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Cooking with Joy

Pantry 102:
Let’s Restock


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By Joy Rotondi

A strategically-stocked pantry can provide you with almost all the ingredients for a complete meal. Joy Rotondi’s list includes some typical items such as olive oil and hot sauce, as well as nuts, dried fruit, and asparagus spears.
Included: Lists of pantry must-haves.

This is the second of two articles about keeping the larder full of items with which you can easily build a meal.

You are about to line the larder. Ill help you create a shopping list. The point of all this is to save you time -- and just as importantly, aggravation -- when you go to cook over the next few months. If the pantry is well stocked, all you need is a fresh ingredient or two and you have a meal.

By pantry here, I mean any long-term food storage space in your house, including the place you actually call the pantry, plus the back of the fridge, the freezer, the lazy Susan, and the other nooks and crannies youve assigned to food storage.


About the Author

Joy Rotondi

Joy Rotondi recently returned to the classroom and teaches sixth-grade language arts near Boston, Massachusetts. She was raised in an Italian-American family happily obsessed with good food. Her prowess in the kitchen was first noted when she whipped lime Jell-O to a mousse at age 7. By age 12 she'd advanced to the salmon mousse in aspic featured on the cover of Gourmet.

On Thanksgiving Day 1996, with the help of friend and culinary cohort Cindy Blandino, she launched Foodies.com , a playful site dedicated to serious American cooking.

Foodies.com has been featured on CNN, Better Homes and Gardens , and in The Wall Street Journal, among other places. Her bread and butter for the last 11 years has been designing and maintaining Web sites for the culinary world, including restaurants, culinarians, and food marketers. Rotondi lives on Boston's North Shore with her 12-year-old, a Shetland sheepdog, and four hens.

Visit her Web site Foodies.com.

Restocking won’t take that long once you put your mind to it, but do be sure you’ve purged the pantry before you begin this exercise (see last month’s column, Pantry 101: The Purge). If you’ve completed 101, you should have a shopping list already started -- not to mention plenty of new and empty space for all the goodies.

FULL DISCLOSURE

Here is my final list of what got the heave-ho during the pantry-purge:

  • Ice cream cones (so stale I could bend them and they wouldnt break)
  • Salad croutons (I have this repeating dream that Ill make my own with stale bread)
  • Popcorn (I make mine from scratch and, yes, it goes stale)
  • Crackers
  • Bread crumbs, plain and Italian (there was a tablespoon left in each box!)
  • Salsa
  • Walnuts
  • Dried basil
  • Curry powder (mine was unrecognizable to the nose)
  • Frozen vegetables (I composted the remains of freezer-burned French green beans and corn)
  • Tahini (my can pre-dated the Internet)
  • Cream cheese (Ill buy a couple of the 3-ounce-size from now on -- otherwise, it goes green before we can use it up)

And now, let the restocking begin!

WHAT I RECOMMEND YOU HAVE ON HAND

A Variety of Oils

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Corn oil
  • Vegetable oil (canola is fine)
  • Peanut oil (for high temperature deep or stove top frying)
  • Sesame oil (keep refrigerated)

A Variety of Salts

  • Classic table (for baking when the measured amount is critical)
  • Kosher (for everyday use, including the salt shaker -- trust me, it makes your food taste brighter)
  • Grey or fleur de sel
  • Sea salt (if youre partial)
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Anchovy paste in a tube (salty enough to qualify for this section!)

Vegetables and Legumes -- Canned, Jarred, or Tubed

  • Asparagus spears (one for the pantry, one for the fridge)
  • White beans (a.k.a. cannelini or white kidney), chick peas, black beans, kidney beans
  • Diced, whole and crushed tomatoes (I do not like tomato puree -- tastes sweetened)
  • Tomato paste in a tube (or, if you prefer, in small cans -- youll only use half a can at most, so freeze the remainder in a separate container)
  • Tomato sauce (a couple of tiny cans just to keep on hand)
  • V-8 juice (buy a six- pack of the small cans to keep on hand to improve the flavor of sauce and soup)

Fruit -- Canned or Jarred

  • Pumpkin
  • Apple sauce
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple, crushed and diced

Essential (but not typical) Spices and Herbs

  • Celery seed
  • Dehydrated celery
  • Poppy seed
  • Caraway seed
  • Dill seed (and dill weed)

AND WHILE YOURE AT IT

I am not a big fan of frozen food, but I rely on a few items for everyday cooking.

For the Freezer

  • Pie crusts
  • An assortment of vegetables for when youre fresh out, including broccoli florets, corn, Brussels sprouts, and artichoke hearts.
  • Berries, berries, and more berries (when they are not in season.)

Miscellaneous

  • Dried fruit: Raisins, currants, apricots, dates, prunes (refrigerate), Montmorency cherries, crystallized ginger, crystallized pineapple, and whatever else strikes your fancy.
  • Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, sliced almonds, pine nuts, pecans, salted pecans (refrigerate all, or freeze if you must)
  • Couscous (fasted starch in the West. And East.)
  • Bouillon cubes (or powder, or stock, or canned) -- fish, chicken, beef, and vegetable (I even found mushroom!)
  • Minute tapioca (for quick fruit pies)
  • Hot sauce (Maybe you like Tabasco. I like Cholula.)

This list is based on my familys preferences, not yours. Notice frozen lima beans are not on the list. I hate frozen lima beans. However, I do like soup made with dried limas, but since I rarely brew soup, I wont buy them. Otherwise that sack of lonely beans will just serve as a guilt trip whenever I look in the pantry. Ill buy them again after I retire.

I did list Brussels sprouts. I hate Brussels sprouts. But my kid loves them. Go figure. There is no accounting for taste, including yours, so tweak your list to suit your eccentricities. And Ill see you in the kitchen next month. Well make good use out of your provisions whenever you have the time to check in.