Thursday, October 21, 2010

PANTRY BASICS - What I Can't Live Without

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.

Must Haves:

Canned
Tuna
Salmon
Sardines
Anchovies
Tomatoes - including diced, crushed, sauce, paste and whole, peeled Italian
Tomato soup (Amy's is my preferred brand)
Pumpkin
Pickles, both dill and sweet
Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin coconut oil
Grapeseed oil

Baking Supplies
Flour, unbleached
Sugar, organic unbleached
Brown sugar
Powdered sugar
Chocolate chips
Chocolate, baking, both unsweetened and semi-sweet
Cocoa powder, unsweetened
Vanilla extract
Almond extract
Baking powder
Baking soda
Molasses
Almond paste
Honey
Espresso powder, instant
Cornstarch

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
Spaghetti
Pasta - various shapes and sizes!
Oats, regular rolled
Oats, steel cut
Rice - brown, white and wild
Cornmeal
Beans - black, pinto, great northern, red lentils
Popcorn
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)
Shallots

Refrigerated (because they are already open!)
Vinegars - apple cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic, rice
Jams/jellies - raspberry, grape, apricot
Mayonnaise
Mustard - yellow and dijon
Soy sauce
Worchestershire
Lemon juice
Ketchup
Capers
Horseradish
Pickle relish
Maple syrup, the real deal
Dry vermouth (more on this in the 'cooking with wine' entry to come)

3 comments:

  1. Excellent Jill!
    A few other things I like to have are:
    *corn flour-preferably hominy corn, because it's been treated with lime to be easier to digest and is more nutritious. I like the flour because it makes really yummy cornbread, and less is gritty than meal for sprinkling under pizza crusts and such. Also, it's perfect for frying green tomatoes and okra. Amen.
    *pre-peeled, fresh garlic cloves by the gallon from our local Korean or Asian market. I keep them in the freezer and it takes me 6 months to a year...very fresh flavor, and no peeling cloves!!!
    *Zulka-a dehydrated, unrefined cane juice sugar on the hispanic/ethnic aisle.

    ♥ Gwen

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  2. I had no idea vinegars, worc. and soy sauces were supposed to be refrigerated!

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  3. The vinegar thing has been a discussion on facebook!
    My food chemistry friend says that vinegars are a pure acid and don't need refrigeration. But when carbohydrates are added, spoilage can occur. So I don't know about soy sauce, but worchestershire seems like it needs the fridge.
    Worth investigating! I just do what my mom always did.

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