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How to Build the Perfect Pantry
How to Build the Perfect Pantry
In smaller apartments, they’re coveted; in larger homes, they get easily cluttered. But it’s difficult to deny the allure of a well-maintained and perfectly organized pantry. The process is simple: shop wisely, and store appropriately. Read on for our favorite tips.
Shopping is, of course, the foundational tool for building a useful pantry. Apart from olive oil, we’ll assume you’ve got the obvious staples (coffee, tea, salt, pepper, pasta) covered, and clue you in on a few of our favorite unsung culinary heroes, many of which do double duty as holistic health products. Your body will thank you.
Your Everyday Hero: Olive oil. Having a good olive oil on hand is the difference between turning out an average dish and one that’s outstanding. For a truly perfect pantry setup, we recommend two kinds: one for cooking (that’ll be a less pungent varietal, designed to complement and enhance flavors, and never overpower), and another for dipping and raw foods, like salad dressings. Our favorite brand? Kosterina. Early harvest (meaning higher levels of polyphenols), and made from 100% koroneiki olives in Greece, Kosterina offers a perfectly packaged duo set, with one for cooking, one for finishing. A pantry essential, certainly, but also pretty enough to leave out on full display.
Bonus points if you pair the purchase with one of their famous balsamics. The fig is particularly delicious, but those with a more adventurous palate won’t regret snapping up a bottle of the dark chocolate balsamic, which sells out almost immediately upon restock.
Once you’ve got your olive oil supply sorted, it’s time to move on to the herbs, another seasoning staple for taking all of your culinary efforts to the next level. It’s easy to get intimidated by the sheer volume of herbs out there, so, we’ll assume you have the basics, and move onto some of our favorite underrated kitchen workhorses.
Dried Oregano: an essential for any Mediterranean-inspired dishes, oregano is not only an easy way to punch up the flavor of even the dullest dish, it also happens to boost natural immunity. (Not something we’ll ever say no to these days.) Greek, Turkish, and Italian oregano are generally our preferred origin countries.
Saffron: Extremely difficult to harvest and incredibly rare, the “world’s priciest spice” comes at a justifiable cost. Not only has it been used by traditional healers the world over to treat a whole host of conditions, but it also has an ineffable flavor that brings a gorgeous dimension to any savory dish.
Cinnamon: This one is self-explanatory — a surefire way to add heat and depth to whatever dish you’re baking and an incredible scent to your kitchen. As with all the herbs we’ve recommended, this one does holistic health double duty: cinnamon is known to regulate blood sugar.
Now that you’ve got your herb cabinet on lock, it’s time to figure out where to purchase. As with your oils, the quality of herbs is incredibly important when it comes to adding flavor, so you’ll want to source from as legitimate a purveyor as possible. Our personal favorite is NYC-based SOS Chefs, which offers delivery for those who aren’t locally best. The proprietor is known as David Chang’s supplier for a number of Momofuku restaurants’ finest ingredients. If it’s good enough for a Michelin-starred chef, it’s good enough for us! Purchase HERE.
Tips and Tricks: To make your herbs last longer, try to purchase the whole herb (vs. the ground variety), and ensure they’re always closed in an airtight container with limited exposure to sunlight. If you can’t find whole herbs, dried versions should last 2-3 years. Whole herbs can last for up to four. A worthy investment.
Now that we’ve gotten past the obvious staples, let’s touch on a few more lesser-known heroes of the nonperishable world and lean into some of our favorite additional pantry powerhouses below.
Maple Syrup: Formerly the reserve of pancake houses and fall towns upstate, maple syrup is surprisingly versatile. Add it to a matcha or coffee for a sweet kick, or mix it with soy sauce and tahini (more on that later) for a delicious dressing. Even easier? Drizzle it over vegetables as an unexpected finishing touch.
Tahini: Tahini, a butter-like paste made from ground sesame seeds, is another oft-overlooked essential. Let’s lead with the nutritional benefits: more protein than milk, rich in B and E vitamins, and rich in the antioxidant lignan, which preliminary studies suggest can help improve liver health and decrease cancer risk. Hard to believe such a superfood could taste good, right? Wrong. A few of our absolute favorite recipes contain tahini, from this delicious tahini ‘alfredo’ to this vegan chickpea ‘tuna’ (see ‘Lunch’). Want to keep it simpler? Blend it up with some chickpeas, lemon, and garlic for a simple and delicious hummus. Consider your health taken care of, and your lunchtime conundrums solved.
Ghee: Butter who? Ghee, or clarified butter, has been used in India for thousands of years. Essentially butter that’s been ‘heated until the water evaporates and the milk solids separate away,’ ghee is an excellent alternative for those sensitive to dairy (it’s low in lactose and casein, though not dairy-free). Beyond that, ghee has a 400-degree smoke point, meaning it’s your best bet for cooking in high heat situations, and it has a rich, nutty flavor that tastes just as good alone on toast.
So, you’ve purchased your usuals and some unexpected staples. Time to organize. Often a dreaded pastime, we’ve found a way to make it quick and painless. Read on for our foolproof method below.
Rule #1: Don’t box anything but carbs & flour.
Let’s be real; there’s no reason to pour your maple syrup out of it’s perfectly good vessel and into a container store tin. There is, however, something easy and efficient about buying the same brand of pasta (or Banza) and storing it in bulk in one big container. So, plan to store your carbs (and flour), and keep the rest in the container it came in. Our favorite containers come from OXO.
Rule #2: Save space for perishable produce
Obviously, most of your produce should go in the fridge, but when it comes to things like garlic, onions, and potatoes, storing them in a cool, dry place, can help extend shelf life. Keep things chic, streamlined, and easily accessible by dropping them in a sleek metal crate like this one.
Rule #3: Organize by category
Now that you’ve stored your boxable items appropriately, it’s time to put everything away. Keep things easy by storing things by category: tomato sauces and products in one section, healthy fats (tahini, ghee olive oil) in another, carbs (pasta, cereals) in another. Easy to access and aesthetically pleasing.
You came, you shopped, you organized. Time to enjoy your meal! If you purchase any of our pantry staples or try out any of our tips & tricks, be sure to tag #casadesuna on social media.
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