THE LOW-DOWN ON THE BASICS
Below is a discussion of all the items listed in The Basics. Of course, keep in mind that you'll need to always use or rotate through your stuff, even dry goods. The best general guidance is that most anything other than canned goods shouldn't be used past 6 months, its expiration date, or in the case of a twinkie, 11 years. Canned goods, under most conditions, will be fine for a year.
- Flour. Buy at least some all-purpose flour. If you're going to make bread, buy bread flour and, if you're going to make pasta, I recommend you buy very fine grain semolina. Also, plain all-purpose flour is a good thickening agent in sauces, especially when mixed with half the amount of butter. In this category, also have on hand Bisquick mix for pancakes, waffles, and biscuits.
- Sugar. Past standard white, have on hand brown sugar and then some 10X confectioners sugar if you plan to make frostings.
- Honey. Great stuff for lots of things. :-) There is actually a fairly wide variety of honey, so go ahead and experiment. And certainly, experimentation with honey is one of life's simple pleaures. Also, if you want a mild wonderful honey, try Tupelo honey from the panhandle of Florida.
- Maple syrup. Not just for breakfast anymore, I use this for marinades and as a sugar substitute in recipes for added flavor.
- Butter, yes the real stuff. So many uses.
- Vegetable shortening. You also know this as Crisco.
- Eggs. Fresh organic if you can get them. Otherwise, regular brown eggs do have a richer flavor.
- Heavy Cream. For whipping, sauces, creams, etc.
- Buttermilk. Great in pancakes, biscuits, and anytime you want to add an extra bit of flavor in place of cream or milk.
- Cornstarch, as a thickening agent.
- Baking powder and baking soda, as leavening agents.
- Cocoa. Great for making anything chocolate.
- Whole dry powdered milk, if you plan to make chocolates or rich chocolate sauces.
- Sweetened condensed milk. Called for in many pies, esp pumpkin.
- Raisins. For oatmeal, baking, stuffing of poultry, etc.
- Oatmeal. As a cereal and for baking bread and cookies.
- Plain yogurt. This is great for breakfast with fruit, but also is good in sauces and dresssings.
- Preserves and Jam. For toast and in baking.
- Nuts. I have on hand pecans and walnuts, which are great for general baking, garnish, and also in stuffing for poultry.
- Rice. Start with jasmine white rice and consider getting some wild grain, basmati, and yellow rice for variety. Also, Arborio rice is a popular type used to make risotto.
- Pasta. Of course, have some dry stuff on hand, but also a couple packages of fresh pasta in the freezer are great to keep around.
- Cans of crushed tomatoes. Mostly for making red pasta sauces.
- Tofu, when you've had the truly bad judgment to offer to cook for a vegetarian.
- Bacon. For keeping bacon fat handy for cooking and for using bacon stripes when cooking meat.
- Canned salmon. Just because. Pink for my dog, red sockeye for me.
- Some dried mushrooms. Porcini and morrel add tons of flavor to soups, sauces, etc. If you can get them fresh, all the better.
- Hard cheese. At a minimum, keep some Romano around for grating. I also like aged provolone for cooking.
- Stock. Paste or powder, beef and chicken.