Over the past few months, I've been trying to get better about stocking my pantry. Inevitably, I set out to make a new recipe, stupidly choose not to double check that I have all the necessary ingredients, and without fail, about halfway through (and always at a crucial step!) I discover I don't have an important ingredient. Its so defeating to make a second trip to the store for whatever was left behind that I often create a substitution of sorts with ingredients on hand. It's good to exercise your creative cooking muscles, of course, but wouldn't it also be nice if you could just relax and follow the directions, knowing you could count on your pantry to provide the essentials?
I've pulled together a starter-list of basic items (all available in-store) that are handy to have stowed away on your shelves for an easier time in the kitchen.
Oils: It's a good idea to have a nice Extra Virgin Olive Oil on hand; you'll reach for it again and again. Toasted Sesame Oil is rich and flavorful and is used frequently in Asian dishes. Additionally, a neutral oil (I've chosen Grapeseed Oil) is key for moments when you need a bit of fat without a lot of flavor.
Vinegars: Vinegar + Olive Oil = dressing in a flash when you've got nothing else. Find a good Balsamic, Red Wine, and Apple Cider.
Soy Sauce: I actually prefer Tamari to Soy Sauce, though they are very similar. Tamari is made with little or no wheat and is less salty. Can't decide which you like best? Grab 'em both.
Maple Syrup: A good quality Maple Syrup is key.
Peanut Butter/Almond Butter: A tasty nut butter with minimal sugar will prove useful. You'll use it for marinades, sauces, and desserts.
Mustard: Not only is it a perfect addition to your sandwich, it's great for adding a little kick to your salad dressings or a flavor boost to just about anything.
Honey: Good for so many things -- sweetening your morning yogurt, soups, dressings, hot toddies.
Coarse Kosher Salt: The coarse texture of this salt allows for finer precision when seasoning.
Spices: Assembling your spice rack takes time. Look for your favorite high quality spices and buy when you can. Refill your nice spice jars with bulk spices rather than purchasing another.
Dry Goods: I love to shop the bulk bins. Find your favorite grains and legumes. Lentils, Quinoa, Brown Rice and an assortment of dried beans make an appearance in our kitchen. Another dry good we love? Oats. A great addition to baked goods, or part of your morning routine.
A few more items that you won't regret having around:
Milk -- almond, soy, or cow's milk
Happy shopping and good luck in the kitchen!