If you’re anything like me, your pantry is pretty full – canned tuna, black olives and that lemon muffin mix that’s been there for years – but you still find yourself pulling the same five things out, week after week. What are some go-to pantry staples we’re not using but should be? Five nominees from yours truly:
Anchovies: Fantastically useful and owners of a seriously bad wrap. Toss two into a food processor with a couple cups of parsley, a few pine nuts and some olive oil and you’ve got a truly great sauce, suitable for everything from steaks to omelets.
Fish sauce: See “Anchovies, replacement for.” Also a difference-maker in stir-fries. The stuff smells pretty nasty on its own, but shares the sandbox quite nicely when cooked.
Chipotle chilis in adobo sauce: These are basically smoked jalapenos, but bear little resemblance to the sharp, biting heat of the original pepper. They’re deeply flavored, smoky and good in soups, for marinating chicken or pork, you name it. And they seem to last forever.
Balsamic vinegar: This is pretty obvious, but the black stuff is so damned useful I had to include it. As a reduction with boiler onions for topping steak, combined with olive oil as a simple salad dressing or (with the good stuff) drizzled over ice cream, balsamic shows up everywhere in our meals. I usually have three different bottles going, and highly recommend the 8-year balsamic from Aceita Reale (from World Harvest). Yes it’s $35 for a small bottle, but used sparingly for special occasions it usually lasts me four months or so.
Frozen pork bits: I save the trimmings of porchettas past, bacon and skin (smoked and sliced). As the base or later addition to soup or pasta these random pieces, which would otherwise go to waste, end up doing the pig proud.
A few more:
Great olive oil and good olive oil. Right now I’ve got Dal Raccolto and Saifan, respectively. Both from World Harvest.
Chicken stock. Homemade is better, but I usually have some low-sodium Swanson’s laying around in case of emergency. And it costs quite a bit more, but the organic, free range broth I got at The Root Cellar was also quite a bit better. Make and freeze your own, but have a Plan B.
Rice noodles, risotto, good canned tomatoes (I like Furmano but have to have them shipped in), peanuts…
Now it’s your turn. What do you find yourself reaching for time after time?