Friday, March 30

Kitchen Essentials: Pantry

  When shopping many cooks tend to focus on produce and other perishables. We make obsessive  lists, well I do, milk and juice for breakfast, lunchmeat for school lunches, and meat for dinner. In doing so, I often neglect my basic pantry needs. These basic pantry essentials are the backbone of many a great meal.
  Pantries that are stocked and well organized with care have the potential to inspire many impromptu meals. If I happen to stop at the Dallas Farmer's Market and pick up zucchini and summer squash, it's nice to go home and have the essential ingredients on hand for making a truly wonderful meal.
  I thought I would share with you some of my Kitchen Essentials: Pantry. My pantry list goes beyond basics like kosher salt and panko breadcrumbs. I am sure that's because I'm NOT a newlywed  and my pantry has evolved over the years. I choose pantry staples that are distinctive on their own but can also be used and adapted in a wide range of dishes.
  The items you buy will also differ depending on your style of cooking. For example, Aged Balsamic Vinegar is to Italian cooking as Rice Wine Vinegar is to Asian cooking. Both ingredients serve a similar purpose; a small splash can help dishes that just need a little "something."
  Like Old Mother Hubbard, I, Mrs.P,  get a little 'tense' when my cupboard is bare. Yes it's true. After coming in from the grocery store as I am organizing my fridge, freezer and pantry, Mr.P has observed and informs me that I hum the Happy-Full Pantry song. And I Do! I hope this guide will provide you with a jumping off point. Be prepared for the unexpected and keep your pantry and fridge stocked with the essentials for the many delicious meals in your future. Hopefully you will be humming the Happy-Full Pantry song as well!
P.S. Remember, this is MY list. It is adapted for my families use. Review what is best for your family, your pantry and adjust.

The Backbones of a Well-Stocked Pantry

All-Purpose Flour
Whole Wheat Flour
Cornmeal, white and yellow
Baking Powder/Soda
Sugar, refined
Sugar, brown
Sugar, Powdered
Vanilla and other flavored extracts
Panko Breadcrumbs
Kosher Salt
Peppercorns, black and green
Oils; Olive, Sunflower and Vegetable
Unsalted Butter
Cocoa Powder
Dark Chocolate*
A Variety of Spices for sweet and savory dishes
Salted Capers*
Worcestershire, Soy and Fish Sauce
Balsamic, Rice Wine, Apple Cider, Red and White Vinegars
Hellman's Mayonnaise*
Whole Grain Mustard*
Good quality cheeses:
Dried Pasta in a variety of forms
Rice; Brown, Long Grain and White
Dried Fruit
Frozen fruit
Canned fruit
Good Quality Canned Tomatoes
Good hearty Bread, wheat, rye
Citrus fruit, lemons,limes and oranges

*Hellman's Mayonnaise

Why: I'm not even going to get into it with all of you lovely folks out there that ADORE Miracle Whip. All I have to say on the subject is that 'it ain't mayonnaise people'. A good quality mayonnaise is used in sauces, dips, spreads and salad dressings. I could go on but what would be the point? Hellman's, check it a jar!

*Dark chocolate


Why: The percentage listed on chocolate labels indicates how much of the bar is cocoa mass versus sugar. Bittersweet chocolate usually starts at 70 percent, while semisweet usually tops off at 60 percent. I like to stock our pantry with chocolate that falls somewhere in the middle. Dark chocolate comes in around 65 percent, making it a good choice to keep on hand. It can be used in a wide range of baking recipes without changing it's integrity. It makes great hot chocolate too!

*Salted capers


Why: They have a salty, fruity flavor and can be used in many sauces, condiments and hors d'oeuvres.

*High-quality local Honey vs. the 'HoneyBear'

Why: Head to your local farmers' market for the best local options. Not only is the taste unrivaled it also aides in allergy relief. Honey is very versatile. It is used in dishes from savory to sweet and it doesn't make a bad peanut butter and banana sandwich either! I'm just saying.

*Whole-grain mustard

Why: Mustard provides many flavors in one condiment - sweetness, spice and acid. It helps emulsify salad dressings and adds zing! to sauces. It is fantastic on sandwiches made with dark rye bread!  Maille makes a very good whole-grain mustard. Things you can do with whole grain mustard:
-- Season a beef loin all over with salt and pepper, then coat with whole-grain mustard before roasting.
-- Spread on fish fillets, then top with olive oil seasoned panko crumbs, and bake.
-- Make a good thick pastrami sandwich on rye!

Remember these are merely suggestions and I'm sure after I post this I will think of something I forgot. As is usual for me! Overall this works for the Porter South household. With these 'bones' in my pantry I can throw together most anything. I keep a running list of  5 - 10 meals that are my family's favorites. I have all of the ingredients for each meal written down and I try to keep those items in my pantry, fridge and freezer, I try. So when Porter 1, 2 or 3 walks in the door and they ask "what's for dinner"....I can say..."what do you want?".



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