Many women fantasize about owning a walk-in shoe closet. My fetish is about a pantry the size of a decent sized kitchen, equipped with spare oven and range, and backup freezer.
Imagine this. It's Saturday morning, just before noon. You are just retuning from your weekly tour de force shopping expedition, having visited several of your favorite grocery and fine food purveyors. Butterflies and knots start kicking around in your stomach. You pull into the driveway. Feels like the garage door takes forever to fully retract. Like a race car driver at the gate, your senses go into overdrive. Your know that three doors sit in between you and the pantry door. Locks, oh yeah, darn locks: you carefully play back the sequence of unlocking the first door, with tai chi-like recall and then bursting through the inner rooms.
You make it through the first two doors. Four eco-friendly grocery bags , packed to the brim pump your biceps, cut into your poor hands. But you feel no pain. The excitement and anticipation paints only one picture for you: semi-empty shelves , waiting to be made right.
You make into the kitchen and quickly burst into the pantry, unload pounds of goods with a craftsman's skill. Cured olives in the Mediterranean section. Corn meal set beside the baking aisle. Heavenly oriechiette pasta land on the lofty top shelf. Aisles ? Yes this is a pantry , not your favorite Trader Joes. Round one done but your are hungry for more.
Now continue imagining. You are really start feeling the heat. Time to lose the shirt and strip down to your pristine white Hanes, now noticeably moist with sweat. You know that there are three more bags to go, each heavier than the first set. After a quasi-refractory period as you climb back up the drive way, you make it once again to the SUV trunk. You load up the precious cargo of fresh veggies, tomatoes, fragrant herbs, delicate cheeses and imported beers. And then back down to the pantry. Victory, happiness, pantry ecstasy once again. Ahhh...
Wait a minute, silly rabbit, got a bit carried away here. Let's break with fantasy and answer the initial question. What's a good baseline stock to keep in ones pantry?
Here's my partial answer. We will explore more in the future.
White wine (for cooking anything but Chardonnay)
White Balsamic Vinegar
Imported Italian Red Wine Vinegar
Imported Italian White Wine
Imported Spanish Sherry Vinegar
Chicken stock in 1 cup containers (brand: Pacific Natural Organic)
Cointreau Orange Liqueur
Trimach Clear Sloe Brandy Liqueur
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) , always have at least a spare gallon
Irish or Danish Unsalted Butter
Imported Grated Pecorino Cheese
dried lentils (red,brown , yellow, any type of dahl)
dried small white beans (habichuelas blancas)
Cous-Cous (regular and whole wheat)
Roma Tomatoes, ripened in your kitchen
Yellow and Orange Peppers
Assorted Chili Peppers (try your local Mexican store)
Fresh or Frozen Basil
Fresh or Imported Dried Oregano Bouquet - no Containers please
Frozen Arthichoke Hearts (Brand: Birds Eye)
Red Onions , small size
Black Pepper Corns
Small white potatoes , assorted fingerlings (white, purple, red)
Lemons and Limes
Canned or Jarred Products
Imported Strained Italian Tomatoes in tall glass jar
Heart of Palms packed in light brine, glass container
Canned White beans - habichuelas blancas (brand: Goya)
Imported Sicilian tuna fish packed in olive oil
Imported Country Style Creamy Honey (Brand: Germany's Langasse)
Good French or English Orange Marmalade
This list is a good start for items that you should always keep in stock. Just add fresh items such as in season fruits, vegetables , lean meats and seafood. I have been skipping the poultry for ages now.
Next time we will talk about a spice cabinet, yes a cabinet and not a rack. It's near the pantry, and yes it smells really good. I will behave, promise.