Quick Kitchen Tip: The Perfect Pantry Essentials

There's a few essential ingredients  I always keep in my cucina kitchen pantry. It ensures that I can put together a delicious meal in no time at all. Keeping it quick and easy is the name of the game. 

Here's my love list of Top Ten essential ingredients:

  1. Parm cheese. The real deal, please. Parmiggiano- reggiano.  It's expensive, but it makes flavor go a long way. Satiating and soul satisfying.  A must-have topping for pasta, or ingredient for everything from antipasti appetizers to soups, salads and stews. 
  2. Extra virgin olive oil.  You don't want to skimp here either. The best premium oil  is not for everyday cooking, but for salads and anywhere drizzling finishes off the dish. I use a next best evoo for roasting, grilling and lightly sauteeing.  I also like to keep some flavored finishing oils on hand as well to drizzle on soups, fresh veggies and cheese. Use sparingly to let the dish sing. 
  3. Chicken stock.  Organic if available.  This is one of the most versatile pantry staples you'll keep on hand. Use it as a base for soup, flavoring stews, a few tablespoons to finish off a sauce.  
  4. Cream. Whip some up with a pinch of sugar to make a dolci dessert .  and thickening sauces and ice cream and creamed corn and just about anything yummy you can think of.  A little goes a long way with this simple staple. 
  5. Canned tomatoes. it goes without saying that when tomatoes show up at your local farmer's market, use them fast and fresh while they are in season.  But when they fall away and the only thing you can find at the grocery is dull and flavorless tomatoes, canned tomatoes will save the day.  Another super versatile time saver. Use as the feature in pasta or vegetables sauces, savory stews, super fast soups, or  to brighten meat and chicken dishes. 
  6. Salt. Seems like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many salts are available on the market now.  Kosher salt is my staple favorite, but I also have condiment dishes filled with flavored savory salts right next to my stove. A pinch can add a lot flavor without a lot of fat. Use as a rub for meats,  or a flavoring for fish.  Salt of the earth. Gold of the food gods. Oh, and don't forget the other all important seasoning to keep by the stove,  freshly ground cracked black pepper. 
  7. Fresh Herbs.  I have a raised bed garden in my backyard that changes with the season, but there's a few things that are staples year-round: fresh herbs.  I have a huge bush of fresh rosemary that is the mother of the brood. Her long piney needles are given up so I can use them chopped in freshly baked foaccia bread,  piping hot polenta, marinade for meats or flavoring for sauces, like my rainy day ribs.. I even use the branches as skewers for grilled shrimp  or sausage spiedini
  8.  Breadcrumbs.  Made from scratch with a leftover Italian loaf in the food processor  or snowflake-like panko coarse crumbs from a bag, they are my secret weapon for crunchy deliciousness in a simple pasta dish, breading for fish or as an ingredient binder for polpettini meatballs or a good old-fashioned meatloaf. 
  9. Citrus. There's nothing I love more than fresh-squeezed OJ in the morning. And, it's a staple for my cooking. Blood oranges, persian limes, Meyer lemons. Whatever is in season is always in a big bowl on my counter.  I use the juice as a low fat acid flavoring for salads,  sauces and sorbetto. There's no waste here: use the zest to brighten the dish or preserved peel as a cocktail condiment.  It's even one of the main ingredient in one of my favorite drinks, limoncello. 
  10. Prosecco.  Never trust a cook who isn't enjoying herself in the kitchen. A toast to the chef and a chilled bottle in reserve for the guests. This inexpensive Italian sparkling wine is festive, fun and won't break the bank.  It's my sunday brunch staple. {and my day off in the kitchen when my husband takes over at the stove.} And, you really can use it in cooking. One of my favorites is Prosecco laced- peach risotto with smoked sage porkchops

Buon appetito! copyright 2011 Alisa Barry

No comments: