Take a moment to be thankful for your pantry full of food

Some resolutions are easy to adhere to; I gave up alcohol for 2006 and stuck to it. Other promises are more difficult to keep; in 2005, I vowed to eat a healthy, animal-free diet — that lasted three weeks. For this year, 2007, I’m making two resolutions: The first one is to write my book, and I’m writing a page a day — by the summer, I should have over 200 pages.

In this week’s column, I’m offering recipes that require very little shopping; they tie into the appreciation of a “pantry full of food.” The penne salad is awesome for a Shabbat lunch, and the spinach soup is perfect for a “No Time to Cook Night.” I whipped up the herbed walnuts the other day, when we had some visitors drop by for a New Year’s Day cocktail. The few that were left made it into our salad, and were delicious.

Penne, Apple and Chicken Breast Salad | Serves 8

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, poached and diced
2 small apples, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lime
3 stalks of celery, peeled and chopped
1 lb. penne, or other shaped pasta, cooked and drained

In a large bowl, toss the chicken, apples and celery with the lime juice. Add the cooked penne and toss well. Gently mix in the jalapeno-lime aioli (recipe follows) and toss all ingredients together.

Jalapeno-Lime Aioli

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
zest of 1 lime, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through the press
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.

Fresh Spinach Soup | Serves 8

2 lbs. spinach, large stems removed and well washed (this is equal to 6 bags of baby spinach)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk
1?4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Rinse and chop the spinach coarsely.
Heat the butter in a soup pot, add the chopped spinach and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, milk and nutmeg. Add the Parmesan and cook for 1 more minute. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve hot.

Herbed Walnuts | Makes 1 pound

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs. toasted walnut oil
1 lb. walnut halves
5 Tbs. chopped rosemary
1 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
2 tsp. fine sea salt
Place butter and walnut oil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the walnuts in the pan and stir to coat. Spread them out in a single layer. Scatter the rosemary, paprika and salt over the nuts. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 325-degree oven, shaking the pan and stirring several times until the nuts are golden brown but not burned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].