The Food section in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle highlighted 10 essential pantry items. These are the things you always want on hand so that when you peruse the meats, fruits, and veggies in your kitchen, you always have these essentials on hand to whip up something delicious (although simply satisfying will do on most evenings) with what you have on hand. “The pantry list goes beyond basics like kosher salt and panko breadcrumbs; instead we chose ingredients that are distinctive yet adaptable and add spark to a range of preparations.” Their list, which I imagine was heavily discussed within their department, simply demonstrates to me how differently we each approach cooking. What is essential to them could just as easily be an oddity to me.
Listed below are 2 lists: the SF Chronicle list with my comments in italics, followed by my 10 essentials. Feel free to post your own pantry essentials list.
San Francisco Chronicle list:
1. Mirin – I have never ever purchased Mirin, but the uses listed sound a bit interesting.
2. Dark chocolate – these people must have the mother of all hiding places because the “mice” in our house always find where I hide mine, hence very few chocolate chip cookies ever get made around here. I am the only family member who sees this as a problem at all.
3. Fish Sauce – my secret ingredient! I love a dash in savory soups and stews, and it is essential in many dipping sauces.
4. Quinoa – never bought this either, although we do usually have bulgur or cous cous which they list as possible substitutes. Never underestimate the power of a grain with a nice texture.
5. Chipolte peppers in adobo – oh yes, this is a must. But, only using a pepper or two at a time, even when I save them properly in the fridge, I tend to toss more than I use. There really is no substitute for this deep flavor.
6. Fancy tuna in olive oil – Nope. Never even purchased any yet. I do try to keep some cheap tuna around for snacks, but it more often goes to the cats when I run out of cat food and don’t want to make an extra trip to the store.
7. Salted capers – they prefer salted to brined. I only know brined capers, but gosh I love ’em!
8. High quality honey – nice to have, but not essential in my cooking. Oh, wait, they mention using it to create a simple syrup for cocktails. Cocktails? Hmmmmm!
9. Garbanzo beans – I’ve tried several times to like these babies, but nope, not yet.
10. Whole grain mustard – I am of the belief that one simply cannot have enough varieties of mustard at hand.
(Assuming that kosher salt, black pepper, basic herbs and spices, milk, butter, etc are already accounted for.)
1. Rice vinegar – Perfect for salad dressings, marinades, and lightly splashing on grilled veggies.
2. Chicken stock – some years I’m all into making it at home, and others I’m just not. Either way, I’ve always got some on hand.
3. Fish sauce – once you’ve used this a few times, you’ll be hooked.
4. Dried pasta – with some of this around I can always build something as basic as mac and cheese or a main dish with a light sauce, veggies, and a bit of sausage.
5. Chipolte peppers- even though I rarely use the whole tin, nothing can take their place.
6. Coconut milk – when I have this, I always find a use for it in curries, rice, so many things. When it isn’t handy, I always notice.
7. Crystal hot sauce – ’nuff said.
8. Vanilla sugar – For a few years now we’ve kept a jar of white sugar with a few vanilla beans inside. What a treat!
9. Black beans – I use these in appetizers, main dishes, side dishes … a pantry essential for me.
10. Horseradish – on sandwiches or in dips, the head rush from some earth shaking horseradish is the best!