I'm unlike most people, in that I can walk through a grocery store much like one walks through an art gallery or a sports hall of fame. Each new sauce, cheese and wine I see is like looking at a new car. Well, maybe not new cars, but close.
The problem I've found is that flashy ingredients are rarely used and cost a fortune. The truth is, with ten basic staple ingredients you can cook almost anything by purchasing fresh meats and vegetables from your local farm stand. These are the ten I always have in my kitchen and, like faithful friends or your best pair of boots, they never let me down year after year.
1- Olive Oil
Olive oil is a must have ingredient on this list. Aside from being the first ingredient in most recipes to sauté or roast just about anything, it is also a fabulous base for sauces. Best of all it's a good fat!
Queen Elizabeth may have this banned from the royal kitchens but I can't cook without it. Garlic is nature's antibiotic and packs huge flavor into a small package.
Onions are the pearls of the culinary world, they go with everything. Think about it, you can't name a flavor that is not complemented by onion. Onions also form the basis of French cuisine along with celery and carrots.
4- Sea Salt
This one is a no brainer! Roman soldiers were once paid with this important commodity. Salt has the transformative quality to enhance almost every flavor from meat and vegetables to caramel.
5- Freshly Ground Pepper
Another no brainer, freshly ground pepper is the ultimate flavor enhancer second only to salt. Always buy peppercorns and freshly grind the pepper. Not only is the flavor more intense and aromatic but you look more professional to your family and friends.
Lemon is my favorite flavor! The juice can be used to stop apples and fruit from browning, to add acid to just about anything from fish to cocktails and even to help clean a stubborn copper pot stain.
7- Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar adds robust flavor, sweetness and acid to many dishes. It's a quick base for dressings with a bit of oil and can even make strawberries sing.
Every kid knows this one! What would any dessert be without the magic of granulated sugar or icing without confectioners sugar? I keep my sugar on the counter along with flour for easy access when inspiration strikes for an impromptu dessert.
The basis for the staff of life, keep your flour on your counter to whip up pie crust, thicken a sauce or make a cake or biscuits. Flour truly is a must in any kitchen. Flour can go bad so make sure to use it up within a few months of purchase.
Last but not least, it's no wonder that butter is the fundamental element in Southern and French Cuisine. What would toast be without butter? Icings would flop! Cookies would be flavorless and stove top creations would die a horrible death. Oh, how I love thee butter! Make sure to buy premium butter like Kerigold that has higher milk fat content. When you buy cheap butter you are essentially buying water in your butter. Look for butter with a very golden color.
Honorable mention... Eggs
I must use eggs almost every day in my kitchen. Find your own special ingredients to stock in your pantry and you will always have dinner in a flash for your family.