Pickled Rose Pantry Staples
Having a well stocked pantry can take you from a good cook to a great cook. If you’ve been following along with me for a while you may have noticed that I have a very particular set of core ingredients that I use constantly in my recipes. Today I’d like to like to talk about why these are my go to ingredients and where you can find them, because I know not everyone can just run out to their local grocery and find aleppo pepper flakes, sumac, or za’atar. Or maybe you don’t even know what the hell those things are- so let this be your guide to the Pickled Rose Pantry.
My spice cabinet is overflowing. Literally overflowing. Bags and jars of spices are playing a game of Jenga and I’ve just pulled the block that makes everything tumble every time I open the cabinet door. I suppose it doesn’t help that we have 3 cabinets to house all our food in our tiny apartment kitchen, and I have an obsession with food. Here are a few of my absolute, cannot live without, use all the time spices:
Aleppo Pepper Flakes- A Middle Eastern chili pepper grown in Syria and Turkey. It is fruity, mild in heat, and slightly salty. Use in place of crushed red pepper for a more subtle heat when cooking, or as a finishing spice to just about anything. I buy mine in the bulk spice section at my local market, but it can also be found on Amazon, because, Amazon.
Harissa Powder- A spice blend used in North African cooking. The blend of spices will vary, but typically include a mix of spicy chili peppers, cumin, garlic, coriander, and mint. It is also available in paste or sauce form. I prefer the powdered version, but any type of harissa will be a great addition to your pantry. I love to use it in tomato sauces, as a dry rub for meat or fish, or on roasted vegetables. But be sure to check the spice level of your harissa before using it. Some are spicier than others. I am lucky enough to find harissa powder in the bulk spice section at my local market, but it can also be found on Amazon.
Maldon Sea Salt- Large, lovely, glorious flakes of sea salt. I use it as a finishing salt on baked goods (hellooooo chocolate!), salads, eggs, anything that needs an extra boost of saltiness and a touch of sparkle. I’m also a big fan of Jacobsen Salt Co., a Portland brand which is becoming more readily available, but if you’re not living in the PNW, Maldon can be found in most grocery stores. Safeway, QFC, and Whole Foods all sell Maldon.
Sumac- A ground spice made of dried berries from the Sumac bush, that is native to the Middle East. It has a lovely deep burgundy hue, a tangy lemony flavor, and I use it in just about everything. I buy mine in bulk from my all time favorite spice store in San Francisco, the San Francisco Herb Co.. If you do a lot of cooking this is the place for you. Their spices are sold by the pound at wholesale prices, and they also have a wonderful collection of herbs, teas, salts, and essential oils. When we moved from San Francisco to Seattle I was so unbelievably sad to be leaving this place behind, but lo and behold, they ship! There is a minimum order of $30, so hit this place up when your spice cabinet is running low. 10/10 will not disappoint!
Za’atar- A gem of a spice blend, used in Middle Eastern cooking. Seeing a theme here? It’s made of sumac, marjoram, thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds. I love to add it to hummus, tahini sauce, as a dry rub on meat, and mixed with olive oil to use as a dip for bread. You can also buy this in bulk at the San Francisco Herb Co., or make it yourself with this Pickled Rose recipe from the archives.
I don’t live a gluten free lifestyle, I love my carbs too much. But I do keep a few alternative flours on hand to use in my cooking when I’m trying to cut back on my favorite food group. While they don’t work in the same way as good ol’ all purpose flour, they can be a great substitute in baking, pancakes and waffles, or as a binder when making things like meatballs. Gluten free doesn’t have to be synonymous with cardboard.
Almond Flour- Literally made of ground almonds. My favorite is the finely ground blanched almond stuff, but the the flour made from nuts with the skins on is also good. From Trader Joe’s to Costco, you can find it just about anywhere. Be sure to store your flour in the freezer for a longer shelf life, especially if you’re buying a large bag.
Chickpea Flour- I absolutely love chickpea flour. It’s packed full of protein, makes a delicious pancake like flatbread, and is a great alternative thickener to soups and stocks. I use Bob’s Red Mill and it’s readily available at most large grocery chains.
Oat Flour- This has become a new favorite of mine, and I love using it to make waffles and pancakes. I haven’t done a lot of experimenting with it in baked goods yet, but this is definitely an ingredient that I’ll be experimenting with more. Bob’s Red Mill makes a great one and can be found at most grocery chains, but definitely at Whole Foods.
Only have eggs left in your fridge? Put a little sauce on that. Ho hum veggies got you down? Put a little sauce on that. Sometimes I put sauce on top of sauce. Sauce is Queen in my pantry, and I keep an arsenal of pastes, mustards, and vinegars on hand to help bring an otherwise drab dish a little life. Here are my ride or dies:
Dijon Mustard- My not so secret weapon when whipping up a batch of salad dressing. Grey Poupon and Maille are my favorites. I buy the giant jars from Costco and it’s amazing.
Fish Sauce- I feel like this is an ingredient that tends to freak people out, but it’s honestly one of my favorite secret ingredients. My absolute favorite brand is Red Boat Fish Sauce, which is made of just black anchovies and salt. It’s like liquid prosciutto, and pure umami. I sneak this into meatballs, burgers, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, quick pickles, and marinades. I’ve found Red Boat at Trader Joes, Costco, and Whole Foods. You can also order from them directly where they sell special aged fish sauces and their amazing salt.
Tahini Paste- Made from ground sesame seeds, resembling peanut butter. Seriously, what can’t this stuff do?! I use it in salad dressings, sweets, hummus, sauces, you name it and I’ve probably added tahini to it. Not all tahini pastes are created equal, though. My favorites are Whole Foods 365 brand and Trader Joe’s brand. The tahini stays emulsified and only a tiny bit of oil separates at the top, which is easy to reincorporate with a spoon.
Vinegar- I keep a hefty rotation of vinegars on hand at all times. Perfect for adding a bit of acidity to dishes, a necessity for salad dressings, and for making quick pickles which I’ve been making a ton of lately. My favorites are rice wine vinegar, apple cider, white distilled vinegar, champagne, red wine, and balsamic.
Whole Milk Yogurt- Definitely not just for breakfast. I am constantly making quick yogurt sauces to dress up a dish, spread onto toast, to add a cooling component to a spicy dish, and yes, for breakfast. It’s also great for baking and adding into pancakes or waffles. Pick your favorite brand, but keep it full fat for max flavor and consistency.
Nuts, Seeds, and other pantry things:
I make the bulk bins at the grocery store my BFF when I’m shopping. You should too.
Avocado Oil- I tend to use this more than olive oil these days and for good reason. It has a high smoke point, neutral flavor, and full of healthy fat. It’s great for roasting vegetables and searing meat, or use in salad dressing. It can be pricey at your local grocery store, so I recommend buying the gigantic bottle from Costco. It costs about as much as the little bottles you find at the store. #winning
Dates- Nature’s candy, and my go to for a touch of sweetness when I’m trying to avoid processed sugar. I use them in smoothies, bbq sauce, salads, and for a quick and easy appetizer (aka stuff the shit out of them with cheese!). My favorite varieties are medjool and deglet noor. Most grocery stores will cary some varietal of dates, typically medjool.
Raw Cashews- Raw cashews are seriously magic. When I’m experimenting with a plant based recipe, raw cashews are almost always in my ingredient list. They have loads of healthy fat and blitz up into pure silk after a good soaking, which can be an awesome replacement for cheese, yogurt, and a great addition to smoothies. They also makes the best nut milk. Smell ya later almond milk!
Sunflower Seeds- The most underrated salad bar topping, the humble sunflower seed. I keep raw and roasted on hand at all times. Your salads and granola will thank you.
I try to eat seasonally as much as possible, but there are some things I always ALWAYS have on hand.
Herbs- Keeping fresh herbs around at all times is my favorite way to brighten up a recipe. Pick your favorites! Mine are cilantro, mint, basil, parsley, and chives.
Citrus- Lemons, limes, and oranges… OH MY!
Ginger- The spice that bats for both teams. Savory and sweet recipes alike can benefit from this spicy rhizome.
All month long I’ll be featuring recipes that use some of my favorite pantry staples, so be sure to keep following along with Pickled Rose for more great food and art!