Throughout the course of this blog’s existence, I’ve been asked about the name “Pantry Raid” a number of times. If you look up #pantryraid on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find photos of meals made from tuna fish, canned tomatoes, and other foodstuffs that often get lost in people’s pantries. In an effort to save money or make space, these photos allow their creator to boast, “look what I can do with this.”
You might wonder, then, why my recipes almost exclusively rely on fresh ingredients, rather than boxed, canned, or preserved ones. Back in 2011, when I started the Pantry Raid, I was living in a stuffy three-person dorm room with only a microwave and an iron as my culinary tools. Without a kitchen to call my own, I took to friends’ apartments, raiding their pantries for spices and such. When I’d travel back home, I took full advantage of family members’ kitchens. As an underclassman, I was constantly on the move. I moved from my triple dorm room, home for the summer, to another dorm, then to Rome, and back to Los Angeles. Sure, it all sounds very romantic, but for someone with a yearning to stir, blend, bake, and sauté, it was difficult to get to know any one kitchen.
Then, in September 2012, I moved into my very first apartment with its very own kitchen. As a housewarming present, my grandmother gifted me the Pistachio color KitchenAid stand mixer I’d wanted since before I could even reach the counter. I can remember that first batch of pretzel rolls, which filled the rooms with their warm yeasty scent. I can remember going downstairs to check the mailbox while roasting a chicken and realizing that the entire building smelled of garlic and rosemary. I can remember, on more than one occasion, mistakenly summoning the Brookline Fire Department when our “non-stick” pans stuck. I can remember drinking too much wine at the kitchen table with friends who will soon become roommates. I can remember how loudly I screamed when I discovered a squirming mouse in the trap our landlord had placed. I can remember opening a smoldering oven to check on banana bread and feeling my mascara melt instantly. These are the memories that will stick (like those damn non-stick pans) with me about this first apartment of mine.
But, as it goes in Boston, even this domicile in which I’ve become so comfortable is only temporary. In a couple weeks, September 1, 2013 will roll around and the city will be in a frenzy with moving trucks and students migrating from one home to the next. I’ll be one of them, packing up and moving on to yet another apartment with another kitchen. It’s funny to think that some other person will be setting off that fire alarm with which I’ve become all too familiar in this poorly ventilated apartment that I’ve called my own for the past twelve months.
As that crazy day, September 1st, approaches, I’ve become frugal with my household purchases. Can I make this toothpaste last until the end of the month? Can I get away with not buying another gallon of Tide or bottle of shampoo? I wonder about these things, as if these items were not transportable or I would not need them once I move into my new place. Perhaps the stress of moving is so great (is anyone selling a couch?) that I don’t want to worry about packing up these things along with everything else I’ve collected over time, but it does seem ridiculous.
When it comes to food, my rational feels a little more accurate. After freshman year, I packed what was left of a bag of flour in one of my storage boxes, only to find, three-ish months later, that the thin paper had ripped in transport and dusted all of my belongings in a mysterious white powder. I had some explaining to do to my new roommates that semester.
Now, in an effort to avoid that kind of thing, I’m trying to use up every last bit of what’s in my fridge and pantry before moving day arrives. It’s a good old-fashioned pantry raid. All those weird ingredients like fish sauce, Panko, and crème fraiche have got to go. So, instead of drooling over new findings at the grocery store and farmers’ market, I’m averting my eyes and using what I have. I’m raiding my own pantry, literally, so when I hash tag #pantryraid on these next few creations, they’ll actually start to fit in with the rest.
In this recipe’s case, I decided to do some work on the yogurt left over from last week’s Seasoned Greek Yogurt Chicken, the English muffins I’ve been nursing since Shaw’s put them on sale for 3 for 1, and what’s left of the basil growing on my windowsill.
To me, “guacamole” just means mashed avocado and whatever else you feel like tossing in with it. With the olive oil running low, I decided to skip eggs for breakfast and use the last of a few ingredients. As it turns out, tart Greek yogurt pairs perfectly with smooth avocado. Every guacamole needs a little spice, so I gave the paprika a few shakes and crushed a couple of the dwindling peppercorns. Instead of cilantro, I used fresh basil to add texture and complexity. The result was a refreshing breakfast-appropriate take on guacamole. I can imagine this would taste great with a fried egg on top. Too bad I’m too stubborn to buy another dozen before September 1st.
Ingredients (serves 1)
½ ripe avocado
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt
4-5 fresh basil leaves
1 English muffin or other bread
1. Toast English muffin/bread
2. While toasting, use a fork to mash avocado in a small bowl.
3. Add Greek yogurt and spices, stirring to combine.
4. Once bread is toasted, spread guacamole on top.
5. Stack basil leaves on top of one another and slice thinly to create small strips. Use to garnish toast.