Pop quiz: When you last hit the grocery to stock up, what’s the strangest thing that ended up in your basket? Ten cans of a soup you can’t stand? Buns, no hot dogs? A carton of shelf-stable milk from a grain you’ve never heard of? It’s okay, no one is perfectly clear-headed when contemplating the unknown.
I bought a pineapple. Perched atop five-pound bags of basmati and a mini-mountain of canned goods, it was a true oddity. The inspiration had come from a moment the day before when, as I panic-scrolled through news updates, a post about homemade piña coladas momentarily halted my freakout. The very idea of it—chunks of fresh pineapple, cut-up and frozen, mixed with white rum and cream of coconut, and finished with a splash of añejo rum—sounded dreamy. So, when I should have been scoping the granola aisle for a month’s worth of healthy breakfasts, I spotted that spiky little tropical treat and threw it in the cart instead.
In fact, while the actual frozen foods case (along with the cereal, bread, meat, and candy aisles) had been mostly cleared of inventory, the produce aisle was still full of color and life. Consider the possibilities: a frozen stash of chopped bell peppers, onions, and celery—the Louisiana cook’s holy trinity—on hand for gumbo, red beans and rice, and etouffee. (There are several one-pound bags of parcooked, peeled crawfish from The Cajun Grocer in my deep freeze.) Add a bag of diced carrots alongside those onions and celery and I had mirepoix at the ready for bolognese or ragu. I could add just about any diced and frozen veggies to fried rice. How about fresh herbs for pesto, made now and frozen in ice trays for a quick fix to all that pasta that was certainly in my future? Greens blanched and frozen for a soup, a stew, and—of course—more pasta? Berries washed, frozen on sheet pans, then bagged, to eventually add to muffins, a crisp, or even an upside down cake? Suddenly, I saw a season’s worth of brighter options.
So the next time you shop, whether you’re putting in a delivery order, or doing the 6 a.m. dash with self-checkout to ensure social distancing, don’t ignore the produce. Instead, look around and take in all the potential. With these recipes as a starting point, go forth with fresh inspiration. And if you find yourself needing a piña colada recipe, well, we’ve got you covered there, too.
Mr. B’s gumbo ya-ya
Red beans and rice
Potato gnocchi with pork ragu
Bacon and egg fried rice
The Best Chicken Soup with rice, carrots, and kale
Palestinian spinach and chickpea stew (sabanekh bil hummus)