The Pantry and The Fridge
These are pantry items you should try to keep on hand all the time.
- Flour (Unbleached and sifted is a good initial choice.)
- Granulated Sugar
- Light Brown Sugar (Recommended – unless you’d like to make your own using molasses and granulated sugar.)
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Corn Starch
- Bread (Of course you can make your own if you’d like! Buy bread flour and yeast.)
- Kosher/Sea Salt (These days we get enough iodine from other sources.)
- Whole Peppercorns (-can be bought in the grinder all ready to use)
- White Vinegar
- Olive Oil (Regular olive oil heats better than extra virgin.)
- Canola Oil (Yes, you need both Olive Oil AND Canola Oil. Do you want to bake a cake with olive oil? No, you don’t.)
- Cinnamon (The first, in your soon to be collection of spices.)
- One or more dried herbs of your choosing. (-for example, Italian Seasoning)
- Garlic Cloves (in a cool pantry – not cold)
- Onions (in a cool pantry – not cold)
- Unsalted Butter
- Eggs (Keep them in their original container towards the back of the fridge.)
Recommended: at least one kind of cheese, light sour cream (Low fat cottage cheese can be pureed in a blender as a substitute.), whipping cream and/or half and half, celery, some kind of lettuce, tomato (-better left on the counter until you MUST put it in the fridge), a fruit that can be eaten on it’s own as a snack (like grapes). You get the idea…
If you’re just beginning to stock your pantry, it can be cost prohibitive to buy all of the following items at once. However, little by little, you can stock these items to have them on hand:
- Cocoa Powder (Dutch processed if you can get it.)
- Unflavored Gelatin
- Soy Sauce (recommended – low sodium)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Worcestershire Sauce
- A Box of Chicken Stock (also beef and/or veggie; seafood stock can also be found)
- Dijon Mustard
- Yellow Mustard
- Sesame Oil (best kept in the fridge after opening)
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Olives (green and/or black)
- Pickles or Pickle Relish
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Hot Sauce
- Peanut Butter
- Your Favorite Jelly or Jam
- Tomato Sauce
- Canned Diced Tomatoes
- Cream of Celery Soup (adds flavor and creaminess to many dishes, like casseroles)
- Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Your Favorite Kind of Dry Pasta
- Your Favorite Kind of Rice
- Panko Bread Crumbs
- Nuts (-best kept in fridge)
- Canned or Dried Black Beans
- Canned or Dried Kidney Beans
- Canned Baked Beans (Can be made from scratch using dried beans)…
Let this list help you to remember what you “need” before going to the grocery store
Some of the above items are stored in your pantry until they’re opened. Then they should be put in the fridge. Be sure to check the label.
Other items could be considered specialty items and you may not want to purchase them until you need them. Examples of these items include: sesame seeds, buttermilk (put it in the fridge, of course), fish sauce, rice noodles, saffron (a very expensive spice – see “Herbs and Spices”), anchovies etc.
Herbs and Spices
Herb: Culinary use of the term “herb” typically distinguishes between herbs, from the leafy green parts of a plant, and spices, from other parts of the plant, including seeds, berries, bark, root and fruit. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are often used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food. -Wikipedia
Spice: A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for flavor, color, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth. In the kitchen, spices are distinguished from herbs, which are leafy, green plant parts used for flavoring. -Wikipedia
Herbs and Spices (Some of the below are edible in both leaf and seed form.):
Parsley: verdant, grassy, and earthy
Cilantro: verdant, grassy, and bright
Thyme: lemony and a little sweet
Basil: grassy and sweet (Variations of flavor, like “pineapple basil”, can be found in places like your local greenhouse.)
Mint: sweeter than basil, fresh
Chive: mildly onion flavored
Dill: piquant and sour
Rosemary: tastes like the scent of a pine tree, earthy
Oregano: mildly sweet and peppery
Marjoram: like mild oregano
Hungarian Paprika: Made from dried peppers, the Hungarian variety is sweeter than it’s Spanish cousin.
Spanish Paprika: Again, made from dried peppers, the Spanish variety is smokier than it’s Hungarian cousin.
Garlic Powder: dried garlic in powdered form
Garlic Salt: garlic powder mixed with salt
Onion Powder: dried onion in powdered form
Mustard Seed: self explanatory – tangy
Ground Mustard: Self explanatory, but an important spice none the less.
Celery Seed: self-explanatory (A relative of the seed that would be planted in the ground to yield celery.)
Coriander: spicy, somewhat nutty and citrus flavored
French Tarragon: bitter-sweet, slightly licorice (usually preferred to Russian)
Russian Tarragon: bitter-sweet, more bitter than it’s French cousin.
Cumin: smoky and meaty scented – smells like a beef taco tastes
Sage: woodsy/peppery – savory yet slightly minty.
Bay Leaves: floral scent, yet they add a desirable floral bitter flavor
Cardamon: spicy, herbal, citrus character – Goes very well with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and other aromatic spices.
Fenugreek: is used both as an herb and as a spice. It has been described as tasting bitter at first, but that is has a smoky and caramel-like finish. It is frequently used in curry.
Curry: spicy and peppery. Curry is actually a blend of spices. Among those most commonly used are cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, red and black pepper, poppy and sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and turmeric. (The latter is what gives some curried dishes their characteristic yellow color.) Commercial curry powder–which bears little resemblance to the freshly ground blends of southern India–comes in two basic styles: standard, and the hotter of the two, “Madras” curry powder.
Saffron: is very expensive and a little goes a long way. The flavor has been described as bitter and honey like at the same time. It pairs well with lemon or a little acid.
*Keep in mind that the flavor of the herb changes after drying. One or the other my be preferable in any given recipe, but in a pinch use what you have. The measurement of the herb utilized should change accordingly.
Did you know that:
- The spice saffron comes from the crocus flower.
- Tomatillos are related to gooseberries.
- The thyme plant is very hearty and in most climate zones can be left outside in the winter.
- Sour cream can be “made” by pureeing low fat cottage cheese
- Scrubbing your pots and pans with mixture of dish liquid, a little (not too much) water, and baking soda will make them shine again.
- When the herb cilantro goes to seed, the seed is the spice coriander.
- Cinnamon has been found to be good for people’s hearts.
- The longer you roast coffee beans, the less caffeinated they are.
- Dill is a helpful plant to have in the garden since it attracts beneficial insects whose larvae feed on aphids making it a good plant to protect your roses.