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18 Dinners to Make When Your Pantry's As Empty As Your Stomach

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It is 7 P.M. You haven't been to the grocery store since last week, you are famished, and you have no ideas. You have two options:

  1. You can panic at the steep downward trajectory of your blood sugar and get takeout. (Been there. This is a perfectly reasonable response.)
  2. You can open up the cabinets and treat what you find like your personal Chopped basket of ingredients. Onions? A can of chickpeas? A wan tomato? A jar of green sauce? (Or even sparser—garlic, eggs, water?) Challenge accepted.

The latter kind of dinner, the soup-from-a-stone kind, is sometimes the most satisfying. You've wrung everything you possibly could from your little kitchen and fed yourself well. Should you need a little inspiration—well, we bet your pantry and the dregs of your refrigerator could produce at least a few of the following 18 recipes:

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  • Chickpeas + onion + pinches of turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne + cilantro:
Joan's on Third's Curried Chickpeas
Joan's on Third's Curried Chickpeas
  • Canned tomatoes + onion + red pepper flakes + water + basil:
Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup
Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup
  • White beans + garlic + water + parsley:
Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley
Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley
  • Canned tomatoes + onion + butter (bonus points if you add cooked pasta):
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
  • Black beans + onion + celery + a little rum:
Black Beans and Rum (for Poor Poets and Others)
Black Beans and Rum (for Poor Poets and Others)
  • Cornmeal + water—just top it with whatever leftovers you have! (Or maybe some equally pantry-sourced tomato sauce?):
Carlo Middione's Polenta Facile
Carlo Middione's Polenta Facile
  • Garlic + stale bread + paprika + water + eggs:
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)
  • Whatever potatoes you have + handful of cilantro or whatever green thing's wilting in your fridge + peas (they could be frozen!):
Roasted Potatoes with Green Sauce
Roasted Potatoes with Green Sauce
  • Leftover rice + scallions + kimchi + gochujang + sesame oil + soy sauce:
Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi Fried Rice
  • Eggs + literally anything you find in the fridge:
How to Make Any Frittata in 5 Steps
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How to Make Any Frittata in 5 Steps
  • Pasta + white beans (or whatever protein you've got on hand) + lemons + capers + shallots or onion + white wine:
How to Piccata Anything
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How to Piccata Anything
  • Potatoes + green chiles + ground coriander + ground cumin + onion + garlic + a little yogurt and cilantro (if you have them) to serve:
Deborah Madison's Potato and Green Chile Stew
Deborah Madison's Potato and Green Chile Stew
  • Carrots + lentils + red wine vinegar + mustard + za'atar + feta:
Carrot, Lentil, and Feta Salad
Carrot, Lentil, and Feta Salad
  • Pasta + butter + onions + Madeira (but you could use sherry or Marsala or stock instead, if that's what you have!). And if you have thick yogurt, too, you can make this:
Braised Onion Sauce
Braised Onion Sauce
  • Rice + eggs + onions + coconut milk + garlic + turmeric + chili powder + tamarind paste (or, if you don't have it, a little brown sugar mixed with lime juice):
Caramelized Onion, Coconut, and Egg Curry
Caramelized Onion, Coconut, and Egg Curry
  • Carrots + ginger + onion + garlic + stock:
Roasted Carrot Soup
Roasted Carrot Soup
  • White beans + tuna + (red) onion + eggs + lemon + parsley or scallions or both + dukkah (or another spice mix you love!):
White Bean and Tuna Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs and Dukkah
White Bean and Tuna Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs and Dukkah
  • Lentils + butter + curry powder + coconut milk + onion + garlic:
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

What do you make when the pantry's bare? Give us your best ideas in the comments.