Ok, first things first. We gotta build your pantry. Having a well-stocked pantry means you can always pull a meal together from NOTHING. I have been in this situation more times than I can count. Items in your pantry should be the equivalent of those basics in your wardrobe. You know how you have the perfect slouchy jean, the essential white tee, and the boot that seems to go with everything? In other words, your workhorses. So take the time to make sure you have some of the basics in your kitchen AT ALL TIMES. What’s always in my kitchen wardrobe? Extra-virgin olive oil, peanut or almond butter, chickpeas, and wine!
Here’s a list of my PANTRY ESSENTIALS:
- Nuts and seeds, raw or roasted, unsalted (so you can adjust the salt to your liking)
- Dried fruit, like raisins, cherries, tomatoes, etc.
- Fav canned proteins (tuna, chickpeas, crabmeat, etc)
- Fav canned produce (Roma tomatoes, pumpkin, etc)
- Jars of fab extras: olives, capers, cornichons & pickles, roasted peppers
- Nut/Seed butters (peanut, almond, tahini, etc. Real please, Jiff is not going to cut it)
- Quick-cooking Oats (5-minute kind)
- Items that come in a bag: grains bought in bulk, pasta, beans, lentils, rice
- Flour (regular for my husband, garbanzo/buckwheat/brown rice flour for gluten-free me)
- Extra virgin olive oil; add grapeseed and coconut oil if it’s in your budget
- Vinegar, like balsamic; add apple cider vinegar, red or white wine if it’s in your budget
- Kosher salt and black pepper; add red chili flakes, cumin, paprika, curry powder, chili powder, cinnamon, whole nutmeg, and other spices you like over time
And if I open up your fridge, I would be so happy to find:
- Dijon or whole-grain mustard
- Ketchup (without high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredients)
- Sriracha, Harissa, or Chohula (if you enjoy spicy food)
- Sweet red chili sauce (for Asian dishes without too much spice)
- A block of parmigiano reggiano. None of that canned or pre-shredded crap, please
- Fresh herbs of your liking. I always have basil, italian flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, and rosemary* on hand
- Bottles of wine: a chilled white ready to go, sparkling if that’s how you roll, and maybe an opened bottle of red that got a little to nasty to drink. Makes excellent cooking wine
This is my condensed list. As you learn what flavors and types of food appeal to you, you will probably start curating your own list. You’ll soon figure out what works best in your kitchen.
Now print out your Pantry Essentials list and get yourself to a grocery store** so we can start making some grub!
*I bought a potted shrub of rosemary for $8 at Home Depot and keep it on my balcony. I use it all the time. And it doesn’t need a lot of water. Which is great because I live in LA and I forget to water it 🙂
**Explore the cheaper options around you; the Latino market, the Asian grocery, Trader Joe’s, 99¢ store…)