Since "gourmet" cooking is all about high-quality ingredients put together in a simple way, it's actually not terribly complicated to put together a great dish or meal. This means your pantry, refrigerator and freezer needs to have some basic items. Each family has their own favorite flavors and tastes - the following is a list of things I find myself relying upon again and again.
In the pantry you'll find non-perishable items. This might include canned items, baking components and dried herbs and spices. I confess, I am not and may never be a home canner. My garden is fair-to-partly-cloudy most years, and this year was a particular dud. Other than the herbs I grow and dry myself, I depend upon my grocery store to keep my pantry stocked. I've also included some things that are kept in the freezer (for freshness) and refrigerator (because they are open and in use, right?).
If you have most or all of the following things around, you can make a complete and balanced meal loaded with nutrients and flavor. Meat and fruits and vegetables and cheese (and butter!) are things we usually have around, but there are times when cooking from your pantry and staples can be a fun and interesting challenge! Pick one day a month (or week) to meet that challenge.
If the list seems daunting, choose one or a few new items to add each week from your regular grocery budget.
Tomatoes - including diced, crushed, sauce, paste and whole, peeled Italian
Tomato soup (Amy's is my preferred brand)
Pickles, both dill and sweet
Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin coconut oil
Sugar, organic unbleached
Chocolate, baking, both unsweetened and semi-sweet
Cocoa powder, unsweetened
Espresso powder, instant
Herbs and Spices
Basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, dill, rosemary, sage, tarragon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, chipotle (powder and whole), cayenne, chile flakes, mustard, garlic powder, garlic salt, onion powder, seasoned salt (home made), black peppercorns, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, poppyseeds.
SALT :) Both regular and kosher, Redmond Real
Pasta, Grains and Beans
Pasta - various shapes and sizes!
Oats, regular rolled
Oats, steel cut
Rice - brown, white and wild
Beans - black, pinto, great northern, red lentils
Wheatberries (I have a mill to grind flour)
Dried Fruit and Nuts and misc.
Raisins, currants, figs, unsweetened coconut (freezer) and apricots
Pecans, whole almonds, sliced almonds, slivered almonds, raw sunflower seeds (all in freezer)
Yellow onions (throw away your flakes, right now)
Garlic (throw away your jarred stuff, right now)
Refrigerated (because they are already open!)
Vinegars - apple cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic, rice
Jams/jellies - raspberry, grape, apricot
Mustard - yellow and dijon
Maple syrup, the real deal
Dry vermouth (more on this in the 'cooking with wine' entry to come)