The three magazines arriving in my mailbox each month include Bon Appetit, Cooking Light and Real Simple. I know I’ve seen articles at least twice in the last two-to-three years about pantry essentials–those items you should always have on hand. These lists are helpful, and frankly I’ve got everything on the list, but they service a very general range of cooking. I like to do a lot of specialty cooking involving Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Indian and German food. Well, okay, German food doesn’t require much as long as I have a Worcestershire, sauerkraut, Dijon mustard and almond extract in the pantry along with brats, pork loin fillets and crusty bread in the freezer. BUT there are a lot of things I keep on hand–in a non-expert kitchen–in order to be able to cook a range of dishes without having to run to Seattle. Since Seattle is an hour away, I make trips occasionally and stock-up for a few months at a time on storable items (then hope like hell my small-town Safeway has the fresh goods I need). With the tightened-belt this year, my well-stocked pantry is really handy. Keep in mind that I’m not a gourmet chef, so I might include mozzarella and say it can be frozen, to which an aficionado might scoff because it’s not fresh. At any rate, my list includes:
- Curry pastes: Massaman, Panang, Red, Green & Yellow
- Wrappers: rice paper, wonton wrappers (freezer section)
- Noodles & rice: Rice stick noodles (for Pad Thai), vermicelli (bean thread) noodles, jasmine rice
- Sauces, juices: Fish sauce, Sriracha, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, tamarind paste (to make tamarind juice) or tamarind juice, tempura dipping sauce
- Oils & vinegars: Tamari, soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar
- Spices: ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, five spice
- Coconut: canned coconut milk and coconut cream (which might come in a container or powdered–I use Kara Coconut Cream Powder)
- Meat in the freezer: chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, barbecued pork
- Other: Canned water chestnuts & bamboo shoots, canned or dehydrated shiitake mushrooms, shrimp paste
Italian (which might be a no-brainer)
- Noodles & rice: Any noodles you prefer for meaty pastas, as well as angel hair, lasagna and manicotti based on what you like to cook; arborio rice (for risotto)
- Tomato products & sauces: Canned, fire-roasted tomatoes, petite-diced tomatoes, tomato paste & sauce, as well as pureed tomatoes; marinara and pesto (pesto can be frozen)
- Cheese: Mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta (all can be frozen–primarily if the mozzarella & parmesan are for shredding)
- Herbs & spices: Oregano, “italian” seasoning (the lazy but safe version of Italian spices), garlic powder, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary sage, basil, nutmeg. Keep in mind that most of the time herbs are preferably fresh, but if you can’t get to the store for fresh, dry is an important option to keep on hand. Use dried spices it in much smaller quantities than the fresh version appearing in a recipe–as much as 80% less.
- Meats: Sweet Italian sausage, spicy Italian sausage, seafood (including shrimp, scallops, etc), chicken, shrimp
- Other: dry white wine, garlic cloves, onions, seasoned olive oil, balsamic vinegar
- Tortillas: Corn & flour (can be stored in the freezer)
- Tomatoes, sauces, salsas other packaged items: Fire-roasted tomatoes, green enchilada sauce, Salsa verde and fire-roasted tomato salsa, packaged seasonings (taco, enchilada, fajita), diced fire-roasted chiles, chipotles in adobo.
- Spices: Cumin, oregano, chile powder, cayenne, smoked paprika
- Meats: ground beef, chicken breast, shrimp
- Dried goods: pinto beans, black beans, white rice
- Other: garlic cloves, onions
That’s it for now. Perhaps on to Indian another day (and most fun to say–fenugreek seed).