Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The well-stocked Kitchen

What does having a well-stocked kitchen mean? I believe it means having the basics in your cupboards, at your disposal, from which almost any meal could spring. To me, this means onions, garlic, carrots, and celery to provide the base for just about anything from soup to sauces; nuts, legumes, pasta in various shapes, and your favorite grains as side dishes or the base of any vegetarian cooking; flavorings such as herbs and spices, salt and pepper; baking basics like sugar, flour, and eggs; and fats such as butter, olive and canola oils. With these basics you can create almost anything. Never be without them. Restock them immediately when you run out. The key is to be ready for nearly anything. Consider this like making an emergency preparedness kit, except the “emergency” is dinner.

Take note of what you cook regularly. You’ll see a pattern emerge. I gravitate towards Italian and Mediterranean dishes, so I almost always have ingredients on hand that are typical for that kind of cuisine. This makes me fairly ready to make just about anything I may be in the mood for. I find it easier to do my weekly shopping when I have the basics on hand. It saves time. To make something, I usually only need a few more things to complete the dish. When I shop, all I really need are the perishable items like fruit and vegetables.

Also, the well-stocked kitchen means you could be buying in larger quantities, which will save you money. “Bulk” shopping is definitely worth it if you use these things regularly. It’s easy to go overboard though - not everything has an infinite shelf life. Spices, for instance, shouldn’t be kept longer than 6-9 months. They lose their potency. Other stuff just gets rancid (nuts, for instance, and anything else containing oil. Make sure you turn these items over with a fair amount of speed).

The “well-stocked kitchen” makes cooking more fun. You have the tools you need at your disposal and future culinary creations are only limited now by your imagination.

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