Friday, October 23, 2009


How to Stock Your Pantry

I recently spoke to a literary agent about “Cooking in High Heels,” the cookbook I have been writing for the past year. During our conversation, we talked about creating dishes with ingredients accessible to the cook. “What’s a meal that you can make any night of the week and what meals needs a little planning?" One of the most important parts of a productive kitchen is having a well-stocked pantry; it makes all the difference, no matter how experienced and resourceful the cook is! When stocking your pantry, my suggestion is to pull out some of your favorite cookbooks and pick out recipes that you like. Look at the spices, condiments and dry ingredients that are in those recipes and make that your list. There are hundreds of spices and you don’t need to have them all; focus on the ones you will use the most! I love my lavender curry cauliflower, so I will most likely always have curry and lavender on hand. Someone else might only prepare such a dish on a special occasion and buy the spices as they need them. If you create any of your own spices/rubs (as I do), make them in large batches so that you can have plenty left over. The last thing you want is to be making tiny batches of “Herbs de Fleur” every time you need it. Depending on the spices, condiments etc. that you have picked out, you may need to order them. There are many sites that make specialty ingredients available to the general public. You can order direct from Sid Wainer, a purveyor that supplies food to the highest caliber restaurants. There is a site where you can order 8 different types of vanilla at, a site for dried lavender. My salads and some of my marinades call for an aged balsamic vinegar(8+ years). You can get a great bottle at William Sonoma or try a local Italian market. If you want the convenience of ordering on-line, try They have an amazing product (it’s the one I use). Then, there are the dry spices of which there are many. But there are a few core essentials you should always have on hand.

Kosher Salt

Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Garlic Powder

Canola Oil

The basic seasoning for anything is salt and a nice cracked black pepper. It is important to use Kosher salt, and not iodized salt, when cooking. Kosher salt has not gone through a battery of chemical alterations and is, therefore healtier; it also has a cleaner, more well-rounded taste. I choose to add garlic powder when seasoning meats. I also use canola oil for most of my cooking because it is light and holds no distinct flavor of its own, which makes it exceptionally versatile. I always have a nice olive oil on hand but that is reserved for salads and tomatoes. Most often, I tell people not to cook with olive oil because it has a tendency to burn.

Other variations of the core ingredients are also very good to have on-hand. There are many different salts available. Some are for cooking and some are “Finishing Salts;" they either add a little extra to the seasoning or they enhance the finished plate. These are salts such as:

Fleur de Sel

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Black Sea Salt

Red Hawaiian Sea Salt

Sel Gris, and others many of these can be found at Whole Foods or William Sonoma. If you are interested in learning more about the different salts and their flavor compounds, check out this website (it’s the one I use).

For a variety in your pepper repetoire try:

Pink Pepper Corns

Red Pepper Flakes

White Pepper, and others. Depending on what you are cooking, you may not desire black pepper specks in your dish.

Another ingredient that I love to have at hand is a variety of Vanilla products.
Whole Vanilla Beans have become readily available at most markets(see above for more info).

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Paste

Vanilla Powder

The list of spices could go on and on. Mustard Seed, Cayenne Pepper, Juniper Berries, Brown Sugar, Bay Leaves, Sage, Thyme, Herb’s de Provence are all accessible. Even Saffron is in stock at most supermarkets.

I make a Brown Sugar rub with Brown Sugar, Red Pepper flakes, Red Hawaiian Sea Salt and Garlic powder.

Another spice that I make is my Herbs de Fleur, which consists of many different dried flowers: Roses, Candied Lilacs, Lavender, Saffron, Calendula, Jasmine tea, Juniper Berries, Pink Pepper Corns, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and any other edible flower that you want to dry and add to the mix.

A few other condiments that are helpful to have on-hand are things like a good Dijon Mustard, Tomato Paste, Flour, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and a nice Teriyaki sauce.

All of these ingredients may sound a little bit overwhelming but you will be amazed that just cooking dinner every night will grow your pantry without your even trying. “Cooking in High Heels” encourages the cook to experiment with their ingredients and spices. Don’t be afraid to use your spices to tweak one of the recipes you pulled from one of those cookbooks you love!


  1. this site is so great and this food column is always a really interesting read. ya, i love pink himalayan salt too.

  2. I couldn't agree more!
    I love Hip chick Zine

  3. I'm so happy more people are recognizing how many good salts there are out there. I just got some Himalayan sea salt from Sustainable Sourcing and it has made a big difference in our food. It was a great addition to our pantry!

  4. Excellent post. It was very helpful for me. thank you! Wish you make a further progress in the future, I will always look through your website.

  5. Hello friends, for me this blog has many aspects to emphasize, as the variety of points of view, I really think it's great this blog.

  6. I love a fully stocked pantry! Mine is a little bit in the works but I'm almost there. My favorite pantry staple is pasta.

  7. I'd love to try easy recipes! I admit I'm not very handy at the kitchen but I can cook with a recipe on hand. Wholesale Handbags