So here we are, the end of the pantry-stocking world. It’s all about the dried goods. It may not seem that exciting but let me tell you, when the world collapses these are the items that are going to save your life. When I was a poor college student (okay, I lived on a college campus but I didn’t actually go to college. It’s a long story for another day) I lived off of dried beans and rice. I could cook up a giant batch of beans and steamed rice that would feed 2 people for the whole week and it would only cost about $4. Check around your area and you probably have a bulk foods (perhaps a prepper supply joint) place nearby. Buy some sealable plastic containers and stock up in bulk. Beans, rice, flour, pasta, grains, etc… Those cans of beans you buy at the grocery store are loaded with salt and sludge and for the same price you could have had leftovers for days. So without further ado: Beans, beans the magical fruit…
Dried beans & Legumes
- Black, Pinto, Navy, Kidney, & Cannellini beans – The are hundreds of types of beans. These are some of the basic ones you should know about. Buy them in bulk and store them forever. To cook them just soak in cold water overnight. Drain and recover with water. Add whatever seasonings, aromatics you like. Simmer until tender (usually from 1-2 hours depending on the bean).
- Lima, Butter, Broad, & Fava beans – Larger beans that are creamy and delicious when cooked. I love my fava beans with a nice chianti. f-f-f-f-f-f-f (it’s hard to spell out that Hannibal Lecter lip smacking sound)
- Chickpeas, Black-eyed peas, Pigeon peas – These legumes (peas to be exact) are awesome for soups and spreads. Also great for veggie burgers. Pigeon peas are not made from pigeons.
- Edamame – Yummy green soy bean pods that are awesome steamed with a little salt and sesame.
- Adzukis & Mung beans – Asian beans that are used for stews and even desserts (I for one am not a big bean dessert fan, just sayin’). Not necessary for your pantry but interesting and fun none the less.
- Long grain or short grain. As with beans there are hundreds of varieties of rice. Some cultures are very serious about their rice. These generic rices are the perfect go to rice. 1 part rice to 1.25 water when cooking. Season with salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to lowest setting. Cover. Let it alone for 18 minutes. Remove from heat. Done. Just do me a favor. If the word minute or microwave instructions come with your rice. Throw it the hell out and learn to cook real rice properly.
- Basmati Rice – Nutty in flavor. Perfect for Indian or Middle Eastern style dishes. One of my favorites.
- Jasmine Rice – Slightly floral in scent with a delicate flavor. Great for Thai or Vietnamese style dishes. Also has a pretty name just like the Disney Princess.
- Calrose/Sticky Rice – This is the rice can be used for sushi rice. Its short grains become clumped together and ‘sticky’ when steamed. Great for cooking Chinese & Japanese food.
- Brown Rice, aka hippy rice. This is just the same as short or long grain rice but the outer layer (the bran) has not been hulled or removed. Brown rice is healthy for you (so they say) and takes longer to cook. People love or hate brown rice. I do not love it but I’m sure if you top it with some steamed vegetables and tahini dressing you will live longer than me and my white rice topped with chili and cheese. I almost shed a tear.
- Wild Rice – Sometimes there is no rice in wild rice. It’s just a tasty mix of grasses & grains. Cooked with some chicken stock it makes a nice pilaf. Looks neat too.
- Bhutanese Red Rice – Here’s a super fun rice to impress your guests with. Grown in the eastern part of the Himalayas. It’s semi-hulled so it cooks faster than brown rice plus it’s bright red color is super cool. I call it blood rice because I’m morbid and it scares my dinner guests.
Other Grains & Pulses
- Lentils (red, yellow, French) – Small and round. They are used for making Dal (Indian lentil stew) and are perfect for soups. Lentils can be great for making salads as well. Neil in The Young Ones seemed to be always cooking a batch of lentils. Nobody seemed to want it or care. Except for Rick…
- Couscous – Semolina grain originating from North Africa. Used a lot in Mediterranean cookery as well. Easy to steam and serve with stewed meats and chickpeas. Add a little lemon. So Yummy. Israeli couscous is actually tiny pasta.
- Bulgur, aka the hippy grain – A form of whole wheat used to add bulk to stews, great in veggie burgers and salads. Also great for stuffing a mummified corpse.
- Quinoa – This grain-like pod is actually the seeds of the Goosefoot plant. Quinoa makes great salad and is tasty served with fish and veggies. Pronounce keeeeen-wahhhh.
- Italian – Spaghetti, Linguini, Tagliatelle, Penne, Rigatoni, Macaroni – Italian pasta is one of those things that pretty much everyone has in their pantry. All you need is salt and boiling water. Pasta is delicious tossed with some butter, olive oil, cheese, tomato sauce or baked into a casserole. On a sad note, I am still nostalgic for Chef Boyardee. When I’m sick I need a can of Spaghetti-os and meatballs. Just thought I’d share.
- Chinese – Rice Noodles, Choy Fun, Chow Mein, Egg Noodles – I am a chow mein fiend. I love the stuff. Tossed with some shrimp and chicken and pork and squid it’s delicious! They say that egg noodles originated in China. However my favorite kind of egg noodles are the ones made for making some delicious white trash food such as turkey a-la king and tuna noodle casserole. Also the Eastern Europeans really dig the egg noodle.
- Japanese – Ramen, Soba, Udon, Somen, Shirataki – Ramen isn’t just for starving college kids. Real Japanese ramen is chewy and delicious, made with homemade stocks and garnished with tasty treats like bright pink and white swirled fish cakes. I also really love eating soba noodles, made of buckwheat. Just cook them off and toss them with some soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallion. So good.
- Southeast Asian – Cellophane, Bami, Pancit, Laksa Noodles – I love the chewy rice noodles in a spicy bowl of malaysian laksa. So comforting and filling. I’m also a huge fan of Filipino pancit. Short chopped up rice noodles tossed with cabbage, lap cheong, shrimp, and scallion. Masarap!
- All Purpose Flour – As the name implies this is the go-to flour. Baking, frying, thickening, welding, loving, sleeping. This flour can do everything. It’s like the Swiss army knife of cookery. This the flour that you should always have. When a recipe says AP flour, that’s what this is. There are a ton of other flours that serve different purposes. Here’s a great list of flours and their purposes for you.
- Cornmeal – Grains/flour made from corn. Used for polenta and corn bread. Great coating for deep frying. Cooks in the South use it for everything.
- Semolina – Not to be confused with Somalia (that’s a country in Africa). When ground as flour, this is the one you want for making Italian pasta. It has tons of protein and a great chewy consistency.
Dried Odds & Ends
- Cornstarch – Awesome for thickening sauces. Makes a light crispy coating for meat when mixed with egg and flour for frying.
- Yeast, Baking Soda, Baking Powder – If you bake, you need these things.
- Dried Chilies – These are essential in my pantry for making sauces, adding to stews, and making marinades. Just soak them in hot water for a little bit and they’ll be reconstituted and ready to use. Or you can toss them in a spice grinder to make fresh chili powder. There are tons of different chilies to choose from so start exploring.
- Dried Mushrooms – These are the non-hallucinogenic kind. I know, I know. Cooking with me is no fun. If you want your Salisbury steak to make you see tracers and contemplate the mysteries of the universe that’s your business. Same rehydrating concept applies to dried mushrooms. Great for making mushroom stock. Their flavor is usually a little more concentrated than fresh so they can be used to enhance any dishes that you want a deep mushroom flavor.
- Breads, Cereals, Crackers – You have these things. No really, you do. Go look.
Alright folks. If you’ve listen to a single word I’ve said over the four installments of The Keys to Having a Bad-Assed Pantry you should have one serious ass-kicking bad-assed pantry. You can cook anything now. You have reached culinary enlightenment. Start a fire and cook like there’s no tomorrow. The meats and veggies are sold separately. No batteries necessary. Enjoy my darlings of cookery. Eat and be merry. xoxo