My grandmother couldn't cook without Crisco. Paula Deen can't cook without cream cheese. Plenty of people I know can't cook without one or more of the following: American cheese, Mrs. Dash, boullion cubes, canned vegetables, hot wing sauce, pre-packaged chicken tenders, a George Foreman grill. These people cook with an entirely different set of ingredients than I do, and I can't fathom how they manage to create anything edible without basics like olive oil or butter. They don't know that herbs come fresh, too, or that any sauce beyond the nuclear orange sludge from the blue macaroni and cheese box is necessary.
It is, my friends, it really really is.
Well, if I'm so smart and culinarily adept, what do I have in my kitchen? Here's the essential list....
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- thyme (nicely aromatic, balances acidity)
- canned diced tomatoes
- Yukon Gold potatoes
- stock (vegetable and beef)
- demiglace (frozen in ice cube trays)
- basmati rice (better aroma and texture than ordinary rice)
- crumbly, tangy cheese like chevre or Bulgarian feta
- balsamic vinegar
- Italian dressing (yeah, sounds like a cop out, but still the best marinade I've found for double-cut pork chops later sauteed in olive oil and finished with a splash of the above-named balsamic)
- roasted vegetables (every vegetable I've eaten lately has been roasted)
- my chef's knife
- heavy-bottomed, heavy-handled, steep-sided, I'm-gonna-git-you-sucka skillet
- parsnips (smash them with potatoes, garlic, butter, olive oil, and whole milk and you've got a tasty mashed mess)
- tahini (mix with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil for a poultry marinade)
- sriracha chili sauce
- fig preserves (mix with chevre for the most awesome bagel spread)
- savory (great, versatile herb)
- smoked paprika (I use this on oven fries and baked chicken legs for complex flavor and warm color)
nam pla -- Southeast Asian fish sauce. Supposed to be funky and an acquired taste, but I'm already a coffee addict and beer drinker. Fermented fish can't be far behind.
Pinotage -- A South African red wine. Food & Wine Magazine recently named the Argentinian white Torrontes as the Next Big Wine, but I drink like a man and therefore prefer reds. My money's on the Pinotage.