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the party-ready pantry 
by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3 
continued from page 1

the deep freeze… (cont.)

  • Cookie dough: Frozen, ready-to-bake cookie dough balls are one of my favorite things to keep on hand for impromptu hosting. Having discovered that freezing the dough tends to produce better, chewier cookies anyway (it helps them retain some form instead of flattening out into a crisp pancake), I'll often make up a big batch, bake a third or a half, then leave the remainder in the freezer for later use. The easiest way to freeze and store is to just make up all the balls of dough, pop them onto a baking sheet (or other flat surface that'll fit in the freezer), and let them sit in the freezer for a couple of hours. Once they're hardened, they can be transferred to a plastic baggie and returned to the freezer. There's no need to thaw before baking; I generally find that the baking time tends to be just a minute or two longer than if I'd baked from an unfrozen state. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies are all mighty tasty baked from frozen (and almost universally beloved to boot).
  • Tortillas: Flour tortillas are my newest favorite frozen staple food. Buy them fresh (from a good Mexican market if you can), toss in a resealable plastic baggie and freeze flat. They thaw in just a few minutes once you pull them out from the freezer, making them perfect for spontaneous quesadillas and sandwich roll-ups (to make the roll-ups into bite-size party fare, just slice them up, skewering with a toothpick if you like).

from the fridge…

  • Cheese: The classic grown-up party food, cheese is always nice to have on hand. It's good served up as is with some crackers or bread, of course, and can also be grated and melted for quickie munchies like quesadillas, nachos, pita pizzas and cheesy crostini (see below).
  • Lemons and limes: Stored in the fridge, lemons and limes will keep for quite awhile. Both the grated zest and the juice can be used for making dips; slices and wedges are also handy to have around for garnishing food and drink alike.
  • Mayo, plain yogurt, sour cream: These creamy basics can all be turned into instant dips … just add some good strong flavoring agent (minced garlic, onion or herbs, blue cheese or goat's cheese, chopped olives or capers, whatever) and season with a little lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper. Serve with raw veggies, chips, bread, whatever you like. Dip away!

raiding the cupboards…

  • Bread: While a proper bakery loaf will never have the lasting power of the pre-sliced, preservative-laden stuff, it's infinitely tastier … even when it's a little stale. When the bread proves too tired to serve to guests straight up, just slice it, brush with a little olive oil, and toast it to make crostini, which can then be served with whatever spread or topping you like.
  • Crackers: Though I have to admit that good crusty bread tends to be my party food substrate of choice, crackers are handy to keep stocked as they keep for ages, and make a sturdy, versatile base for dips, spreads, cheeses and meats. If you're feeling schmancy, you can individually top them to create pretty little canapés.
  • Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar: Assuming you do any cooking at all, these two ingredients should pretty much always be in your kitchen. They make the perfect no-effort chic bread dip; pour into a small shallow plate or bowl and serve with cut-up crusty bread.

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