What's In Your Pantry?

I was looking for a jar of hot sauce tonight and realized that I am the only person on this earth that actually knows the complete contents of my pantry. Its shelves are a montage, a collage if you will, a vibrant mosaic of edibles......Okay, it's a mess that only I can discern. My dear friend, Anna, has a walk-in pantry whose contents are clearly organized and visible upon entry. She also keeps the shelves minimally stocked, as she shops weekly according to her preplanned menu. Impressive, I know. If you read my last food post on Cioppino, you know my history. My need to satisfy cravings and to cook with no accountablity is why I do not have an organized pantry. Instead, if you were to venture behind the sliding door of my pantry you'd find layer upon layer, row upon row of odd and ends, essentials and non-essentials, simple and gourmet, snacks and staples. One might think that I am preparing for a natural disaster...that is, if we were all to survive on mandarin oranges, capers, dark chocolate, and chile mangos. These items I always have on hand. The theory is: if I am equipped with all the basics and a little bit of everything else, I can always whip something up for myself, my family, or company. Everything in my pantry, whether it's useful on it's own or not, has the potential to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. Cooking becomes adventurous and unexpected. Instead of forcing your palette to be in the mood for something preplanned, you peruse the pantry aisle of your home, and see what sounds good. I know it sounds unpromising, but I will testify to the fact that it teaches you to make do with what you have, and to make it do things you might not have learned otherwise. Don't worry, we can still be friends if this is not your cooking style. But if you are willing to gamble with your pantry, here is a list of some things I always have in mine (and one possible use of each). Go ahead... Try it--and the next time life gives you lemons...you'll know what to do.

Ruth's Pantry List:

  • olive oil (for everything)
  • olive oil spray (for paninis)
  • balsamic vinegar (salad, marinade)
  • red wine vinegar (sautees)
  • canned tuna (in mac 'n cheese)
  • canned salmon (salmon cakes)
  • canned stewed tomatoes (soups, salsa)
  • canned corn (chowder, calabacitas)
  • capers (salads, pasta)
  • coconut milk (curries, coladas)
  • brown sugar (sauces, roasts)
  • evaporated milk (soups)
  • chicken stock (risotto)
  • beef stock (any asian noodle bowl)
  • canned mandarin oranges (chicken salad)
  • canned pineapple (stir fry, chicken salad)
  • condensed milk (chocolate mousse)
  • chocolate chips (ganache)
  • canned garbanzo beans (hummus)
  • sundried tomatoes (omelettes)
  • cake mix
  • brownie mix
  • graham cracker crumbs (meatloaf)
  • breadcrumbs (salmon cakes)
  • oats (peach crisp)
  • pudding mix (instant pie)

(And don't get me started on the refrigerator or the spice rack!)