I have been thinking about doing a cooking blog for years. Like a real, how-to cooking blog, and people have been asking me to do one as well! So here we are! First of all, I am Anïsa and I am a home cook. Nothing fancy. I didn't go to school for culinary arts, I've never worked in a restaurant kitchen and I haven't cooked professionally. I cook out of love, necessity and maybe a little gluttony. I have been learning how to kill it in the kitchen from various influences from my mother and grand mothers to friends with different cultures and tastes. I've developed a good palate and I love to pair flavors to create the dishes that I love. In my kitchen, it is very often that I can create exactly what I want when I think of it. If I want Thai chicken cashew curry, I can make that easily today. If I want sourdough bread, it is at my fingertips because I have prepared my sourdough starter for months and I have the flour in my cabinet. I've tailored my kitchen to what I need for my cooking adventures.
This is a food blog, though, and it isn't just about me! Nobody wants to read through pages and pages of stories just to get to the how-tos! So I'm going to cut to the chase:
First, I'm going to up your pantry game.
Your pantry is personal and it should be dedicated to your tastes and whomever else lives in your home that has a say. So you have to ask yourself a few questions before you go shopping:
What flavors do you enjoy the most? For me, that is extensive, but the bare bones of it is that I enjoy spicy, salty and rich flavors. For me that means curry, spicy soups, roasted meat and vegetables and creamy dishes, which means my spice list is pretty long and, to be honest, fun!
What resources are available to you? We don't all live next to an international market and some items are going to be hard to find, depending on what you are making. Not everyone has an InstaPot or other fancy appliances. I've often had what I call a Primitive Kitchen, which is to say...a cast iron skillet, a big pot, a small pot and some wooden spoons. Nobody would have ever known that! I've had a lot of success just using simple flavors and a simple kitchen, researching how to make something that seems complicated. When I lived in Armenia, I made my own brown sugar because they don't have that in regular stores and it was perfect for the cookies I made in my simple little space!
How involved do you want to be in your cooking? In my case, it depends on the day. I always have frozen things available to me in my freezer and deep freezer like spinach/greens and chicken breast as well as quick canned items like hominy and crushed tomatoes-I STAN for crushed tomatoes. I already see a quick and easy soup in those things I've mentioned. If you enjoy making more complicated items, you're going to need more on hand. For example, if you want to make Korean barbecue, you will have to have your gochujang, dark soy sauce, fresh garlic and ginger at least.
What are your dietary restrictions? It is easier to control your diet when you are the one in charge. Do you have allergies? Are you on a restrictive diet? Are you trying to have a lifestyle change? All of those are valid questions when you are building your pantry. You need to know about different substitutions. If you are living a Keto lifestyle, for example, you need to have your Keto friendly items like nut butters and oils on hand.
Just a sneak peek into my dry pantry, I generally have:
-Salt, pepper, chili flakes, chili powder, various whole dried chiles, curry powder, fennel, black cardamom, green cardamom, dried ginger, whole anise, whole allspice, whole cinnamon, ground cinnamon, herbs d'Provence, Italian seasoning, sage, cloves, nutmeg, parsley, cilantro, oregano, granulated garlic, granulated onion, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, canned beans (black beans, chick peas, kidney beans), dried beans (lentils, pintos), bouillon cubes, various pasta, rice, all purpose flour, corn meal, boxed broths, coconut milk, coconut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil.... *whew* It seems like a lot of things, but for me, personally, this is how I set myself up for success.
Think about what you want for your own pantry! What are your essentials and what would you like them to be?