Monday, February 10, 2014

The Pantry

This is something I started a while back, and it's been written because one of my sisters asked me to do so.
Apparently she was trying to look up what should be included in a well-stocked pantry, but could only find lists of things she deemed "weird" and "random."
I guess we're talking basics here- things you want around and not have to run out to the store to purchase, but I don't know how basic I'll actually be.
Maybe it's reality for some people, though others might say they have no use for something I think important.
In that case, maybe it's an example of well-stocked for Natalie's purposes.
Frankly, I don't believe anyone's going to print out this list and take it to the store with them, and I don't think there are many out there building a pantry from scratch.

These things I list should last a while shelf-life wise, and at least a week for those that expire (and for that you would check out the expiration date on the milk to be sure).
Fill in with things that you should be purchased closer to the dates they're used: meats, salad greens, many fruits and vegetables other than those I have listed.
I'm not saying anyone needs to really stock up on the perishables. Those weeks you NEED three gallons of heavy cream are probably few and far between in a home kitchen (and then the issue of economy can come up once it's gone bad and you've used less than a half gallon).  A pint, however, is a more appropriate amount.
And there's the question, what are five ingredients you always have in your shopping cart? Mine would probably be fresh garlic, fresh lemons, kosher salt, whole black peppercorns (to grind), and wedge of real Parmesan cheese (no green shakers). But then if I start thinking about other things, I wonder about whether I need to substitute good olive oil for something.... and are the salt and pepper understood, or do they have to stay on the five-things-only list? I'll keep thyme in the garden, so that's not an expense to worry about.

Then again, the whole idea could make a good challenge: you will have a plain chicken breast, salt, and pepper. You may have 4 other things to make up a completed dish. What will you do?
My only other comment is to buy the best you are able. Assume the word "good" precedes each item. You generally pay for quality. If organic is important to you, please buy it. If small businesses are important to you (and small and/or local farmers trying to eek out a living), please support them.
And if you're partial to Wal-Mart, I don't really want to hear about it. But if that's what you can afford, that's fine.
One other little thing: beet sugar and cane sugar are not the same thing (and a sugar beet is not the same as the commonly known beet root). They may have the same chemical makeup, but they don't behave the same way, and cane sugar is the winner in comparative tastes of finished products. I would rather not listen to the salesmen on the subject, but instead to the people who use mass quantities of it every day.
Plus, think of all the happy children in Hawaii who benefit from your purchase of pure cane sugar.

sugar (raw if you can)
brown sugar
golden syrup (mmmmm)
real maple syrup

Parmesan cheese
heavy cream
whole milk
plain yogurt
butter (both salted and unsalted)
large eggs

Grains/Nuts/Seeds/Dried Beans
basmati or jasmine rice
arborio rice
whole oats
raw almonds
sesame seeds
several varieties of dried beans (black, lentils, split peas, cannellini, etc.)

Oils and Vinegars
olive oil
sunflower oil
white wine vinegar
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
sherry vinegar

Spice Cabinet
kosher salt (plus grey salt, fleur de sel, and maybe another type or two if it's up to me)
whole black peppercorns or a blend (and a pepper grinder)
dried thyme
dried oregano
bay leaves
cayenne pepper
curry powder
whole nutmeg
whole cardamom
whole cloves
real vanilla or vanilla beans (if not real, I'd personally not want anything)

chicken broth
vegetable broth
whole tomatoes (in a glass jar or lined can)
a variety of beans
Dijon mustard

AP flour (if you use it, and/or  a variety of GF flours if you're using them)
aluminum-free baking powder
baking soda (bicarbonate)
cocoa powder
dark chocolate


dried cranberries
dried apricots
shredded coconut

fresh parsley
fresh rosemary
fresh thyme
fresh ginger root


  1. Natalie - your photos are really looking great! Love the use of natural light and arrangement!

  2. Thanks so much for putting this up! I've really been looking forward to it!