grocery shopping slip to the bottom of your priorities even when you’re only cooking for two. That’s especially true if you’re snowbound and a trip to the supermarket is a major expedition.

Unfortunately, being unprepared means you’re faced with expensive takeout or restaurant meals more often than you’d like.

The solution to mealtime shortfall is to stock up on versatile staples.

Before you start, visualize your dinner plate. Imagine your favorite proteins, starches and vegetables. Then think about frozen or shelf-stable versions of these foods. These are the ingredients you want to have available for emergencies. For example, look for refrigerated cooked chicken, flavored tuna or salmon in pouches or frozen, and ready-to-cook fish fillets.

Add frozen vegetables to your stockpile. Choose vegetables that are packed loose in bags, not blocks, so you can measure out what you need and keep the remainder frozen.

Corn, peas, bell pepper strips and diced onions are the most versatile in my kitchen. You may have different preferences.

Instead of potatoes, try some less common and quicker cooking starches such as couscous or cracked wheat. A box of either one will round out a meal.

The following recipe shows how to use some ingredients you might have on hand for a delicious dinner. Feel free to improvise. You can replace the shrimp with chicken and the peas with corn … as long as you keep the larder stocked.

Curried couscous with shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons pine nuts

½ pound raw large peeled shrimp, thawed if frozen

1 cup frozen thawed peas

1 carrot, trimmed and shredded, about ½ cup

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2/3 cup hot chicken broth

½ cup couscous

2 teaspoons fresh chopped cilantro, optional

Heat oil in large skillet. Add the shallot and pine nuts and cook over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shallot is tender and the pine nuts lightly browned.

Stir in the shrimp, peas, carrot, curry powder and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the salt, pepper and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous.

Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff up with a fork. Stir in the cilantro, if using.

Makes 2 servings.


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