I'm always thinking about what I NEED in my kitchen. Here are five ingredients I cannot live without. I consider these things pantry staples, and you'll never find my kitchen without them..or if you do, you'll also find me on my way out the door to restock.
1. Wine. I always have a glass of wine with dinner, but I also cook with wine a lot. I love the acid notes that you only get when you deglaze a pan with wine, cook it down til it has almost evaporated, then move on to make the rest of the dish, whether it is a sauce, soup, stew or just cooked vegetables. Yes, you could deglaze with stock, but...it's just not the same. Well, and nothing replaces a glass of wine with dinner. It's just civilized, right?
2. Chocolate Chips, butter, brown sugar, vanilla--the ingredients for a great chocolate chip cookie. My favorites are Martha's "cake" chocolate chip cookies, although my daughter prefers her chewy chocolate chip cookies. (Which do you like? I also like the cookies cold/room temp at least, so the chips are hard...)
3. Lemons. You can make everything better with lemon juice, even water. But I keep it to squeeze onto vegetables, over lettuce before I add a splash of dressing. If I'm really on the ball, I use a Microplane grater to zest the lemon before cutting it to squeeze it. The zest can go into a baggie and into the freezer. Use zest in baked goods (those chocolate chip cookies? Hmm...maybe...definitely in banana bread, for example) or whatever you're cooking. Give it a try. Can't hurt, might help.
4. Extra-virgin olive oil. I use this for almost everything I cook--roasting vegetables, cooking onions and garlic, even when I'm sautéing meats. I like the flavor, I always have it...I like the flavor (did I say that already?)...I don't deep fry much, but maybe I wouldn't use it to deep fry since that can be expensive...but besides that? Olive oil is what I reach for first. I could have a bottle of non-extra-virgin oil on the counter, but that would take up too much space...so extra-virgin it is.
5. Onions and garlic. I put those two together, because they go together. I don't like it when this house runs out of onions or garlic. What's the Julia Child quote? "It's hard to imagine civilization without onions."
Can I add bacon? Because that is pretty much always on hand...just thought of it because I am SO making this bacon onion tart from Oprah's website for dinner tonight...