I was asked by a friend to write about what I think is in a well stocked pantry. Immediately my ego shot through the roof. Someone is asking me! What I think! Yay! I have a purpose today! Then it hit me like a truck, I remembered reading an article where some food writer said, “no pantry is complete without dried mushrooms.” (Oh pretentious snob, who does he think he is? Telling me what should be in MY pantry) Hmm, dried mushrooms. Well, okay sure, that works for you. But what if you think reconstituted mushrooms not only reek, but are totally unappealing and you have no intention of ever using them? Then, those mushrooms are a waste of money and of space in your pantry! Okay, so where does that put me? How do I answer this request without sounding exactly that the other writer? My tastes are not yours, right?
Well, I put the question to you, dear reader: What do you cook? What do you like to eat? Also, for what reason do you want to have things on hand? So that once home from a long day at work, you have the ingredients to make a nourishing meal? Or are you the type that have friends pop over and you want to have some snacks to present? Well I forged on and made a list of things I think are convenient to have on hand but also to inspire you to expand your ingredients list to incorporate new flavors.
As you read, you may notice an absence of baking supplies. I am a nervous baker, I hate it. I cannot bake anything without making a huge mistake. If you are a baker, you are way a head of me and really, you don’t want me telling you what you keep in your baking pantry.
Oils: vegetable, olive oil, grapeseed (Love, love, love in salads and for high heat searing), toasted sesame seed and Pam or any other cooking spray
Vinegars: Now this is quite the list, but I love them all, because I like to pair my salad greens with my vinegar. I love champagne, rice wine, white wine with gentle, tender
lettuces like mesculan or butter lettuce. While I prefer red wine, sherry and cider vinegars with heartier lettuces like romaine, iceberg and arugula. Cider is also awesome with grape seed oil in cole slaw!
Stocks: I know I preach about making your own chicken stock, but when you are in a pickle, the canned stuff will work just fine. Go for one with reduced sodium.
Canned tomatoes: for pasta sauces, chilis and soups
Salt, pepper, garlic salt: I use all three to season EVERYTHING! Lawry’s garlic salt is a staple in my house (http://www.lawrys.com/Products/Spice-Blends/Garlic-Salt.aspx)
Spices: Red pepper flakes, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, chili powder, Mexican oregano, dried thyme, curry, cinnamon
Vanilla beans: halve 4 and put in a bottle of white rum and a few months later: Homemade vanilla extract! Or, vanilla rum, excellent with coke!
Panko: if you have never used these Japanese bread crumbs, I strongly suggest you stop reading and head to your grocery to pick some up. I think it makes a far superior crispy crust for chicken breasts (flour, egg wash, Panko, into the hot fat! Yum!)
Canned beans: black, cannellini- I love black beans in chili, heated through with some onions, garlic and chipotle sauce for some Smokin’ Black Beans, or a colorful, flavorful black bean relish with cilantro and roasted red peppers. Heat cannellini beans with onions and olive oil. Puree and serve on crostinis topped with sautéed garlicky spinach
Polenta/ corn meal
Short grain brown rice: I have abandoned white rice for the healthier brown, alas, I miss it so!
Quinoa: for when I tire of brown rice
Pastas: I eat the whole wheat kind with a little minced garlic sauteed in olive oil with red pepper flakes and Parmesan, a delightful side dish!
Hot sauces: I like Chipotle Tabasco and Tapatio
Agave nectar and honey
Garlic, onions and shallots
Coconut milk: oatmeal, soups, rice pudding
Green chilis: Mexican rice dishes, quesadillas
Tomato paste: Mexican rice, pasta sauces, chilis
Anchovy paste: putanesca, and it is fabulous added to sauces, because as it is heated, the fishiness flavor fades and just leaves a fantastic umami flavor (http://www.umamiinfo.com/what_exactly_is_umami?/)
Anchovy stuffed olives from Spain: just because every once and a while I get a hankering for them!
This is my list. I will update it, as I am sure I have left things out. I know some are items you may never use. No doubt, other items I didn’t include you may use all the time. But I think for any cook at least have stock, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper always on hand. Oh and Culinary Artistry!
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