Hey faithful readers (and you new ones too)! As promised, and without further ado, I am providing you with my list of staples every traditional home cook should have on hand enabling you to throw together an easy weeknight dinner or bountiful and festive dinner party.
IN YOUR FRIDGE
Organic-Free Range Eggs
Milk (I stock non-fat, but you should buy whatever you use most)
Plain (preferably non-fat) Greek Yogurt – as a base for dips, to add creaminess to sauces or dressings, to jazz up and eat as a wholesome snack
Various Cheeses (your favorites) – use for grating, melting & eating!
FOR YOUR FREEZER
Artichoke Hearts/Chopped Spinach/Peas/Pearl Onions/Broccoli Florets – Used frequently for quick side dishes, each of these vegetables works well in a variety of casseroles, creamed dishes, as well as mixed into hot or cold dips.
Puff Pastry/Filo Dough – Quick crusts for desserts, Pot Pies, and countless hors d’oevres
Ground Meats & Sausages – I keep a variety of each for a multitude of purposes; defrost overnight in the fridge or at the last minute in the microwave or saute pan.
Fruits & Berries – great for smoothies and other blended beverages, adding to baked entrees, or as fillings in desserts
Homemade Stocks & Sauces – Thawed stocks can be used as the basis of soups or frozen in ice cube trays, then thrown into sauces as needed.
Gin/Vodka – no explanation necessary, right?
Pastas – a variety of shapes and grains
Rice – long grain or short, brown, wild, arborio
Grains & Legumes
Store bought gourmet Dips, Salsas, Sauces
Canned Whole Tomatoes, as well as Chopped or Crushed – I prefer San Marzano
Canned Tuna in Water/Anchovies (Even if you think you hate anchovies, they melt down in a saute pan and you’ll never know they are there but for the deliciously unctuous, slightly salty flavor they add to pasta sauces and much more.)
Oils for cooking & seasoning/Vinegars – standards like red wine, balsamic, sherry, apple cider are all great, but there are so many more…! Have fun and treat yourself once in a while to new tasting revelations.
Organic, non-fat, unsalted Broths & Stocks – use for soup bases, added depth of flavor to sauces & gravies, heightening the flavors of pureed vegetables (like mashed potatoes!) & Rice Dishes
Dried Herbs & Spices – GO CRAZY & TRY EVERYTHING! (But buy a little at a time to see what you actually end up using; no need to throw money out the window!)
Chocolate – in all its forms, ie baking bars, chips, cocoa powder – Unsweetened, Semi-sweet, Bittersweet, White & Dark
Sugar – Regular, Super-Fine & Confectionary
Flours – As many different kinds as you will use – I urge you to experiment; you’d be surprised how often you can substitute whole grain (healthier) flour for unbleached regular.
Crackers, Bread Crumbs (preferably unseasoned) & Panko
And last but not least, these are the staples I usually have on my windowsill: A variety of Fresh Herbs (stems trimmed, placed in an inch of water in a pretty drinking glass), Lemons & Limes (a little squeeze of juice or added zest can really waken up flavors!), Different types of Tomatoes (Beefsteak, plum, cherry, heirloom), and finally Onions, Shallots & GARLIC!
One last thought: This is a pretty comprehensive list and might be overwhelming to beginning cooks. Don’t be intimidated; stock what you think you’ll use frequently, and then occasionally introduce some of the items you think you’d use less often. Who knows? You might discover a new favorite! Bon Appetit.