The pursuits that keep us busy in life are many and varied. From the hectic schedule of a stay-at- home-parent shuttling children to and fro, to the harried days of an executive commuting to a 9-to-5 job (do those even exist anymore?), to volunteer retirees eagerly giving back to their community, life is busy in different ways for different people. But we can all agree that making mealtime prep more efficient, while simultaneously making it more delicious, is a shared goal we can all get behind. Enter The Modern Essential Pantry, a guide to helping you set up your kitchen for success.
Fresh ingredients are important, but nonperishables, though often overshadowed, are equally vital to getting dinner on the table. A can of tomatoes and a carton of broth are the keys to many of the dishes we churn out of our kitchens (like this simple Mulligatawny Soup), and being caught without them on our shelves can mean dinner plans disrupted or yet another trip to the store. Sometimes the biggest impediment to making a home-cooked meal lies in simply not having the ingredients on hand.
That’s not to say that our cupboards should be packed to the gills with miscellaneous jars and boxes. On the contrary, the trick is to stock smartly, filling your pantry with the ingredients you know you like and will use. To that end, we offer this handy starter guide compiled with an eye to how many of us cook today. The list features traditional staples such as rice and cooking wine, as well as more exotic ingredients, like hoisin and farro, that have found a place in our modern culinary landscape. Start here, then build on this list to meet your own needs and tastes. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of making a delicious dinner out of what seems like nothing. These are the meals that taste like victory.
Cooking wines (white, red, sherry)
Hot sauce (harissa, Tabasco, sambal, Sriracha)
Oils (olive, sunflower, peanut, sesame)
Vinegars (red and white wine, apple cider, balsamic)
CANS, JARS, BOXES, AND BAGS
Beans (black, navy, lentil, chickpea)
Broths and stocks
Mustards (Dijon, whole grain)
Peanut and/or almond butter
Tomatoes (whole, chopped, paste)
GRAINS AND STARCHES
Asian noodles: udon, ramen, soba, pad thai noodles
Pastas (in a variety of shapes)
Rices (white and brown long grain, basmati, arborio)
Crushed red pepper flakes
Salts (flaky, fine, coarse)