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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Winter Pantry

A pantry is more than just a storage space for food. A well-stocked pantry can give a sense of order, peace and bounty to a home. The ingredients stored there can also inspire a home cook to create new recipes using favorite ingredients. And, the pantry provides the answer to that eternal question, "What to have for dinner?"

The wealth of high-quality packaged foods available in stores makes it easy to keep your pantry full. Grains, such as pastas, are pantry staples. These grains include couscous, a tiny grain semolina pasta that cooks in virtually a few minutes, and arborio rice, a starchy creamy Italian rice that's traditionally used in risotto.

Other ingredients, like dried mushrooms, go a long way toward adding rich, deep flavor to almost any dish. Items such as capers, olives, dried chiles, anchovies, dried tomatoes, dried cheeses and canned tuna can also pack a punch per ounce, adding fabulous flavor to quick-cook dishes.

Except for summertimes, when tomatoes are flesh and flavorful, canned tomatoes are the better choice. There are lesser-known brands available that have superior texture and flavor, including those imported from the San Marzano region of Italy. Pomi-brand, sold in heat-sealed paper packages, and organic tomatoes, sold in lead-free, enamel-lined cans, are some examples.

So, the next time you have unexpected dinner guests, just open up the doors to your pantry. Experiment with your pantry items. You'll find that, just like old friends, they're reliable and comforting.


  • White-wine vinegar
  • Red-wine vinegar
  • Champagne vinegar
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Grape-seed oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
Canned and bottled items
  • Dijon mustard
  • Chestnuts
  • Mango-and-ginger chutney
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Wasabi powder
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Lavender honey
  • Capers
  • Olive paste
  • Oil-cured black olives
  • Kalamata olives
  • Morello cherries
  • Gherkin pickles
  • Irish oatmeal
  • Thai pepper jelly
  • Thai peanut sauce
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Pickled asparagus
  • Preserved lemons
  • Homemade preserves
  • Whole peeled tomatoes
  • Pomi strained tomatoes
  • Dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • Canned tomato paste
  • Anchovies
  • Canned tuna

Dry goods
  • Dried morel mushrooms
  • Dried porcini mushrooms
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Dried apples
  • Dried pears
  • Prunes
  • Dried arbol chiles
  • Cornmeal
  • Israeli couscous
  • Yellow and green split peas
  • French green lentils
  • Pine nuts
  • Barley
  • Red lentils
  • Grits
  • Basmati rice
  • Arborio rice
  • Red-pepper flakes
  • Chocolate chips

  • Cannelloni
  • Penne
  • Spaghetti
  • Tricolor fusilli
  • Quick-cooking polenta
  • Soba noodles
Fresh Food that keeps for weeks
  • Garlic
  • Red and white potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • Butternut and acorn squash

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