I have long professed the benefit of having a well-stocked pantry. That’s not to say it’s filled with exotic condiments and spices. I’m talking basics here like a couple of different kinds of vinegars, a few different kinds of canned or dry beans, at least two different kinds of oils (one for frying; one for finishing and dressings), canned tomato products, canned tuna, evaporated milk, a good variety of flours, nuts, pastas, etc. I've lost track of how many times friends have stopped by for coffee in the morning and stayed well into the evening which meant having to come up with a satisfying dinner using whatever I had in the refrigerator and pantry. With a few basics, I never had trouble coming up with something tasty and satisfying. It's an ability to improvise in the kitchen that stems from a father who once made his living cooking and a mother charged with coming up with creative meals on a tight budget for a large family.
“I have a strong belief in the basics. I like natural ingredients prepared in ways that enhance their inherent flavors. I don’t like masking foods or manipulating them so they taste like something completely different."
Zakarian is a successful restauranteur but he is probably most well known to anyone who has watched the Food Network as he regularly sits at the judge’s table on Chopped, won The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, competes on Iron Chef America and is one of four co-hosts on the weekend talk show, The Kitchen.
“The pantry is the backbone of a kitchen–the place on which every meal hinges,” states Geoffrey in the opening pages of this, his second cookbook since “Geoffrey Zakarian’s Town/Country: 150 Recipes for Life Around the Table” which was published in 2006.
With “Pantry,” the Food Network star has written a highly accessible book for the home cook. First he lays out the foundation, explaining in short nuggets 19 essential staples of spices and spice blends to keep on hand. Then onto the main event, 50 numbered pantry items from Almonds to Yeast. Each pantry item serves as it’s own “chapter" with a photograph of the item accompanied by an explanation or history of it and at least two tips for working with it (did you know you should periodically test your baking soda for freshness by adding 1 teaspoon of it to ¼ cup of vinegar and if it doesn’t bubble up furiously, it’s time to replace it?). Each chapter contains three recipes and a color photograph with all three dishes so the home cook knows what the finished dish should look like.
“I don’t keep an overly stocked refrigerator and freezer, and I try to get to the grocery a few times a week for anything fresh. Then I keep my pantry filled with moderate quantities of the purest ingredients I can get my hands on."
Recipes are creative without being too “gourmet” which sometimes can be the case with celebrity cookbooks. Some examples:
- Barley — Barley with Green Tahini Vinaigrette; Beef Barley Bisque; Duck and Barley Salad
- Cocoa powder — Chocolate Smoothie; Chocolate Sorbet; Chocolate Meringues
- Olive oil — Olive Oil Poached Cod; Warm Tuna Salad; Pizza Margherita with Olives and Arugula
- Peanut Butter — Spicy Peanut Butter Slaw; Peanut Brittle Ice Cream; Bananas Foster Smoothie
- Rice, Long-Grain Brown — Brown Rice Pilaf; Brown Rice Crab Cakes; Creamy Rice and Mushroom Casserole
- Tomatoes, canned — Quick Tomato Sauce; Braised Green Beans with Tomatoes; Summer Tomato Soup with Cucumber-Dill Yogurt
“ You can definitely cook without a refrigerator, but it is nearly possible to create a meal worth eating without a pantry."
“My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes From 50 Essential Ingredients”
Author: Geoffrey Zakarian
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Details: 304 pages, color photographs, 150 recipes, hardback and e-book
List price: $30.00
Current Amazon price: $22.68
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not otherwise compensated and was under no obligation for the tone or contents of my review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing your book through my link, I receive a small stipend which helps cover costs of groceries for this site's recipe development.
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