When I was a little girl, mom had it stocked with lots of stuff from canned foods – some in canning jars – to dried beans and spices. Our moderately stocked pantry was a symbol of comfort and security for our family. It was never bare or barren. When you looked in my mom’s pantry, you immediately knew that she was a cook whose objective was to make sure her family was well feed with hearty, rib sticking, and filling meals.
From those modest pantry items, mom would make magic on Bromont Avenue from the ingredients she had on hand. And what she concocted for family meals would “fill an empty corner,” as my dad would often say. And it did.
In this culture of food we live in, what’s in your pantry or what’s not in it says a lot of about you. My kitchen pantry says I love home spun, comfort food. It contains an array of canned and dried beans, pastas, sauces and spices. Have you ever thought about what your pantry says about you?
I was fascinated by a recent post on Tabletasting.com which presented a list of updated items for the modern pantry. While fanciful, it simply wouldn’t cut the mustard with this every day, home cook.
“These are our nominations for the flavors we want today, the basic building blocks of the stuff we like to make and eat,” stated the Tabletasting.com post. Here’s their list:
- Duck fat
- Maple syrup
- Compound butter
- Whole dried chilies
- Finishing salts
- Kewpie mayonnaise
- Salt-packed anchovies
- Preserved lemon
- Dried mushrooms
- Fish sauce
- Sesame oil
- Smoke Paprika
- Tomato paste
- Dijon mustard
I fancy myself as a bit of a chefy home cook and admit this is a great list. But are these items a great baseline for the pantries of everyday home cooks? So that got me thinking – especially with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that is upon us – what are some of the basic pantry items the everyday home cook or novice cook should have on hand as the foundation for pulling together a quick and tasty meal?
I am an avid Ralphs (Krogers) shopper. Over the past few years, they have made monumental advancements in the quality of their products and in the décor of the stores. They offer an extensive selection of organic products, organic produce and organic meats which are a must have for me. And the remodeling of my neighborhood Ralphs on LaBrea and Rodeo here in Los Angeles rivals some of the upscale supermarkets chains in California. It’s 60,000 square feet of sheer grocery shopping paradise.
Kroger is the parent company of Ralphs and they have been in the food business since 1883. They serve 8 million customers a week. That gives them some solid “grocery cred.” So I reached out to Ralphs and asked them the question. Liz Wilson, a Vice president at Ralphs, answered back and she along with Will Oest, Store Manager and Willard Ship, Manager of Operations met me at the newly renovated store on LaBrea and Rodeo to talk about Ralphs’ list of basic pantry and kitchen essentials.
“Keeping your kitchen well stocked with a few basic ingredients is the key to making creative and delicious meals without a lot of fuss,” said Liz. “When those ingredients range from frozen vegetables to dry spices and pastas, the possibilities are endless.”
So what are those basic ingredients Liz recommends? Here they are:
- Boneless chicken breasts
- Ground meat (turkey, chicken or beef)
- Sauces (pesto, spaghetti, bruschetta)
- Cheese (parmesan grated or hard cheese)
- Frozen vegetables (spinach, broccoli, green beans)
- Spices (garlic salt, sea salt, fresh garlic, black pepper, McCormick Monterey Style Seasoning
- Olive oil
Simple, practical and basic. Now this is a list I can work with. Liz also offers a recipe from the kitchen of Ralphs that you can work with using some of the ingredients on the list. For more recipes, she invites you to visit their site at https://www.ralphs.com/recipes.
Mustardy Chicken and Pasta
1/2 box pasta
1/2 pound chicken breast, skinless, boneless halves
salt and pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Boil water and prepare pasta as directed on package.
Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. On a plate combine mustard and parsley and press chicken into mixture, coating both sides.
In a non-stick skillet heat butter and cook chicken until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes more.
Add lemon juice and water to skillet; simmer for 1 minute. Pour sauce over pasta and toss. Serve chicken over top of pasta.