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A more perfect pantry?


In addition to the many obsessions I've confessed over the past year (noodle-holism, a collection of two hundred wooden spoons, and an unhealthy relationship with a product that can only, by law, be called salad dressing), I am also a compulsive list maker.

At this time of year, my list-making obsession kicks into high gear.

I keep lists of things to do, of things to sort, of things to buy, of things to cook. I make lists for me, and lists for Ted. The joke in my house: "my lists have lists."

So when Nupur of One Hot Stove, my favorite blog about Indian cuisine, suggested sharing a Best of 2007 list, I was way ahead; I have lots of lists in The Perfect Pantry, and those lists have lists, too.

Best new-to-me ingredient added to the pantry in 2007: agave nectar.

Best item in the pantry that I haven't written about, for no particular reason other than I just haven't gotten to it yet: cornstarch.

Best thing in the pantry that I won't write about, because, like many wonderful homemade products discovered on my travels, it's not available online: a Tabasco-like hot sauce from the Turquoise Mining Museum in Cerrillos, New Mexico.

Best recipe made with the least sexy pantry ingredient: a tagine of chicken with prunes.

Ten best ingredients I'm considering adding to the pantry in 2008:

  • Grains of paradise
  • Urfa biber
  • Nopalitos
  • Matcha powder
  • Fregola sarda
  • Cowboy ketchup
  • Miso
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Jaggery
  • Asafoetida

Which of these items are already in your pantry?

What's in your cupboard, spice rack, freezer, fridge, or sitting on your countertop that should be in The Perfect Pantry, but isn't? I'm woefully short of condiments and spices for Indian and South American cooking, I know. What else am I missing? (Use the orange search box in the right-hand column to check on any specific pantry ingredient.)

Here's to building a more perfect pantry in 2008, with your advice and inspiration!

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


You need Aleppo pepper! From what I've read, it's similar to urfa biber (although I've never tried urfa). Great for a sweet-smoky chili kick, like chipotle en adobo, but dried and milder. Try it mixed with sesame seeds to coat tuna steaks.

My lists used to have lists. Then I started writing a blog and writing for Blogher in addition to teaching full time and now I don't have time to make lists for my lists any more. I barely have time to make them for myself! I hope I can squeeze in a post for this event though, I thought Nupur had a great idea! Second the motion on the Aleppo pepper too. I love it! And you are ahead of the curve, I don't have one single one of those ingredients you're considering in my pantry.

Oh geez...you are adding a lot of exotic ingredients in your pantry. Good! I can learn something in the coming year!

No no, I´m sure I have nothing you haven´t posted about already, except maybe some spice mixes I´ve just received as a lovely present from Singapore.
But as a confirmed list-maniac, I´ll try to think of something.

What a great post! I paused in the middle of the post to go scrawl "agave nectar" on my shopping list.
Of your list, jaggery and asafoetida are old friends and ones that I use all the time. I just started using miso last month and love it. I have buckwheat flour in the freezer but have not used it yet :D
The others sound exotic and mysterious!! Can't hardly wait for another perfect year of your posts. Thanks for participating in my little event :)

Happy New Year, Lydia! I can only say with certainty that I know miso, and I'm dying to know what Cowboy Ketchup really is! Thanks for a wonderful 2007 in the Perfect Pantry - I'm looking forward to all the treasures you'll uncover in 2008!

I have Cowboy ketchup but haven't used it in anything special. I did add it to a meatloaf with good results. I hope you find something exotic to do with it.

I have Agave Nectar and Miso in my pantry already (well the miso is in my fridge). Both ingredients are great.
I like to use the agave nectar on the FAGE Greek Yogurt (which is another pantry item I am never without).
I like to use miso on salmon to make an earthy glaze.
Is it lunch time yet????

I vote for Fregola Sarda. Ever since Christine from http://myplateoryours.typepad.com made it at my house, it has been a staple in my pantry. Wonderful for guests-both for taste and conversation.

I'd probably do better if I made some lists.
a Tabasco-like hot sauce from the Turquoise Mining Museum in Cerrillos, New Mexico
that sounds interesting. It's not online but you're making it from a recipe aren't you?
Your pantry is most always way ahead of mine. I am loving Aleepo and have just about gone through my first bottle in 2 or 3 months.

Love your lists! Miso, buckwheat flour and asafoetida are in my pantry, though I resist the asafoetida. Buckwheat flour: for blinis and buckwheat-banana biscuits. Curious about Cowboy Ketchup: does it go with Rocky Mountain Oysters? Looking forward to 2008 in your pantry.

Vicki, you are so right! Aleppo pepper definitely goes on the list.

Kalyn, I'm in awe of how much writing you do in addition to your day job -- I always feel that I'm behind. I do have you thank for agave nectar; though I'd read about it before, it was your post that sent me to the store to buy some. Now I'm in love with it.

Tigerfish, I'm looking forward to experimenting with some of these ingredients. Should be fun!

Lobstersquad, today's mail brought a beautiful box of Spanish saffron, sent by my sister-in-law. You know I'll be blogging about it some time during the year!

Nupur, I'll definitely be searching your blog for recipes for jaggery and asafoetida as I continue to learn about Indian cooking.

TW, the cowboy ketchup I have is a combination, pretty much, of ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce. Now, what could be bad about that??

Pauline, let's put our heads together and see if we can come up with some good recipes!

Sharon, I've been having such fun with the agave nectar; it's gone in everything from chili to soup to fish dishes. I do love miso soup, but haven't used it for much of anything else yet. That's the challenge -- if it's an ingredient that can be used for cooking (rather than simply eaten on its own), it's a candidate for my pantry.

Ronnie, I did see Christine's post about fregola sarda, which is why it's on my "maybe" list. Looks intriguing!

MyKitchen, I've just used the last of the case (!!) of that Cerrillos hot sauce. I haven't tried making it yet, and probably won't. But if anyone is passing through town and wants to pick some up for me..... And, yes, Aleppo pepper is added to the list.

Susan, love the sound of buckwheat-banana biscuits. Have you posted the recipe? If so, please share the link. And, well, maybe the Cowboy Ketchup would improve the taste of Rocky Mountain oysters -- if that's even possible!

Matcha powder and buckwheat are in my pantry now. I tried keeping miso but the ones I got does not have a long shelf life after it is opened. Can't wait to hear about the Cowboy Ketchup.

I second the motion for grains of paradise, urfa, and fregola sarda. I've got them in my pantry, but don't know as much about them as I will when I read your wonderful posts. Miso, absolutely. But you've got me on Matcha powder -- what the heck is that?

I love Indian cooking -- took lots of lessons and love to eat it too. Can't wait to see what you do with that.

Happy New Year to you -- looking forward to 12 months more of your great posts.

Lydia, I'm looking forward to learning more about all 10 of those ingredients you're looking to cover next year -- I haven't ever used any of them!

Instant flavor sources:

Tiger Sauce is a sweet-hot red sauce from Reily Foods in New Orleans. It's good on savory pancakes, in soup... 10 calories and 100 mg sodium per tsp.

Ponzu is a citrus flavored soy sauce. It makes a good low-calorie salad dressing or quick sauce for steamed vegetables. 10 calories per tablespoon though high in sodium.

Veron, I've had the same experience with miso, which to me means I need to learn more about it. And Cowboy Ketchup -- well, here's a clue. I keep lots of smoky things in my pantry because I don't eat bacon....

Christine, I've definitely taken some ideas from your blog in putting together my list of candidates for my own pantry. Matcha is green tea powder.

Genie, it will be fun to think about using some of these products with wonderful vegetables from your garden!

Mae, I'd forgotten about ponzu -- that should definitely be on my list of items to consider. Tiger Sauce is new to me; I'll check it out.

Canned whole Pimientos.... You'll have to go to Spain or Andorra to get them - I do. Roasted red peppers just arent' the same!
And so many of the things you name I can't get here... but on MY list is to find a good purveyor (online) of spices that will ship internationally!
God invented post-it notes so I can make notes of what to go on my lists...

Oh boy, I'm in big trouble~not many of these items are even in my house, let alone the pantry.....if you put the recipes together, I will start making my list! I do enjoy preparing foods with exotic flashes of spices and tastes!

Katie, are canned pimientos like piquillo peppers? I have those in my pantry and I think they are so much better than the Italian-style roasted red peppers we get here in the US. Have you checked Penzeys for spices? They do international shipping. http://www.penzeys.com

Jann, I'll be giving these ingredients a try-out to see if they will become permanent fixtures in the pantry, so I'm on the hunt for recipes to share with everyone. Could be that I'll try some of them and realize that, after one or two experiments, I'm not likely to use the ingredient on a regular basis. But then there are always new ingredients to discover....!

I went looking for the Turkish peppers (biber)in Hartford today (Lebanese and Indian stores): no luck, any suggestion other than online? Did pick up more Ginger and garlic paste (in a jar) which is a great convenience. Another winner -- Dinosaur Creole Honey Mustard Sauce, enjoyed even by mustard-unfriendly me.

Buckwheat-Banana Biscuits, from Prevention pre-1977: Combine 1/4 c buckwheat flour, 1 3/4 c whole wheat flour, 1/4 c white flour, 1 Tb baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt. Cut in 1/2 c butter until it resembles cornmeal. Add 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 c mashed banana (1 medium), stir to moisten. Knead lightly 10 turns. Roll or pat to 1/2" thick, prick with fork and cut 2 1/4" circles. Bake on ungreased sheet at 450 F, 15 min, until well browned. 1 1/2 doz.

I am intrigued by your list for next year. I already have:

Matcha powder
Buckwheat flour

and now I feel like I need to run out and get the rest.

Susan, thanks so much for the recipe; you know I'm going to try it! As for urfa biber, this isn't super-convenient, but you might try Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Market in Worcester. Nika of Nikas Culinaria told me about this place. I haven't been there, but here's more information:

Rachel, I'll be combing through your blog for recipes as I consider which of these items to add to my permanent pantry!

What a list! I've got matcha powder, miso, buckwheat (groats, not flour), jaggery and asafoetida (haven't used yet) in my fridge.
But I haven't even heard of the others (that is Grains of paradise, Urfa biber,
Nopalitos, Fregola sarda, Cowboy ketchup), so I'm looking forward to reading about them here:)
Happy New Year, Lydia!!

I can't wait for the 2008 additions! Matcha powder and miso both sound delicious to me...and for the others, I'll await your educational posts :).

Happiest of new years to you and yours!

Pille, I'm always learning about new ingredients on your blog, too. I wish my pantry had a fraction of the wonderful mushrooms and berries that you write about. Happy new year to you!

Hillary, I do love putting new ingredients to the "pantry test" -- do they gather dust on the shelf, or actually get used often enough to make the cut? Stay tuned, and happy new year to you!

I think I finally realized why I use such simple ingredients... I don't make good enough lists or have a big enough pantry (I basically have no pantry... just plastic bins I stack in the utility room). And I have NONE of the things on your new list, though I may have a few items around others don't for barbecuing.

I do like the agave nectar, which I also grabbed last year. I've been upping my varieties of salts, which takes up my new ingredients budget.

Curt, I've been adding to my salt collection, too. And I'd love to know about some of your BBQ pantry items.

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