Grace in the kitchen is a necessity for any SuperFancy cook. Making a beautiful and delicious meal under pressure and making it seem effortless will not only keep your guests tummies happy but will put their spirits at ease as well. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than watching someone struggle through pulling a meal together. I see them frazzled and manic and just want to swoop in with a glass of wine and say “sit down honey, you're burning the bread AND stressing me out”. Feeding someone is the highest act of love, but the feeling they get from the dining experience matters just as much as the food on the plate.
There are a few tricks that can help you to have the grace of a ballerina in the kitchen: a couple fail proof recipes, fresh herbs, a friendly butcher and most importantly a well stocked pantry. Here is a list of ten items that you can always find in my cupboards or counter tops, they are all versatile, fairly inexpensive and have a long shelf life. I keep them on hand because I use them almost daily, but also because they can be combined into a number impressive tasting menus for short notice guests that turn from just drinks to extended dinners.
All the recipes on my site will have at least one of these SuperFancy Pantry Staples, I have provided some of my favorites, linked below each item.
Any dish worth its weight will start with a long pull of evergreen olive oil. To buy a good bottle make sure that the oil is sold in dark glass or tin, that will protect the integrity of the flavor. Good oil will be thick and slightly sweet to start and grassy to finish. I especially like Spanish varietals because they tend to have a pepperiness to them. Is pepperiness a word? I guess it is now, learn about it.
Make a quick sauce for chicken. Slide on bread with ham and pickles. Thicken salad dressings.
Improvise a salad dressing, 3 TB vinegar to 1 TB oil and any preferred flavoring agents. Pickle beets, carrots, onions or celery in white distilled. Plump figs in balsamic. Toss with Cabbage and sesame for tangy slaw.
Chop and serve in salads, with cheese, on top of buttery rice or yogurt and granola. Bake in muffins, cookies or waffles. Drizzle with honey and serve with clotted cream. If I could only have one it would be apricots, second golden raisins.
Any variety of whole grains switch from sweet to savory with ease. Boil and drain and then mix anything your little heart desires. Ginger and a splash of cream on your quinoa for breakfast. Mushrooms and peas with barley and broth. Farro with butternut squash, parmesan and sage. I love all my whole grains equally for their uniqueness; just like I do my cousins. But when my farro jar starts getting low, panic mode starts to set in.
Lentils cook quickly and easily. You can add the green French ones to salad to make a hearty lunch, toss with bacon and dates for a sumptuous side. Make my grandma’s famous lentil soup with the tangerine hued little jewels. Pat into cakes and fry them. One of my favorite Lebanese breakfasts in lentils and rice with lots and lots of caramelized onions.
A quick snack. Whipped into pesto, crushed into cake, toasted on salads, rice, or pasta. I can’t get enough.
Whole Canned Tomatoes
Will serve as a strong foundation for soups and sauces. Can be roasted with fresh herbs and eaten in heaps on freshly toasted bread or slow roasted with meats and a splash of wine.
A good cup of tea needs an overflowing spoonful. Bread and cheese drizzled with it becomes dessert. Buy it pure and local. Tupelo, Mesquite Blossom or Avocado, whatever tickles your fancy. Feeling a bit decadent? Splurge on a second jar of it raw, which is white, creamy and does damage in place of jelly on a grilled PB&J.
Duh and/or Hello!!
Hundreds and hundred of fresh heads, keep them in a giant bowl and put lots in EVERYTHING.
A few years ago I made one of my smartest life decisions, no not calling off my engagement, but buying dozens of glass canning jars from my local hardware store. The glass is sturdy, with a glance I can take inventory of the contents, they are easily washable and won’t stain or hold the scent of what is stored in them. I keep a variety of sizes, big ones for rice and flour which can also translate to holding leftovers of soups and stewed things. Tiny ones for spices or to-go sauces. Lots of them in between sizes for different types of grains and beans, my morning oatmeal that I tote to work or a shaker for a Café con Leche.