COOKING: 10 Ingredients you should Always Have on Hand for Cooking
We recently came back from our annual vacation where we rent a lake house on a small lake in Michigan. This recent stay was at a house we had never stayed at before. It was a cute A-frame with a small galley kitchen. Unlike other houses we've stayed at, this kitchen was not equipped with much. It was really the bare basics. And there was little room for storage-and honestly, we didn't want to buy seconds of everything just to pack it all up and bring it all back, too.
What this trip did was force us to not only shop for what was in season day by day, but simplify our approach to cooking overall. But being foodies, we still aimed pretty high for our meals. The fortunate thing was we were in the heart of farm country in the Midwest. And farm fresh fruit and vegetables don't need much to be delicious. But it made me realize that the basics we did have or purchased helped us make amazing things. Here is a list of 10 ingredients that you should always have in your kitchen (or in a small lake house kitchen) so you can make the most out of seasonal produce. Or at least make a well balanced, delicious meal for you and your family no matter what you have on hand. I am assuming that this would supplement the absolute basics of salt, pepper, sugar and flour-just to be clear.
1: Granulated garlic
Fresh is always best, but if you just want something shelf stable and versatile, dried is good to have on hand. It can season a basic pasta dish, vegetables, marinades and dressings. It's use is limitless and indispensable.
2: Chicken Bouillon
Chicken bouillon can be the base of a basic soup, but it can also flavor grains as they cook or be the base of a sauce pretty easily. Having stock in a condensed and shelf stable form allows it to be on hand no matter what you decide to whip up. We prefer the "Better Than Bouillon" brand flavors that we have on hand in the fridge. But we also have simple cubes, too, in case we are out of the good stuff.
3: Brown rice
A good basic grain is always good to have on hand to round out a protein or add to some seasonal vegetables as a pilaf or stir fry. We prefer brown rice for the fiber and nutrition. But you can keep quinoa, couscous or white rice in the pantry.
Similar to having a grain on hand, a pasta on hand is also helpful to keep in the pantry. Pasta can become a main dish with whatever you bring from the farmer's market, perfect with some garlic and olive oil, or as a side to your protein.
These guys are a must to keep around. Squeeze some on fish, to a marinade, to a salad dressing, as a sauce, as a garnish for a drink, as a base for syrup, as a flavor to some fresh fruit, or baked in any kind of basic dessert. Lemons can be used for and in just about anything, simply and elegantly.
6: Olive Oil
Olive oil is not only used as a basic way to saute just about anything, but can be used in a lot of baked items, or as a base for marinades and sauces for pasta.
7: Parmesan Cheese Wedge
It's good to have one cheese on hand. We prefer Parmesan. It's salty punch adds a nice layer of flavor to just about anything like salads, pilafs, pastas, omelets, savory tarts, or as simple as cheese and crackers.
Eggs can be a main dish, as crepes or omelets, but can also be a binder in casseroles, stuffing, meatballs, meatloaf and the like. They can help coat a protein for a crust, or as a sauce. And of course, a binder in pancakes and baked goods are table stakes.
9: Sour Cream/Greek Yogurt
This ingredient is a great garnish for fritters, pancakes and potatoes. But we use this as a rich ingredient in pancakes, breads, cakes, sauces, casseroles, fritters, eggs, puddings, etc.
Butter is the basis of all good things. Yes, you can saute anything in some melted butter, or even a brown butter. But butter can richen up a light sauce for pasta, and a base to almost every baked good imaginable.