Local seasonal cooking or the “use what you have method” is reliant upon a well-stocked pantry of easily adaptable staples. Since I often talk about what I find in my pantry to combine with unexpected pounds of fresh produce to assemble a quick dinner, many of you have asked, “what should be in my pantry?” As a chef, baker, and overall food enthusiast, my pantry is abnormally stocked with 6 types of rice, 8 varieties of flour, an assortment of oil and vinegar bottles and nearly 70 spices and dried herbs, and counting. What can I say, I love spices! However, for the purposes of this post, I asked myself, “what 10 items would you keep if you had to limit your ingredient indulgence?” In other words, below are the top 10 items I always have on hand.
Note: Your well-stocked pantry is going to have a lot to do with the type of cooking you do and the diet you eat [or aspire to eat]. This is my version.
High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Mediterranean diet, need I say more?
Canola oil - sometimes you need a health supportive cooking oil that won’t impart olive flavor
Apple Cider Vinegar - when I thought about it, this is the vinegar I use most in sauces, dressings, marinades, and even stews and bone broth
Dry Pasta - with my Italian roots and carbohydrate loving family, we’re often one box of pasta and some veggies away from dinner
Coconut Milk - for a quick curry, a creamy soup, “nice” cream, or overnight oats, it’s good to have this stuff around
A variety of Spices but only those you’ll use within a year. In the spirit of this post, if I had to choose one and only, I’ll take crushed red pepper flakes, since I use them nearly every day.
Red Lentils - fast cooking, no soaking required, endless possibilities…
A whole grain, and if I had to choose right now, it would be Freekeh, because it’s freaking delicious
Dried Cranberry Beans - New England favorite, they work in chili, make kick-ass beans and rice, and can be puréed into a smooth dip
Canned Chickpeas - I often cook my own chickpeas but having canned beans on hand for unplanned uses is critical and chickpeas are of the most useful
Okay, so ten items is extremely limiting; I’m including a bonus 5 items for bakers:
Unbleached All Purpose Flour - I bake with a variety of flours and meals, but you can’t beat all purpose, because, well it’s for all purposes, and I usually combine that with another variety like spelt or whole wheat
Turbinado Sugar - This raw version is less refined and offers more texture and flavor than its white counterpart, but it’s also versatile and can be used in most baking recipes that call for white and/or brown sugar. It can also be ground if you need it finer.
Baking Powder - Sometimes you need a leavener…and this works more often than baking soda which requires acid in the mixture. Admittedly, this baker uses both regularly.
Rolled Oats - these can also be ground into oat flour using a spice grinder or food processor
Pure Vanilla Extract - usually can’t go wrong with this addition to most sweets…
I forgot salt?! Bonus item: Kosher Salt. So, there you have it. 16 required items in my pantry.