Dear Diary,I am exhausted and my brain hurts. If I hear, "What's for dinner" one more time, I'm going to hurt someone. I'm spending all of my hard earned cash on takeout... Please tell me why is there never anything good to eat in my house?
With the right ingredients, you can rise to any occasion thrown your way without much hand-wringing, bloodshed, OR wailing and gnashing of teeth. Last minute dinner guests, a stormy night in, or simply the desire to eat well without leaving the comforts of home… not a problem.
Finally, the best argument of all for maintaining a few well chosen staples: NO MORE HIGH-fat, CARDBOARD-tasting, fast food!
The following are a few suggestions. This list is not the mandatory pantry bible, with frequent security checks by the Staple Police, but a few suggestions that you can tailor to suit your own particular tastes and needs.
Oils and Vinegars:
Olive oil: Extra virgin is dark greenish-gold with a fruity taste. This is great for non-cooking uses such as salad dressings, dips and marinades. Light olive oil is paler yellow and will not scorch when subjected to higher heat. It has a milder flavor which won’t interfere with the dish you are creating.
Vinegar: Vinegar types and flavors are as varied as ladies’ shoe styles. Names like apple cider, red wine, champagne, raspberry, rice wine, sherry and balsamic may boggle the mind. Vinegars made with different ingredients have different purposes. Be brave, be creative! Next time you are at the store, pick up a new vinegar and experiment.
Other lovely condiments
Honey (raw and local)
Mushrooms, dried (like wild mixed, porcini and shitake)
Mustards: Yellow, Dijon, dry mustard, course grain, spicy brown and sweet hot, to name a few.
Sesame tahini paste
Spice mixes in a tube
Tomato paste in a tube
Assorted Sugar: White, brown, raw or turbinado.
Bullion cubes or powder
Flour: All-purpose, wheat, bread flour and self-rising are a few types.
Grits and cornmeal, white or yellow
Mushrooms, assorted dried
Pasta: Spaghetti, Fettuccine, Penne, Farfala, Orzo and small pastas for soups such as stars, ditilani (small cut pasta) or alphabets.
Rice: Wild, Arborio, Basmati, yellow, white & brown
Yeast, fast or instant
Anchovies... yes, trust me. they are useful for more than pizza topping
Beans, canned: Cannellini, garbanzo, Pinto, Red, black and baked.
Broth or stock: Beef, chicken, seafood and vegetable.
Evaporated milk: low-fat or fat-free available
Greek black olives, green olives stuffed with pimientos
Pimientos, diced, in jar
Roasted Peppers, red or yellow
Tomatoes: Crushed, whole, diced, fire roasted, stewed, sauce and paste
Tuna: packed both in oil and in water