Behind every great chef is a well stocked pantry! Chef Gerry will guide you through what essentials you will need to have in your pantry. Once you have the key ingredients in place you can begin your cooking adventures!
These are basic items that will give you a good start to having a well rounded kitchen. Since no one does well when they’re overwhelmed, it’s a short list to jump start your cooking.
Kosher Salt is much easier to pick up with your fingers, so it gives you tighter control over your seasoning. Plus it distributes and melts evenly. And while sea salt is nice to use as a finishing salt, it’s too pricey to use for ordinary seasoning.
Black ones are fine, you don’t have to go crazy with the pink, white, etc., but make sure you grind your pepper fresh. If you use pepper a lot, grind enough for a few days to make life easier. If you don’t want to invest in a good pepper mill, most supermarkets carry plastic ones. You could also buy an inexpensive coffee grinder, which works beautifully.
Red Chili Flakes
Sometimes a little bit of heat can really wake up a dish.
Smoked Spanish Paprika
Add a teaspoon or two to your burger or meatloaf mix and you’ll think it was cooked on a wood grill. Sprinkle it on roasted potatoes for super smokey flavor. Also great for seasoning chicken.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Unless you’re planning on deep frying something, this is a great “go to” oil.
Red Wine Vinegar
Yes, balsamic is great, but red wine vinegar can be used to flavor roasted veggies, sauces - almost anything that will benefit from a little acid.
Whole Grain or Dijon Mustard
Use a tablespoon for salad dressing, add it to marinades, even coat your roast potatoes with it. Great for adding a little “punch”.
Perks up a dish on its own - add a little sesame oil, and you’ve got a great dipping sauce.
Organic Chicken Stock (or Vegetable Stock)
Whether you want to make a sauce, a soup or just have a cup of hot broth when you suddenly come down with a cold, it’s great to have on hand. Just make sure you read the label - if there’s anything there that sounds like it came from a chemistry lab, don’t buy it.
Crushed or Pureed Tomatoes
I like the Pomi brand in the cardboard container, but canned is fine. Why buy processed “spaghetti sauce”, when you can make your own in the time it takes to boil the spaghetti.
Either chickpeas or cannellini. They’re great to add to a salad or soup. Or even on their own with a little garlic and chicken stock.
Spaghetti, rigatoni, fusilli - keep whatever you like, but always have a box on hand.
If you keep short-grain Italian rice (i.e. Arborio or Carnaroli) you can always whip up a quick risotto with your organic chicken stock (I like to be optimistic)
FOR THE FRIDGE & FREEZER
Hard boil, soft boil, make a frittata, scramble with a tomato and some cheese.
Not the sweet, fruit on the bottom kind. A container of plain Greek style yogurt is perfect for a quick tzatziki, or to add to a baked potato, or even mashed potatoes. Or to just eat on its own with a little cinnamon and sugar for a quick and healthy dessert.
Grated Parmesan Cheese
If you keep it in the freezer, it will last a very long time.
One or Two Frozen Vegetables
I’m a big believer in fresh, but it helps to have a bag of frozen veggies on hand to help out when you just don’t have time to get to the store. Add some frozen broccoli florets to the box of pasta in your pantry, top with the grated parmesan and you’ve got dinner.
One or Two Chicken Cutlets
Get the ones that are thinly slice, wrap them individually, and they’ll defrost very quickly.
I keep a loaf in my freezer - you don’t have to worry about it growing a mold, especially in warm weather, and it’s good to have on hand for toast or a sandwich.
Whether it’s peanut, almond or sunflower, keep a jar in the fridge for a quick breakfast or snack (on that sliced bread you’ve got in the freezer)
I know, you think I made a mistake listing this in the fridge/freezer section. Nope. Unless you’re going through it quickly, keep your flour in the fridge or freezer. It’ll stay fresh longer and keep away those little creatures (weevils) that seem to magically appear.
NEXT MONTH - STOCKING YOUR SPICE DRAWER