When I was just starting out to cook and had little to no idea about what I should be keeping in my pantry/fridge, I always relied on quick and easy recipes that I can scour on my Facebook timeline and Youtube recommendations. From there, I learned a little bit about what I enjoy eating, what works with my budget and what I won’t get sick of eating repeatedly. After a while, I also learned to structure my grocery list and had a bit of an idea what versatile ingredients staple should be kept in my kitchen.
Here are some ingredients I always have to have in my fridge:
Eggs. They are a great source of cheaper protein and is a very versatile ingredient; eggs can be incorporated in so many dishes and cook it in a thousand of ways. I remember back in college, my then-boyfriend and I would always put eggs in our dishes to stretch it out and maximize it. Eggs can be put into salads, sandwiches, stews, soups, or eat it on its own. My personal favorite kind of eggs are either Vitamin D enriched or Vegetarian-fed eggs because their yolks taste quite richer than usual, that sometimes it tastes almost like melted cheese.
Mushrooms. I LOVE mushrooms, especially when they’re cooked really well. My technique is to cook them in a mixture of good butter and olive oil till they shrink and become brown and limp, with some crispy edges. I find cooking them in just oil will do nothing but fry and dry them, and butter makes them too soggy. Mushrooms, like eggs, are a great addition to a lot of things too — soups, burgers/sandwiches, pastas, scrambled eggs, etc. Often times I buy white or brown mushrooms, sometimes Enoki or Portobello, or whatever type the recipe calls for.
Tomatoes. I wasn’t a fan of tomatoes when I was younger and it took me a while to get used to the texture and wetness of it. Later on, I learned to love them on salads and sandwiches mostly, as well as a good base for chili, stews and pasta sauce. Tomato-based recipes is one of the more excellent choice when it comes to people who are watching their weight. I used to be a heavy user of white cream sauce for my pasta and everything else but learned that though it tastes sinfully good, too much dairy on my diet can have its consequences so I switched to good ol’ tomatoes.
Garlic. I’m that type of person who even if the recipe calls only for 3 cloves of garlic, I would still use a whole head. Garlic just brings out so much flavor into the dish that I cannot help but be extremely generous about them. There are a lot of Filipino recipes where flavors are elevated because of the garlic, namely traditional Filipino Adobo, so you really cannot blame me for stocking up on these.
Onions. I love them raw on salads, caramelized on burgers and sandwiches, pickled on my banchan (Korean side dishes) and cooked on everything else. Like garlic, it is also a basic in every Filipino dish and a staple in my pantry. If I’m looking to have something lighter, I would opt for spring onions or scallions.
Soy sauce. I don’t know if you feel the same way about soy sauce as I do, but soy sauce can sometimes be the only condiment you need to make a dish taste great. It is sometimes my replacement for salt, even. It is great in marinating meats, balancing flavor and developing umami in a dish.
Honey. Along with brown sugar, honey for me creates a depth of sweetness to a dish. I don’t know if you can understand what I mean but white sugar and high fructose corn syrup makes things taste incredulously sweet right off the bat but the first two fills your mouth with something else.
Lemon/lime. These are great to have around in your fridge as one of your key ingredients for a salad dressing, or something to cut the richness or introduce freshness to a stew, curry, pasta or whatnot. Not to mention, good for teas too.
Chili. If I could add chili to every dish, I probably would. I always stock up on these because I love adding a little bit of heat every now and then to my dishes to counteract the saltiness, sweetness or sourness of the food.
Butter. Like salt, garlic or soy sauce, butter is a component that brings out the flavor and richness of a food. I try not to use it excessively because we all know that too much of it can be alarming but I do love a good butter slathered on my toast or to saute my vegetables or my mirepoix before cooking.
Brown rice/brown bread. Since I have opted out of white rice and white grain but need something to partner with my viands, I instead choose brown rice or brown bread and I usually have these in my pantry. It can be a bit dry but compared to white grains, it prevents me from gaining too much weight.
Vegetables. Instead of listing down everything here, I’ll clump it in one label as I sometimes switch it up weekly. I always need to have some vegetables in my fridge to add in to my dishes like carrots, bell peppers, cauliflowers/broccoli, potato, spinach, zucchini and others.
These are just some of the ingredient basics that I usually have on my fridge/pantry, I might have missed some of them but these are pretty much it. Surprisingly, though my mom and sis have a lot of cookbooks lying around the house that I could use, I’ve only skimmed through some of it. I do however have a short guide book that I like to revisit every now and then which is Hot Sos by Solenn Heussaff. She’s a Filipina/French celebrity and her guide has some basics in eating well and a couple of exercises that can be done at home.
How about you? What do you usually keep in your pantry/fridge?