I don’t have what you would call a well-stocked kitchen. I tend to buy ingredients on an as-needed basis. This became annoyingly apparent when I went to make my famous homemade guacamole the other day, only to realize that I lacked a much-needed ingredient– lemon juice. So I schlepped off to the grocery store mid-recipe, vowing to never let this happen again.
Good cooks don’t run out of important ingredients. I use lemon juice in a variety of recipes –from my guacamole to my rapid roast chicken, but I only buy lemons when I am “planning” to make these dishes. But that is about to change. These are the ingredients that I plan to have on hand from now on:
Fresh basil: I use fresh basil in everything, but I can’t seem to keep it fresh (I guess I don’t store it properly). At close to three bucks a bag for fresh basil it can get expensive, so I’ve found the solution– a windowsill herb garden in which I will grow my own basil.
Garlic: Forget buying one clove at a time. I’ll go to my local produce junction and buy a whole giant size bag of garlic. At a buck a bag, I don’t even care if I don’t use it all before it goes bad (although I think garlic has a pretty long lifespan).
Olive oil: I will only buy olive oil from now on. No more vegetable oil. Olive oil is healthier and much better for cooking. Recipes are always calling for olive oil.
Balsamic vinegar: I need to have this on hand to mix with the olive oil for vinaigrette.
Canned diced tomatoes: These are a lifesaver for impromptu recipes that call for tomatoes. Plus, even the canned variety of tomatoes are good for you. I plan to stock up, so I never run out.
Chicken broth: I never buy chicken broth unless I have to, but I’m always coming across delicious sounding recipes that I can’t make because this is the one ingredient I don’t have. No more. I’m buying a six-pack of cans, which I will replenish when I get down can 3.
White wine: We don’t have a wine cellar. In fact, my husband and I only buy wine on an as needed basis. But next time we go to the liquor store, I’ll pick up an extra bottle or two of dry white wine, for the sole purpose of cooking. Lots of recipes call for white wine, and although you can sometimes substitute chicken broth or another liquid for it, I prefer the real thing.
Dijon mustard: One thing I do stock up on is condiments, but I always forget the Dijon! I already have yellow mustard, honey mustard and brown mustard– but Dijon is the best for cooking so I will be buying a bottle of that.
Heavy or whipped cream: This is another item I need to keep on hand, especially for dessert recipes. I’ll buy it and if I don’t come across a recipe that needs it, I can always add some vanilla to it and make homemade whipped topping (I’ve seen some Food Network chefs make the homemade whipped topping, and it makes me never want to buy Cool Whip again).
Unsweetened cocoa: If I would only keep this on hand, I’d always have chocolate for brownie and frosting recipes– plus I could whip up a homemade batch of hot cocoa for my kids instead of buying those sugar laden instant cocoa packets.
Lemons: Yes, I will buy lemons. A half dozen of fresh lemons, and I will use them religiously. If I don’t need them for anything else, I can always make lemonade.