Last-Minute Carnival Cuisine

Faced with a last-minute parade party and nothing to serve? The problem is easily solved if you keep a few staples on hand. Canned beans are an important item in any pantry—I use black and white beans most often, but I also love black-eyed peas. I always stock olives, capers, roasted red peppers, pepper jelly and plain diced tomatoes in my pantry, and if you are from the South you probably have a can or two of Rotel. I also keep coarse ground corn meal, which is good for cornbread or polenta, and a wide variety of rice and pasta. I end up using plain basmati or yellow rice the most, and for pasta I think the most versatile types are plain elbow macaroni and couscous. Trying always to be a bit health conscious, my secret ingredient in the freezer is edamame (Japanese soybeans). I mix them into most anything for a healthy dose of protein and fiber.

And those last-minute parade party guests? I’m going to make some delicious purple, green and gold inspired side dishes to go along with my store-bought fried chicken.

(It’s much easier to buy fried chicken than to make it—especially if you are pressed for time.) So with a few key items in your pantry, a quick trip to the market and your favorite fried chicken spot, your can feed your last-minute parade guests—without spending too much time or money.

RECIPES
Festive Black-Eyed Pea Salad
4   cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1   yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2   large purple onion, sliced thin
3 to 4   stalks celery, diced
1    jalapeño, minced
2 to 3  tblsp. pepper jelly
3 to 5  tblsp. red-wine vinegar
3  tblsp. olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat.
Can be made a day ahead. Serves 6.

Mardi Gras Couscous
Salt
Olive oil
1  box plain couscous (If buying in bulk, you can
    use 1 and 1/2 cups of dry to 3 cups of water.)
1  bunch red grapes, washed
1  bunch green onions, chopped
1 6-oz.  pkg. Feta cheese
1/4  cup red-wine vinegar
1/4  cup olive oil

Boil water (amount per box directions), add a dash of salt and olive oil, then stir in couscous. Cover and let stand for 5 to 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Combine with other ingredients in large bowl and toss to coat. Can be made a day ahead. Serves 6.

Pantry Essentials
While your pantry probably holds some staple
items—pasta, rice and chicken broth—there are
a few more items that I think you should have on
hand for last-minute meals and guests.

Black beans
Garbanzo beans
White beans
Coarsely ground corn meal
Capers
Black olives
Pimentos
Pickapeppa sauce
Pepper jelly
Pepperocini
Nicoise olives
Red-wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Rotel
Crushed tomatoes
First-press olive oil
Canola oil

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