I know, I know. I promised myself I was going to blog every week. Wanna hear my excuse? It’s not because I haven’t been cooking, in fact I’ve been cooking more than ever. I’ve even been developing my own recipes, and I have a whole folder that includes what will hopefully become an award winning chili. So why no blogging? Here is my confession…food blogs should have pictures. Gorgeous, colorful pictures that make you wish you could reach into the computer and taste the food being shown. I don’t have a nice enough camera to take photos of my food, so I sort of started to ignore my blog. But then I had an epiphany. MFK Fisher didn’t need photographs to be the best food writer ever*, so why not let my English degree work for me a little bit while I wait to get a camera? So I’m back. Hopefully this time to stay.
And this week I bring you some simple kitchen tips regarding what to keep in the pantry. Much of this may seem common sense, and experienced cooks will probably be bored reading it, however for those who are just starting to experiment in the kitchen you will find that with these ingredients on hand you will always be able to whip up something amazing. Here is my annotated list.
Eggs-Frittatas and Omelettes make beautiful dinners especially if you have a bunch of leftover produce you need to use. The varieties are endless and you can experiment with all kinds of spices and herbs. Also having eggs on hand means baked goods, like cookies. (For an example Frittata recipe check out this post from 101 cookbooks.)
Spices-Build a good collection of spices. I find that spices at CostPlus World Market are that rare blend of cheap but decent quality. It can be expensive to buy them all at the same time so pick a few different ones each trip. The spices I use most are: Cumin, Coriander, Chipotle Chili Powder, Chili Powder, Sun brand Madras Curry Powder, Crushed Red Pepper, and Cayenne Pepper.
Butter-The real stuff. Your cookies will thank you. Also mix room temp butter with an equal amount of flour to create a beurre manie that will thicken your sauces and soups nicely.
Olive Oil-Find a good mid-level olive oil for everyday use. The expensive olive oil is better for dipping and drizzling as a sauce.
Pasta-I try to keep several varieties on hand. My favorites are Penne,Campanelle, and Orrichette
Milk-Combine with eggs and you have the basis for custard which will help you create a variety of sweet and savory dishes.
Good Cheese-Fontina, Aged Cheddar, Gruyere all make dishes that would be boring with velveeta or american sing. And I always have a big chunk of Parmesan in the fridge for sprinkling over pasta dishes.
Sugar- With sugar, eggs, flour and butter you will be able to create baked masterpieces in a moments notice. Bonus if you always have a bag of chocolate chips on hand.
Canned beans-Technically this should be dried beans which are cheaper and healthier, but I haven’t figured out how to cook and freeze dried beans so I usually have cans of black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and white beans. Remember to rinse your beans in cold water to get rid of the excess sodium.
Rice-My favorite rice to keep on hand is Lundberg Short Grain Brown, but any rice will do and if you’re feeling adventurous you can keep a variety on hand. Others that I keep on hand include Basmati and Jasmine
Canned Tomatoes-I keep a variety of can sizes on hand. Some 28 oz. cans of whole and diced tomatoes for sauce and chilis, some 14.5 oz. cans for smaller dishes and as secondary ingredients. I’m partial to Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes, which pack a lot of flavor.
Fresh Garlic-Garlic in a jar and garlic powder can’t match the flavor that is offered by fresh cloves.
Flour-Unbleached, all purpose. For baked goods like breads and cookies there is no better than King Arthur’s Flour.
So what kinds of last minute dinners can you make with these ingredients?
- Sauteed chickpeas tossed with olive oil, pasta, and Parmesan cheese.
- Beans and Rice (Experiement with spices to find the flavor you want)
- Cheese Omelette
- Vegetable Frittata
- Homemade Mac and Cheese
- Spaghetti Sauce
- Vegetarian Chili
- Shortbread Cookies
*I’m not insinuating that I have the talent of Ms. Fisher. I do not. yet.