Corona Collabs (A Series With My Best Cooking Friend) Pantry Staples Edition


Good afternoon, world! Here's something I didn't expect about living that #quarantinelife: despite having all the time in the world, I am not more motivated to accomplish the things which need doing. I'm a little disappointed. I always thought I'd be cool, given endless amounts of time. I, for one, am definitely finding that I was believing a fallacy. A prime example of this is how long it took me to get around to posting Part Two of the Corona Collabs with the Inimitable Shannon. A lot has gone on in the time between that post and this! For one thing, the governor of Virginia declared imprisonment on all its inhabitants till June 10th. As an aide to essential workers, I've still been working on a beefy part-time basis. For another thing, Shannon planted a garden and a salty neighborhood raccoon "threw" her cilantro pot, buried her oregano, and then pooped all over the rest of it. Anyway, we've been busy in our small, isolated ways.

As we get set for this virus to peak in the next few weeks, everyone is being urged to limit grocery store trips even further, setting goals to shop only once every two weeks, if possible. This challenge naturally brings to mind the question: what should I have in my pantry? If you're anything like me, it's hard to stock up on enough fresh produce to last for two weeks...this is where things like CSA's (many of which are still running) and vegetable subscription boxes come in handy. But assuming you've got your fresh produce bases covered (or are okay with having to adjust to a diet less heavy in fresh veg), Shannon and I decided to pull together a list of other Essential Pantry Items.
We're showing you two lists: mine and Shannon's, along with a few perishables. You'll notice some crossover between these lists - don't worry! That is totally to be expected with this kind of list and actually lends credence to the fact that the things we've listed actually are pantry staples! Shannon and I have different cooking styles. My pantry hosts more baking ingredients, hers leans heavy on Eastern ingredients. Still, there are many, many similarities and we thought it would be fun to show them side-by-side for you to see how you can customize the contents of your pantry while still having the basics down pat.

*Edit* At first I hit "pause" on writing this post because some of these pantry staples can be difficult to find right now. It felt sort of tone-deaf to be writing about how you should always have a bag of flour and packets of yeast on hand when there are legitimate Ebay wars being waged over active dry yeast and nothing but cornbread mixes left in the baking aisle. Then I realized that for once in our lives we are actually aware of the contents of our pantries. We have time to do the organizing, tossing-out, toting up, and wish-list-creating that accompanies all good deep-dives into the pantry. So actually what better time to write a post about the inhabitants of our essential pantries? That's what this is: a list that reminds us better times are coming. A list that celebrates the fact that good food can always become great food with a little sleight of hand and a spoonful of gochujang.

My List:

shelf stable
- beans (dry or canned or both)
- whole tomatoes
- tomato paste
- rice and grains (oats, quinoa, farro, etc.)
- dry pasta (orecchiette, shell, and rotini are my favorite "shapes")
- chicken stock
- full fat coconut milk
- sun-dried tomatoes
- olives
- vinegar (white, apple cider, balsamic, etc.)
- soy sauce
- mustard (dijon, whole grain)
- dry white wine
- savory spices (chili powder, paprika, cayenne, garam masala, salt, pepper, dried red chili flakes, oregano)
- baking spices (ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
- gochujang
- miso
- oils (olive, sesame, coconut, neutral oil like sunflower)
- cocoa
- flour
- sugar (white and brown)
- vanilla extract
- baking chocolate
- leavening agents (yeast, baking soda, baking powder)
- coffee
- tea
- raw nuts (cashews, walnuts, pecans)
- dried fruit (raisins, mango, cherries)
- potatoes (normal and sweet)
- onions (yellow and/or red)

- butter
- bacon
- parmesan
- eggs
- heavy cream
- whole milk Greek yogurt
- fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, green onions, and dill are my top four)
- lemons
- garlic

From Shannon: "This is not an end-all, be-all list. You do not need everything on here to start cooking. Take stock of the building blocks section. If you see a few items that look interesting to you and you can easily find them in the store now, using any of these will add a lot of flavor and variance to your meals."

Shannon's List:

Building blocks
- tomatoes (crushed, diced, paste)
- soy sauce
- fish sauce
- sesame oil
- miso
- gochujang
- curry paste
- high smoke-point neutral oil (canola, avocado, etc.)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- dried herbs
- favorite seasoning blends
- coconut milk
- peanut butter
- vinegar (rice and apple cider)
- anchovies
- bullion

shelf stable
- Dried grains (pasta, beans, lentils, rice, grits, oatmeal)
- Baking essentials (flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, vanilla bean paste or extract, yeast)
- onions
- shallots
- potatoes
- squash

- celery
- carrots
- garlic
- chilis
- herbs
- citrus
- dairy (heavy cream, milk, cheese, paneer, yogurt)

- veg & fruit medley
- green beans
- peas
- corn
- berries
- mango
- proteins (your meat)

I hope these lists are helpful and serve to inspire, not overwhelm! These are not items that you absolutely have to include in your own list, but ones we find ourselves putting on repeat. For instance, I've been out of miso, gochujang, and sundried tomatoes for weeks now, and that's okay. But have I reached for those items several times since they ran out? Totally. They've become true staples for me.  Shannon and I miss cooking together. It's one of the many things coronavirus has halted that I find myself missing. But anytime I open my pantry I see inspiration for meals we used to cook together and it makes those chummy old times seem just a little less far away. Here's to pantries stocked with what we use on the daily, and friends with whom to reunite one day.

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