Ingredients for a Gourmet Pantry
By Editorial Staff
Contributed by Info Guru Aurora LaJambre
Anyone who loves to cook knows the value of working with high quality ingredients.
Keep a well-rounded selection of your favorites on-hand, and you’ll never be far from the next homemade delight.
These top ingredients for a gourmet pantry are staples for any serious home cook.
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10. Balsamic Vinegar
No home chef’s pantry is complete without a fine bottle of balsamic vinegar. This smooth, bold ingredient is a perfect muse when you’re feeling uninspired. When added to a protein, the sugars caramelize and help form a thick crust. Drizzled on salad, veggies, fruit or cheese you get a dance of flavors in every bite.
Pasta comes in many shapes, sizes and textures, so why not collect them all? Store each in a clear canister and in a glance you’ll know exactly what and how much you have of each. Look for imported pasta from Italy for the best texture and flavor. Sorry American companies….Italy rules for pasta!
8. Dried fruits
Dried fruits add texture and a burst of bright juiciness to every bite. They give rice an appealing jeweled look when chopped and tossed in with a few spices. Best to buy organic as fruits are dried with the skins on, which means pesticides and preservatives go with the package otherwise.
An all purpose flour is essential for many baking needs and it’s handy to have for thickening sauces. You may be surprised to discover how many flours there are beyond your basic white wheat flour. If you or someone you’re cooking for has a gluten allergy, keep a supply of potato and corn starch on hand, as well as brown rice, tapioca, corn and sorghum flours so you can make your own gluten-free all purpose flour blends.
The right gourmet salt transforms even the finest cuts of meat. But salt doesn’t just add flavor. Sprinkling Kosher salt on veggies effectively “sweats” them, softening them fast by removing moisture. Keep a selection of Kosher for cooking, sea salt for finishing a cooked dish and flaked sea salt for bringing out the briny flavors in seafood.
5. Baking must-haves
Home chefs with a sweet tooth know that after every good meal comes an even better dessert. Baking powder, baking soda, sugar, vanilla and fine chocolate are the usual suspects on a baker’s favorite shelf.
4. Dried beans and legumes
Unlike delicate ingredients for a gourmet pantry, dried beans and legumes are fantastically affordable and last a long time. They’re also versatile and pretty. Stock up on hearty adzuki, red, blank, pinto and white beans and you’ll always have a creamy, nourishing protein to throw in the slow cooker, or add into soups, pastas and salads. Plus they’ll keep you well fed during unexpected snowstorms.
3. Specialty sauces
An easy and fast way to add a twist to an old favorite dish is with a rich, spicy or tangy specialty sauce. Be warned, buying BBQ and hot sauces can be addictive because no two are alike.
2. Dried herbs
Among all the best ingredients for a gourmet pantry, dried herbs are absolutely essential. Fresh is ideal, but dried bay leaves, oregano, sage and others will bring warmth, earthiness and complexity to food year round.
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The oil selection in grocery stores grows a little larger every year as more people discover the stunning taste of truffle oil on their potatoes, or the high smoke point of coconut and grapeseed oils, making them among the healthiest oils to sauté with. Delicate oils like sesame and virgin are ideal for bread dipping or drizzling over salad. Having a nice variety allows you to enjoy each for their healthiest, most flavor enhancing qualities.
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