Next up in our series of ‘Sandy’s Six‘ blog posts, Executive Chef Sandy DiGiovanni here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City, allows us a virtual peek into her home pantry. Sandy, a wealth of culinary knowledge, shares with us the essentials she always has in stock at home…
Keeping in mind our crazy Midwest winters, I probably stock the pantry a bit tighter this season than any other. These are a few of the most important items I like to keep on my pantry shelves…
- Dried Beans. Dried beans are fantastic for a go-to meal and they’re easy to store. I like to keep a variety of them, including a mix of soup beans, Great Northern beans, cannellini beans, lentils, split pea… have I mentioned I like having dried beans around?!
- A variety of pasta. Like the dried beans, I keep a number of different kinds of pasta available for use at a moment’s notice. Among my stash, you’ll generally find spaghetti, bucatini, penne, and I’ll include in the list soup pastas, brown rice, black rice and quinoa.
- Olive oil. I don’t usually have vegetable oil in my pantry, but many home cooks may want to keep that in stock also. I like to cook with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), but use what your budget allows. Make sure you store your oils in a cool, dark place.
- Several kinds of vinegars. I like to experiment with vinegars in my cooking. Don’t always just default to using white vinegar! Include red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic and white balsamic vinegars and sherry vinegar in your pantry, and play around with flavors.
- Small containers of spices. Buying spice in bulk for home use is probably not going to provide savings for you. You shouldn’t keep spices for too long in your pantry, or they lose their magical spicy juju. Here’s a quick guide to remember – if you can’t smell them, throw them. I’m speaking in generalities, of course, but it’s a good, basic rule.
- Mirepoix vegetables. Mirepoix – pronounced “meer-pwah” – is a combination of chopped onions, carrots and celery used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, soups, stews and sauces, and as a base for braising meats, etc. They’re vegetables that I constantly use in my cooking, and ones that don’t have to be refrigerated. They’re pantry staples.
There are probably a few other things you’ll ALWAYS find in my pantry, but these are definitely at the top of the list. I also keep a couple jars of prepared salsa and pasta sauce in there to use if I’m in a pinch for time. I’m not a big believer in canned goods, so there aren’t many of those, except some tomato paste and beans, and those are usually BPA-free and organic.
What are the staples in your pantry?