Top 10 Pantry Provisions

I am often asked what I keep in my pantry. Well, being that I live in a very old house {built in 1911}, there is barely any storage space, so every square inch counts in my house. My pantry consists of exposed shelves and a few small cabinets. So, I am forced to edit and purge on a regular basis and only keep around pantry provisions that I love and use often.

Aside from my die-hard must haves, I am always trying and tasting new products. Wherever I go, I often find myself hauling back a full suitcase of glass jars, tins or bottles of something I have discovered along the way. I have even been known to carry onboard the plane produce and flowers and tomatoes and such.

And, then, there are the pantry provisions that are the everyday staples. I have my beloved basics. They are the ingredients that show up in most meals and are standing at the ready when inspiration calls.

Here is a list of my top ten pantry provisions:

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The holy grail. God's gift to cooking and eating. Whenever I travel to my two favorite olive oil places- Italy + California, I am {dangerously} stashing a collection of green colored bottles in my suitcase. And yes, occassionally, they do break.......

2. Vinegar.
I love and have on hand all kinds. Balsamic, cabernet red wine, french champagne, apple cider, white wine}. I must have - and actually use- them all! I use them in vinaigrettes, to deglaze the pan for sauces, in mayonnaise and pickled veggies, poaching eggs {keeps the whites together} and for adding that nice acid balance to just about anything savory. A splash will wake up the tongue and fire up the senses.

3. Salt
Next to my stove, I have a platter of salts. 8 different kinds, to be exact. I store them in ceramic bowls on a platter and take a pinch of whichever salt flavor will go with the dish I am cooking or serving. I use a kosher salt as my everyday staple, everything seasoning.
A European flat salt crystal called Maldon is my next favorite staple. I have tried the black salt, the pink salt, the grey salt, but I find that I always go back to the basics. And then there are the Aromatic Savory Salts. A flavor infusion condiment. Full disclosure, they are a bella Cucina product, so they are near and dear to my heart {and my food!}. Nonetheless, I think this is a great product and its [surprise to me} been a best-selling catagory. The savory salts are made with a mix of both kosher and organic flat crystal salt laced with wonderful herbs from Italy, france, greece, to name a few. I can't live without 'em now that I have them. Try making your own at home with your favorite dried herbs.
They are great as for seasoning before grilling, roasting or sauteeing. Use like a dry rub or mix with olive oil and make a paste.
I serve a few with icy cold radishes for dipping with french bread and sweet cream butter {my favorite!}. I use them as a finishing salt on veggies and salads. endless ideas, always inspiration.

4. Rice + Pasta + polenta + grits + .......all the starchy goodies that make life a comfort.
Our friends from Lotus Foods keep us well-stocked with rice. They import rice from all other the world. Bamboo infused, black forbidden, basmati, red buthanese. All distinctive and deliciously different flavors, textures and tones. A few surprise on the plate. And, I love my other favorites - canaroli {for risotto} and nishiki, a wonderful starchy short grain Japanese rice. Growing up, rice was staple on the plate and one of my favorites- still is today. Rice pudding will always bring me comfort love.

Pasta = Martelli . hands down. They only make a few cuts and still air dry the pasta after extruding it from old, bronze dies. I still cherish memories of sitting around the dinner table with the entire Martelli family during one of my early first visits to Italy. No wonder I fell in love!

Polenta + white corn grits= anson mills. not just because they are local and mill onsite from organic heirloom grains. They taste the best. I like to mix 1 part polenta + 1 part anson mill white corn grits together for the perfect texture, flavor and color. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. A wintertime must - have meal.

6. Herbs + Spices
I typically go out to the backyard for fresh herbs. Marjoram, basil, rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena, mint, fennel. Some are from seeds picked up along the side of the road, and some have been living in our container garden for years.
I'm really not that good at incorporating spices into my recipes, but I have a few favorites that i simply adore - peperoncini chili flakes and spanish pimenton. That's it. Keeping it simple is sometimes best.

7. Nuts + fruits
Golden raisins,dried cranberries, black currents, dried cherries, sicilian pistachios, Italian pine nuts, California Walnuts + almonds. Sounds like a wonderful trail mix, or granola mixture or panettone filling! I keep only little bits on hand, otherwise they dry out or go bad. Love 'em in salads, pestos, pastas, bread name a few. Here's a tip: don't toast your nuts until you are ready to use. They will stay fresher and not stale as fast. Best to keep in freezer, but alas, I dont have one!

8. Beans + other dried legumes
Lentils have always been a staple favorite. In wintertime, pea soup is always on the menu, so there a plenty of beautiful green peas floating in a jar on the counter. Black beans and borlotti, cannellini and broad beans. Adsuki are there, but I don't cook them enough. Love white beans mixed with greens {especially in soup} or mashed up with peperoncini and olive oil for bruschetta toppings. Occassionally, I have Dal on hand, but mostly because I love the color and sometimes when I dare to cook something Indian style {which means I have to beef up my spice rack}.

9. Honey
Besides the fact the my sweetheart has a sweet tooth, I love to keep different honeys on hand. keep me out of the grocer when I am Italy. Chestnut honey is my favorite. distinctive and nutty, a perfect pairing with grilled figs and cheese. And drizzled on fresh ricotta with fresh summer berries. When I lived in California, that was my morning breakfast treat. There's local clover and tupelo and sourwood, to name a few. The flavors are of course different, depending on the agriculture on which the bees feed. If you haven't tried a honeycomb, you will be in for a treat. Our friend Ted from Savannah Bee Company makes the best there is.

10. Preserved Lemons
This may seem like an obscure and unusual staple, and it probably is. But, it is one of my favorite flavors that easily pack a lot of pow for the punch. Preserved lemons can easily be made at home and there is a great book that I recommend. They need to see for at least 40 days to cure, so if time is an issue, you can always find them here {another signature Bella Cucina product}.

I would love to hear what pantry provisions are near and dear to you in your own kitchen. Drop me a line and send me any favorite recommendations.
Buon appetito!

copyright 2009 Alisa Barry


Kathy said...

Ok I'll play!

1) Oregano, Rosemary and a slew of other herbs (most are in my garden, too)
2) Lavender Honey
3) Lemon Olive Oil and Fig Vinegar from Oliviers (I have a case of each at all times--use it for everything from scrambled eggs to salad dressings)
4) Pasta
5) Chipolte Peppers in Adobe sauce (canned; great in SO many recipes
6) Canned vegetarian beans
7)Salts, too! Esp am never without: Citrus Rosemary Gray Salt, Sea Salt and Kosher Salt
8) Matiz Torta de Aceite Olive Oil Crisp Bread (always keep it stocked to accompany a dish or impromptu wine/cheese party)
9) Peanut butter
10) Vanilla beans and Vanilla extract (great in waffles and savory biscuits, etc)

Alisa Barry said...

HI Kathy,

I love your list of pantry essentials. I recognize some familiar favorites and will definitely consider some of the others you mention.

Feel free to send any of your favorite recipes to share!
thanks for playing.
buon appetito!

Kathy said...

Alisa--I love your tuscan grill featured. I am trying to talk my boyfriend into buying it but am having a hard time explaining what to cook on it. Any suggestions of what is killer yummy to cook using a slower method on my bbq grill with this Tuscan grill? Thanks for your help-Kathy

Alisa Barry said...

HI Kathy,

we love the Tuscan grill too! It is my favorite summertime kitchen cooking tool. Cook anything you would over a gas or weber grill. The Tuscan grill is best used with hardwood {I recommend a combination of oak for slow burning, hickory for flavor}. You can also use an all natural carbon charcoal, like Cowboy Charcoal for faster cooking. You may wan to put a log or two on that or some soaked wood chips for added flavor.

Right now we are offering 20% off our grill through father's day, so you might tempt your boyfriend to buy one for himself {he might just get away with the title of GRILL DADDY!}

There are some wonderful recipes using the Tuscan Grill on the blog.
here are a few you both might enjoy:

Let me know if you have any other questions!
buon appetito!

sharon said...

>>>...mashed up with peperoncini and olive oil for bruschetta toppings<<<<

alisa, i love white beans and this sounds heavenly for summer. do you use a food processor or your knife? going on the menu for the next outdoor party! thanks for your inspiration. cheers! sharon

Alisa Barry said...

HI Sharon,

Thank you so much for reading and responding. I love to hear what's on your mind and cooking in your kitchen.

I love this anitpasti and first fell in love with a similar version at Mario Batali's restaurant PO in New York. It is easy and so delicious!

To crush up the cooked white beans, I simply mash them with a fork or wooden spoon, adding the olive oil and peperoncini until I get the desired taste + texture.