This post is timely for me because I just moved into a new house and spent all last week setting up our kitchen and pantry, organizing the basement, painting, and making a few dump runs. Moving, as most of you already know, has a way of forcing you to think about what you really use and reevaluating the rest. The pantry is no exception.
My boyfriend and I moved in together, so we faced the challenge of combining two established households. We decided to start months back, asking each other: your couch or mine? Your bed or mine? But when it came to the pantry, things got a little murky. We combined our oats and jars of honey and sugars. We labelled and prioritized and gave some duplicates to friends. We tossed old spices and got excited about the staples we use everyday. Both of us are used to living on our own and cooking that way to a large extent, so we've relied on lentils and whole grains, big salads, and the occasional salmon or chicken dish. So let's suffice it to say: we've got a robust pantry and we're excited to start cooking from it in our new kitchen!
Megan's 5 Pantry Essentials
• 1. Good Olive Oil: This is a no-brainer, really; we cook with olive oil and use it as a base for most of our salad dressings. We have a good bottle for salad dressings and bread-dipping, and a more everyday oil (I like Trader Joe's for this) for cooking. I actually brought a few bottles of my favorite Bariani oil up to Seattle from California to remind me of home.
• 2. Coffee Beans: I drink coffee every morning. In the past when I've tried to do a cleanse I always fail on account of coffee. More than an addiction, it's a ritual: it's just what the mornings look like, and have looked like for years. So I always know exactly how much coffee I have in the pantry and when it's time to make a quick run to pick some up. In the Bay Area, I loved Four Barrel and Ritual , and am looking forward to discovering great roasters here in Seattle.
• 3. Lentils: When you were a vegetarian for almost fifteen years, you get to know lentils intimately. They're simple to prepare, versatile, and high in protein and fiber. One of the first things my boyfriend Sam made for me was his famous lentil soup, so I've put the lentils at the front of our pantry cupboard in the hopes that the soup will happen much more frequently.
• 4. Farro: I love introducing people to farro (or emmer), a variety of wheat similar to barley or wheat berries. Like lentils, I first tried farro in my vegetarian days because I was searching for grains that were higher in protein. While many people think of grains as a strict carbohydrate, farro has 9 grams of protein per cup (almost twice the amount as long-grain wild rice) and your body burns it slowly so it's great long-lasting fuel. I add it to soups, use it as base layer for stir fries, make cold farro salads, and will often prepare a pot with kale and serve it with a poached egg on top. I could (and do) eat this for days on end.
• 5. Whole Canned Tomatoes: I always have a few cans of whole tomatoes in the pantry because they're a quick solution to lunch (easy tomato soup) or dinner (quick pasta sauce). The nice thing about both of these ideas is you can go as simple or deluxe as you'd like: if you want to simmer a sauce all day, by all means do. But using a few cans of tomatoes, you can also prepare one in 20 minutes as I do often on busy weeknights.
(Image: Megan Gordon)