What To Always Keep in Your Kitchen: Top Ingredients for Great Food

I’m kicking myself for missing a great food article by Mark Bittman published back in January.  The article, “Fresh Start for a New Year?  Let’s Begin in the Kitchen”, is a one stop source for what every aspiring cook needs to have in his/her pantry and fridge to cook well and, more importantly, quickly!
Let’s get right down to the Bittman essentials (I’ve omitted items that I do not keep in my kitchen and added a few I think Bittman missed):
1. Freshly made breadcrumbs or toasted bread (don’t buy store bread crumbs!).
2. Homemade stock (carrot, celery, and onion will make a simple stock if you don’t have any meat or seafood on hand).  Don’t buy bouillon cubes or prepackaged Swanson stock even if the packaging says “Organic” and “Low Sodium” – it’s all crap!
3. Homemade salad dressing (don’t buy salad dressing in a bottle make your own with my easy recipe)
4. Fresh lemons for juice and zest (don’t buy pre-squeezed lemon juice)
5. Fresh spices like cumin, cardamom, fennel seeds, ginger, pimenton (Don’t keep spices longer than 6-12 months and forget about dried parsley and basil)
6. Dried beans such as black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo, cannellini, etc.  Don’t buy ridiculously overpriced canned beans!
7. Parmigiano Reggiano – the number one make any food taste fabulous ingredient on the planet (butter is a close second).  And please buy the real deal and not the generic Kraft crap they sell at your local A & P (Note Grana Padano is a good, authentic, substitute for Parmigiano Reggiano if cost is an issue).  Here’s my guide to Italian cheese.
8. Frozen peas.  You can add frozen pees to soup, pasta, risotto, eggs, salads, etc.
9. Olive Oil – here’s my guide to olive oil.
Bittman also mentions miso paste, dried mushrooms, frozen shrimp, walnuts and pignoli, capers, anchovies, tomato paste in a tube, olives, fish sauce, and bacon and/or Prosciutto from Italy or Spain (technically Spanish ham is not Prosciutto).
I like to also keep free range chicken parts, dark and white meat ground turkey, pork chops, frozen corn and edamame, and homemade frozen pizza dough.  More importantly, I also keep seasonal fruits and vegetables in stock at all times as well as brown rice, plenty of Italian made dried pasta, arborio rice, soba noodles, sardines, freshly pured canned tomatoes, and tuna packed in olive oil.  
The idea of having the right ingredients in your kitchen at all times centers on being able to cook satisfying meals quickly and efficiently (this will keep you happy and prevent you from paying someone else to cook and serve you foodwhich is the biggest rip-off in recent human history).


  1. Great suggestions Vin.

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