The dropouts may have disappeared with the '60s, but not the drop-ins. They are with us still, ringing the doorbell when we're in the tub, hurtling themselves into the center of peaceful evenings. Sometimes they even are welcome, these unexpected guests, and sometimes we would like them to stay.
Ah, but out in the kitchen, it is that old, sad story: Mother Hubbard and the cupboard which, if not exactly bare, is not overflowing with forethoughtfully frozen boeuf borguignon or chicken Kiev either.
It is a time for ingenuity and stealing the ideas of other people, like Ronald Fonte, president of Les Amis du Vin, who suggests the following dishes using ingredients most people have on hand.
For an appetizer, fresh vegetables -- certainly carrots and celery, perhaps scallions, radishes and cherry tomatoes -- can be served with a dip made of one can of tuna mixed with two tablespoons each of milk and mayonnaise, one small chopped-up onion, one half-cup sour cream and two tablespoons of heavy cream.
Canned soups stored in the back of the cabinet present another possibility -- tomato-crab bisque. Fonte suggests mixing one can each of cream of tomato soup, beef consomme and split-pea soup (the kind with no ham). Don't thin them with water; instead, add one-half cup light cream, one-half cup sherry and one-half pound frozen crab meat.
Fonte's dessert would be an apple-Cointreau sundae; an apple peeled and cut into thin slices, arranged on a plate and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and two tablespoons of Cointreau.
Mark Carraluzzi, chef at the American Cafe, suggests a simple appetizer: Keep popcorn in the cupboard and pop it. He also keeps cans of salmon on hand for instant salmon cakes, mixing one can of red salmon with one egg, one-half cup bread crumbs, one tablespoon lemon juice, black pepper and a pinch of dry mustard. He forms them into cakes, dusts them with flour and fries them in butter.
Most people have a box of dried pasta tucked away somewhere and, says Caraluzzi, "I always try to keep butter, eggs and cream in the refrigerator. If you have that, you can make a fettucine Alfredo , or, with vegetables, a primavera .
"Cook one pound linguine, then combine it with a sauce made by heating a stick-and-a-half of butter, a cup of parmesan cheese, and one-fourth cup cream. Toss the linguine with the sauce and the vegetables -- broccoli, squash, whatever's on hand. I blanch the harder ones first. Even though it's expensive I brown pine nuts in butter and toss them in as well.
"For dessert, whenever I bake chocolate-chip cookies, I freeze some. It takes them about 40 minutes to defrost, and I serve them with ice cream."
The freezer also holds a supply of knockwurst, which he drops in boiling water to defrost, slices and sautes -- with one sliced onion per sausage -- in four tablespoons butter. To that he adds sauerkraut for an instant choucroute , which he serves with mustard and beer.