I arrived in the new year with my Black Solstice superpowers and the energy of “out with the old, in with the new”. Correction. Out with most of the old. Some of us picked up ( and excelled at) new hobbies in 2020. I’m talkin’ ’bout you quarantine cooks and bakers! Let’s harness “new year, new you” vibes and get our culinary houses in order- starting with the pantry.
A well stocked pantry is a foundation for creativity and last minute inspiration. Building that pantry, however, takes time and money. Where do you start? Where do you splurge, and where do you save? I’m here to help with my list of Not-So-Basic Pantry Essentials. Why ‘not-so-basic”, you ask? Simple. Some of these essentials are staples in many households and completely unfamiliar in others.
Even if some of these ingredients are unfamiliar, they are accessible. I have found them in stores ranging from budget grocery stores to gourmet shops. I start my shopping at a budget store to grab items that do not need to be high quality. I make a second stop at a larger chain supermarket or gourmet grocer purchase splurge items or niche products. Regardless if you make one trip or two, follow two rules: buy the best quality you can afford and keep in mind how you will use the ingredient. This is how you determine where to save a few coins and where you’ll need to spend. Let’s use whole canned tomatoes as an example. I would buy the best can of tomatoes I can afford if I was making shakshuka (pronounced shahk-SHOO-kah) because tomatoes are a prominent component of the dish. However, I would save a few pennies with an inexpensive can of tomatoes for pizza sauce since tomatoes are not the star of the show.
I had three goals for this list. First, I wanted to list ingredients used in a range of cuisine. For instance, Sumac is used in both Lebanese and Indigenous American cooking. Meanwhile, turmeric appears in North African, Southeast Asian, and Caribbean foods. Second, I wanted most of the ingredients to have sweet and savory applications. Third, I wanted to encourage you to try something new. Use this list as a starting place for new cooking and baking adventures in the new year.