The wind has picked up in the huge trees in the park across the way. TV news is reporting mandatory evacuations around the city, as the confluence of full moon, the jet stream and hurricane Sandy’s massive size threatens major flooding and power outages. The sky is straight our of a Ghostbuster’s movie; we’re waiting for the storm to hit.

We spent the morning walking around Harlem gathering supplies, as others did…prescriptions, cash, batteries. We stopped to listen to the joyous gospel that spilled from the windows of a church. As we wandered, we planned our supplies and strategy should the power go out. We’re definitely not into Powerbars; but into REAL as long as we can maintain it.

We’ve stocked up on vegetables that do fine in a cool place (on the windowsill with the window cracked):
root vegetables such as leeks, onions, carrots, celery root, turnips, beets, as well as celery, fennel and radishes. If you’ve got a gas or propane stove, all these vegetables can, of course, be cooked. All save onions and leeks are good raw, grated to make a slaw, dressed with extra-virgin olive oil is a great fat that doesn’t need refrigeration and a little vinegar.

photo: maria robledo

Apples last just fine out of the fridge. Lemons, limes and oranges do fine in a cool place as well; their peel makes great additional flavoring.

Some leafy vegetables will last for days wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a cool place. These include escarole, romaine, radicchio, endive and cabbages.

In Europe, butter, eggs and aged cheeses are routinely NOT refrigerated, and we’ve boldly embraced this practice for years without dying. (Though please take to heart: do this at your own risk. There is a good amount of controversy about this around eggs especially, witness the reader comment below.) We’ve got a chunk each of Parmigiano-Reggiano and aged Manchego, and a couple dozen organic eggs. We find that cured salami’s last out of the fridge if they stay cool. (We’re partial to Creminelli truffle salami.)

Of pantry staples: extra-virgen olive oil, good vinegar, canned beans (Goya), canned tuna, octopus, sardines and anchovies. Dried fruit: prunes, cherries, figs. Nuts (almonds and walnuts) and nut butters. We’ve got a kilo of dried Sicilian peppers that we’ll reconstitute and steep in olive oil as another non-perishable vegetable (although they can be eaten, as is, like a dried fruit. We buy them from BuonItalia – who only has dried Sicilian tomatoes on their website, but would probably arrange to send you some if you email…We always keep a jar of their anchovy -stuffed hot cherry peppers on hand for emergencies.) French lentils are a quick cooking legume with lots of proteins that needs only olive oil and vinegar to taste fine…and easily becomes a soup if cooked longer. Olives, covered in their brine or oil-cured will do fine for at least a week out of the fridge; they are curiously nourishing.

photo: maria robledo

We’ve got a coq au vin cooking right now to keep in the fridge since long-cooked stews seems to keep well. We may freeze some in containers; if the fridge goes out, they can will hold for at least a 24 hours and can be warmed up.

If the fridge goes down we’ll cook what’s in there: braising some short ribs, cooking a couple of steaks…maybe have a dinner party to eat it all up.

For dessert, we’ll match up some of the chocolate we keep on hand for cooking with some peanut butter for homemade peanut butter cups:

If worse comes to worst and we’re in for a long hall, we’ve got a 5 year old Benton ham we’ve been saving for our house-warming party: we’ll slice it thin and eat like prosciutto. It needs no refrigeration.

Related posts: emergency medicine
…after the storm…
surviving a power outage in style
when nature reminds you to stop what you are doing
how to store fruits, vegetables and eggs without a fridgex

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3 replies on “‘improvised life’s emergency pantry

  1. Please tell your readers that you should never skip refrigerating eggs if they’ve been cooled and already transported in a cooler truck or any other temperature moderating experience. They will last for a month or more on the counter if they’re fresh from the hen and NOT washed. But anything else is dangerous.

    In other words, those washed organic eggs at the market need to go in the fridge.

  2. I wanted to share a culinary improvisation but do not see a place to upload photos. This would be otherwise subtitled what to do with the raw radish,fennel, and celery lounging in ice water in the fridge that have lost their raw appeal? Turn them into gazpacho! ,

  3. Sounds like an inspired idea. Please send pix!

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