Pantry Stocking: YOUR opinions
You see everyone's ideal pantry stocking of dry goods and flavorings, etc in their cookbooks...but what about us real chefs/home-cooks/wannabes?
What do you always keep on hand that you know you can always turn to to deliver a great meal? Do you keep things that have been considered by your grandmom's mom to be in-substituteable (if that's a word...haha), or do you have other staples in your pantry?
Care to share?
Here's some of my basics:
Sweet Baking Chips (chocolate, PB, etc)
Pepper (Powdered and Whole)
An assortment of pastas.
Vanilla (Pure and Extract)
Hot Sauces (all types)
Canned tomatoes for sauces
Beans and veggies (frozen)
Okay...so, is this pretty good, or what would you do differently?
I'd LOVE to compare with you guys/gals.
Canned diced tomatoes
Canned tomato paste
Canned sweet kernel corn
Canned creamed corn
Dried pasta (spaghetti, bowties, penne)
Maple syrup (from Vermont and Canada)
Canned black beans
Canned brown beans
Chili powder (from New Mexico)
Refrigerator (these things are always there):
Lean ground beef (freezer)
Individual chicken breasts (freezer)
Everything that can be organic is...
I always keep anchovy paste, tomato paste and mushrooms handy, too. Also, because I work FT and my teenage son is frequently home alone for a couple hours, I keep Prego on hand so he can make himself pasta if he gets hungry. For the same reason, there's always a block of Parmesan cheese handy for him.
Love your topic! My list: dried whole chiles (sacred), sardines, jars of tuna in olive oil/cans of albacore in water, several jars of citron honey (I like that stuff!), jams/marmalades, peanut butter, jars of roasted bell peppers and capers...a variety of vinegars and an international plethora of pickled things: American and German pickles, saurkraut/rot kohl and Mexican pickled vegetables. I have sort of a "doomsday mentality" when it comes to stocking that pantry...*sigh...
I couldn't live without lemon, onions, ginger, and garlic around. I know they're not unperishable items, but they basically act like it in my kitchen.
Fish sauce, vinegars, oils.
Pickles and chutneys (pickles in the indian/british sense, not the dill ones!)
Spices: particularly coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, garam masala, oregano, and thyme.
Stock cubes or powder for when I don't have homemade in the freezer.
By the way, I've heard that yeast lasts forever if you freeze it. So far, my experience seems to bear this out, so I thought I'd pass along the recommendation.
I just did an inventory of my pantry in a word document while cleaning it out (tired of buying stuff that I already had) and came up with 231 ingredients without getting to my refrigerator - yes, I'm nuts.
Others have mentioned vinegars - I'd add champagne vinegar to the list - really like the flavor. Other items:
Oils - I'd add hazelnut and or walnut oil to the other suggestions. I also usually have a variety of olive oils - French, Spanish, Italian - ones I use to cook with and ones I use to finish things with.
Salts - all sorts - fleur de sel, kosher (fine and coarse), even found some chili salt that I bought and have no idea what to do with, along with some hibiscus Spanish sea salt that I bought on a whim as well.
Diced tomatoes - not a fan - prefer to cut up the whole canned ones.
Vanilla extract - don't use it, though I guess I've read that there are taste tests where people couldn't tell the difference.
MMRuth--do you always use a vanilla bean where vanilla extract is called for, just scraping out the seeds for things like cookies where there's nothing to steep the bean in for flavor? or maybe you don't bake much? I'm contemplating this approach and wondering how expensive it would be for someone who bakes a few times a week, like me.
On the general topic, because I live about 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, from a decent grocery, I keep most all the items mentioned by previous posters. I keep nuts, whole grain flours, bread for breadcrumbs, and leftover chicken and vegetable trimmings to make stock in the freezer, and have an extra refrigerator/freezer in the basement for this storage. There is no way I'd live without it out here. A trip to the grocery is a minimum hour time commitment, just to run in for a couple items. A well stocked pantry and freezer is essential. We keep beer, soda, large buys of seasonal produce (like apples now,) or large items like watermelons in the extra fridge.
Hi - I don't use vanilla beans in lieu of vanilla extract, but I used them a lot for a number of Lucques desserts over the summer, and just always seem to have one of those vials of them around - if I find them cheap somewhere etc. I don't bake much though, to answer that question. I'd kill for an extra refrigerator/freezer. Or more than two above counter cupboards! The trade off of living in Manhattan - at least I can get most of what I might need in a 3 minute walk.
A quick rummage through my pantry shows:
Dry: all-purpose flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, Splenda, white sugar, brown sugar, gelatin, rice (wild, basmati, jasmine), bulgur wheat, couscous, pasta (linguine, macaroni), nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, slivered almonds), dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, apricots), bouillon (beef, chicken, vegetable), sugar free pudding (pistachio, butterscotch, white chocolate)
Wet: Coconut milk, corn syrup, vanilla extract, orange extract, oil (corn, canola, sesame, olive, peanut, chili, wok), vinegar (cider, white, red wine, chardonnay, chili)
Seasonings: Cinnamon (ground and whole), allspice, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, ground ginger, thyme, oregano, yellow mustard, black mustard, bay leaves, cayenne, red chilies, paprika, black pepper (coarse ground, fine ground, whole), salt (table, seasoned and sea), garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, achiote
Canned: tomato paste, stewed tomatoes, tuna, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, creamed corn, SPAM, corned beef, anchovies, curry paste (red, penang, green), beef stew, lentil soup
If I went through my fridge and freezer, there'd be even more basic goods, though I'm still a ways off from my ideal larder as a few of the dry goods and most of the canned goods are my roommate's.
I love this topic!
Actually, I think my overlap with my grandma is pretty slim. It all depends what you cook!
I don't usually have baking chips on hand because I'd eat them if they were there, and I keep a package of instant dry yeast in my freezer (it costs about the same as two 3-packs of yeast, and yields way more, and can obviously be used in variable quantities more easily). I have honey (4 kinds at last count) and maple syrup (grade A and B) as well as brown and white sugar. I really must have maple syrup around.
Additionally, I virtually always have oil (plus butter in the frig/freezer), several types of flour (inc whole wheat and chickpea), oatmeal, cocoa powder, four kinds of rice at the moment (yeah, I know), various other starches (bulgur and couscous, I think), dried fruits (raisins, prunes, dates and apricots), nuts (almonds, walnuts, and others as required) and canned coconut milk.
I've got some other extracts hanging around (almond, lemon, etc, and anise oil which my grandma insisted I buy to make some cookies but rarely sees the light of day, plus rose water and the more rarely used orange flower water). I have a wide range of spices [black pepper, powdered ginger, chili powder, green cardamom (pods + powdered), whole nutmeg, cloves (whole + powdered), cumin (seeds + powder), coriander (seeds + powdered), anise seeds, fennel seeds, dried mint, plus spice mixes, both purchased and mixed and ground by me, and some other spices I use on occasion but not often] and usually have tamarind in block form.
I also keep several types of dried beans and lentils on hand as well as cans of beans for quick cooking.
I also keep condiments like soy sauce, vinegars, ketchup, jams, peanut butter, and salsa around in my frig, and cans of tomato paste in addition to canned tomatoes. I try to have tahini around because my son used to be hummus crazed and the jar of tahini takes me a long time to go through.
I also have expanded my "pantry" to include my freezer, where I also try to pre-cook ground onions for faster cooking during cooking emergencies, and frozen chopped herbs. I like having frozen berries, but I'm not sure if this is really a "pantry" item?