A kitchen survival kit for college-bound kids

For many of our college-bound kids, back to school means living on their own for the first time. The realization that their apartment doesn’t include a cook or a kitchen consultant (Mom) can be more than shocking.

I used to get panic phone regularly with questions like “How long does it take to boil water?” How do I preheat my oven?” “What do I do to my pan that’s burned black?’ and “How many chickens do I need to feed eight for Shabbat?”

A great gift to send off with your collegiate is a kitchen survival kit containing a couple of good quality nonstick skillets and saucepans, heavy-duty foil roasting pans, an immersion blender (for soups and smoothies), a copy of “Cooking for Dummies” and a refrigerator sign that says, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Most importantly, include some simple one-dish- meal-style recipes like those below. Their cooking skills will develop with trial and error and tasty, well balanced meals will replace the prerequisite pizzas, burgers and nutrition-empty munchies. All recipes can be doubled.

Pasta with Tuna and Tomatoes | Serves 2

6 oz. pasta (about 21/2 cups)
2 Tbs. olive oil
14 1/2-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted black olives, quartered
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
6-oz. can solid white tuna packed in water, undrained

Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, olives and basil and bring sauce to simmer.

Drain pasta thoroughly. Mix pasta and tuna with its water into sauce. Toss to heat pasta through, breaking up tuna into large pieces with fork, about 3 minutes. Season pasta with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Lentil Soup | Serves 2

11/2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced hot dogs (optional)*
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add hot dogs and oregano, stirring until meat begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and lentils and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices; simmer uncovered 2 minutes. Add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

*For a good vegetarian alternative, use 2 portobello mushroom caps, diced.

Easy One-Pan Roast Chicken with Vegetables | Serves 4

4 lb. chicken
4 Tbs. olive oil
3 large potatoes (about 2 lbs.), peeled, quartered lengthwise, then halved crosswise
4 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise, halved crosswise
6 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Rub chicken with 1 Tbs. oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in center of large roasting pan. Roast 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss potatoes, carrots and celery with remaining olive oil in large bowl to coat. Crumble oregano in small bowl; mix in garlic powder. Sprinkle all but 1/4 tsp. oregano mixture over vegetables; toss to coat.

Arrange vegetables around chicken in roasting pan. Sprinkle chicken with remaining oregano mixture. Roast chicken and vegetables until cooked through and golden, brushing chicken once with any pan juices and turning vegetables over once with spatula, about 1 hour. Arrange chicken and vegetables on platter. Scrape any pan juices into bowl and serve alongside meat.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].