Rob Connoley Bulrush

Rob Connoley is the chef-owner of Bulrush.

While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.

Rob Connoley is the chef-owner of contemporary Ozark-cuisine rooted concept, Bulrush, in Grand Center. Bulrush is currently offering curbside and carryout via online ordering Wednesday through Saturday from 4 to 7pm. A dine-in tasting menu is available with only one seating per night by reservation on Friday and Saturday.

What are some essential pantry staples in your kitchen that you always like to keep on hand? During the pandemic, I've been pushing myself to learn more Szechuan cooking and so Lao Gan Ma fried chili in oil has become essential. I also can't live without Salsa Lizano (sort of a Costa Rican steak sauce). Does Earthbound Brewing Precocious Cowboy count as a pantry staple? Because I go through a lot of that.

How can home cooks apply zero-waste techniques in the kitchen to make the most of their ingredients? I wish everyone would religiously keep every food scrap (wilted lettuce, half-eaten sandwich) and store them in a container in the fridge for one full week just to see how much waste they're producing. Then look at ways to reduce that waste.

An easy and high-payout strategy is focusing just on the produce that's not quite good enough for your plate (but not moldy or inedible), collect enough to fill a gallon ziplock and store in your freezer until it's full. Then put all of those scraps (some may not look so good at this point) in a crockpot set on low. Add a heavy tablespoon of salt and some leftover wine that has started to sour. Cook the scraps and wine overnight with the lid on. You can add herbs that may be going to waste in your garden or produce drawer as well.

The next day, blend the mixture in a blender, add salt if needed and store in small containers (I use snack-size zip bags) in your freezer. Now, every time you make pasta sauce, soup, or stew, add this "mother" to your pot for deeper flavor, as you might tomato paste. This lasts for a week in the fridge but months in the freezer.

What tips can you offer for people looking to get into foraging locally? Join the various Facebook groups, especially the Missouri Mycological Society's page to see what others are foraging and get online mentorship. And then get excited about pawpaw season! It is a short season (late August to mid-September) but the look and smell is like nothing else.

Can you share a recipe for a quick and easy drink, snack or meal idea?

Summer Slurpy

  • 1 can Earthbound Precocious Cowboy (or other gose-style beer)
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup honey, agave or simple syrup
  • 2 cups ice cubes

| Preparation | Everything in a blender for one minute. Feel free to garnish with lime zest, basil or mint.