Basic Pantry for Cook Angel

Aged cheese: If you have a block of Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, or cheddar in the cheese drawer, a quick pasta, omelet, or quesadilla is only moments away.

-Alliums (the onion family): Onion, garlic, and shallots hold indefinitely at room temperature and are the aromatic base for so many staples. Fresh scallions hold for a good couple of days in fridge and are milder, but equally versatile.

– Cured pork: Bacon, pancetta, prosciutto are the meaty equivalent of aged cheese, things which quickly add richness and depth to braises, soups, stews, or sauces.

– Freshly ground black pepper: Try cracking pepper fresh and you’ll ditch the pre-ground stuff which isn’t nearly as vibrant.

– Herbs: I try to always have some fresh rosemary or thyme in the crisper. They’re not a large investment (a couple of bucks a piece) and either will hold for at least a week if not two. Pick up more delicate leaves like cilantro, parsley, mint, or sage for specific meals, or get off your butt and make a small herb garden in the spring.

-Kosher salt: This coarse salt is cleaner tasting and better for sprinkling than iodized table salt.

Oil: I generally use olive oil both for cooking and for salad dressings and salsas (in the raw preparations, I’ll go with extra-virgin); the neutral flavor of canola oil is a better fit for stir-fries.

-Spices: I use ground cumin, chile powder, paprika, and dried oregano most often, though cinnamon, curry powder, chipotle powder, ground coriander and garlic powder are also worth stocking in the spice drawer. Grinding whole spices is wonderful, but a more advanced level of preparedness on the culinary weeknight spectrum.

Staple sauces: Soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire, Tabasco, dry sherry, and honey are just a few of the many bottles always stocked in my pantry. Each, in its own unique way, can give depth and complexity to a sauce.

-Starches: Even during the low-carb craze of the 00’s, I never strayed far from this stuff. Starches simply offer nice balance to a meal. I always try to have on hand a bag of rice (I’m partial to jasmine), a box of pasta, and some couscous or grains (quinoa, bulgur, faro) to serve as a side or even the star of a meal.
Vinegar: I use red wine vinegar most frequently, though balsamic is equally versatile, rice vinegar is a staple in stir-fries and Asian sauces, and sherry vinegar is wonderful in vinaigrettes and pan sauces.

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For a little help with dinner tonight.