One of the best ways to succeed in cooking the way you intend to is by stocking up on the right ingredients. This is a list of the things I try to keep in my kitchen at all times. I hope it can inspire you in one way or another for your kitchen:
- Seasonal Produce: Our fridge is always PACKED with fruits and vegetables, as those make up the biggest part of what we eat in a day. We try to buy seasonal, usually by getting whatever is cheapest and most plentiful at the marketplace (so far it’s working out).
- Soy milk: Before R was born I would sometimes make my own, but since then it has pretty much been insane and the convenience of having store-bought non-dairy milk has really surpassed my need for “from-scratch” milks. Unfortunately soy is the most common non-dairy milk (and as far as I know the only one commercially produced in) Israel, so in order to get other milks (such as rice, almond) we have to wait for special deals or make our own. Edit: Mr. Graceful got me a soy milk maker for our anniversary! It also makes almond and rice milks. Back to homemade milks!
- Green herbs: Whatever is freshest at the store is what will be in our fridge that week: parsley, cilantro, mint, spring onion, thyme, basil, etc. We also keep a few pots of herbs on the windowsills that change with the seasons.
- Tofu: We get one kilo packages because we use it quite a lot. If we use less than an entire package, we store the rest in a vacuum sealed box, covered in filtered water. I like to get both firm and soft of these for different purposes, as well as the occasional silken tofu if I happen upon it.
- Vital wheat gluten: I use this mainly to make seitan, but also to enhance whole wheat when making bread (Israeli all-purpose flour doesn’t have so much protein, even more so when it’s whole-wheat).
- Frozen meals: We started this when I was very far along in pregnancy as a way to prepare for post-partum exhaustion. Fortunately, I was back on my feet and in the kitchen, experimenting, quite fast… But since then I kind of fell in love with the convenience of having a home-cooked meal (that I cooked!) whenever I want, that we try to make more food than we’ll consume in order to freeze some leftovers. I’m guessing this will also come in very handy once we have more kids.
- Ground flaxseed: Pretty much a must in a vegan baker’s home. Used as an egg-replacing adhesive in many recipes. My spice guy grinds it for me in 500 gram batches.
- Ice! And ice packs. It is a freezer, after all.
- Frozen dough and bread: Continuing on the same line as frozen meals, we always make and keep a bit of extra bread wrapped tightly and in the freezer. I also keep frozen pie crust dough and cookie dough to be used when rushed.
- Veggie odds & ends: We have a giant zip-top bag of carrots ends, onion peels, and other oddities that we keep in the back of the freezer intending to make vegetable broth with it. Unfortunately we rarely actually make the broth… Sometimes until we get so pressed for freezer space that we just end up throwing it away.
- Out-of-season fruits and veggies: I try to buy TONS of freezable produce when it’s in peak season, then chop and freeze in a big zip-top bag for a rainy day (so to speak).
- Perishable / bug-susceptible grains and seeds: Such as quinoa, raw buckwheat, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds.
- Crushed garlic: We get ours store-bought and in glass jars, which help protect the garlic from frosting over and makes it easier to spoon out (as opposed to hacking out with a hatchet). Plus we get another screw-top jar when we’re done, and a girl can never have too many jars.
- Coffee: Instant coffee for baking and quick fixes, coffee grounds of our current favorite roast, and Turkish coffee for those times when you just need a good, strong cup of coffee.
- Tahini, tahini, tahini: I’m talking about the raw stuff, not those ready-made salads you find in the refrigerated section of some stores. This stuff is probably the quickest to go in our house, and we try to always have about 10 kilos(!) of it in the cupboard. Good in curries, cookies, cakes, ice-creams, and salad dressings, tahini is like vegan culinary gold.
- Nutritional yeast flakes: Some people think it tastes funky, but I just love the nutty, almost cheesey flavor it adds to things. We use it to top salads, season popcorn, and add a “cheesey” finish to dishes like vegan lasagna.
- Oils: Canola, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil. I still haven’t purchased coconut oil (and I’m damn proud of it, too).
- Vinegars: rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and of course the good old white synthetic vinegar.
- Sugars: Plain white and sticky brown sugars are the only ones I find useful for baking and cooking.
- Salts: In addition to plain sea-salt, I try to always have a coarse version of my salt since it is so much more satisfying for me, whether used in pasta dishes or on top of vegan caramel.
- Coconut products: We normally have coconut liquid and coconut cream. I personally don’t bother with coconut oil and am not a fan of that trend, especially since it is just not affordable enough to be accessible to anyone simply wishing to make a chocolate chip cookie without using butter (or margarine). I use the coconut liquids and cream to make icings for cakes and to add flavor and creaminess to dishes like pastas and curries.
- Canned goods: Not number-one on a health-nut’s list, but as my tagline suggests I am more sane than health nut. Canned chickpeas, beans, applesauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and pineapple are always nice to have around.
- Sweeteners: I mainly use silan (date honey) with no added sugar, and sometimes regular honey.
- Bare baking essentials: all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, good quality cocoa powder, powdered sugar.
- Special extracts: imitation butter (obviously very artificial but super useful in making buttery-tasting vegan dishes), hazelnut, almond, peppermint, anise, strawberry, roses, rum, pistachio, and more.
- Cornstarch, potato starch, agar-agar flakes: Used as thickeners for things like vegan creme-patissiere, sweet and sour sauce, etc or in place of gelatin.
- Special 100% whole wheat flour: I have raved about this flour before: it’s 100% whole wheat flour that acts almost exactly like all-purpose white flour in many recipes. I think it’s basically whole-wheat pastry flour, but it’s worked well for me in breads before as well. It’s marketed under “special” flour which as an American could make you a little suspicious, but as an Israeli you just accept it. Besides, it’s great flour. We get 4-5 kilos at a time.
- Dark chocolate: I’m not sure you’ll believe this but… I actually don’t have chocolate chips in my kitchen! I mean, I may have purchased them once or twice when in a bind, but in general what we have in the cupboards is an obscene amount of bars or discs of dark chocolate. If I need chocolate chips, I just chop these up and use ’em. I like to experiment with new types and brands that I find. My recent favorite are dark (70%) Belgian chocolate discs sold in bulk at the health store near in my neighborhood.
- Sprinkles, food coloring, edible sparkles, and other candy decorations: I collect these and then barely use them, but it seems to me that I need to have them in stock “just in case” I need to make a cake for a princess-themed birthday or a bachelorette party. You know what I mean?
- Cinnamon: Used for cookies, oven veggies, and popcorn, or to add depth to “meatier” dishes.
- Whole cardamom pods: Used for curries and spiced cakes.
- Red chili flakes: I use this in almost everything… It’s one of my vices.
- Garlic powder: Probably the least used spice in our kitchen. I like the granulated kind, not the super-powdery one.
- Turmeric: Used on popcorn and in rice and curries.
- Yellow curry powder: Used in curries (duh), salad dressings, and majadra.
- Dry parsely, basil, cilantro, oregano, rosemary and thyme flakes: I always prefer to use the fresh version of these herbs but sometimes it is way more convenient to just grab a box and shake it over whatever I’m making.
- Za’atar: A mediterranean spice mix with a hyssop base. I love it in salads, sprinkled on plain veggies, and seasoned croutons.
- Sumac: Adds a fresh zing to salads and dips.
- Ground cumin: great on grilled eggplant, tahini, in Mexican dishes, and mixed with cinnamon to create Baharat.
- Baharat: A spice mix that gives a deep, “meaty” flavor to dishes.
- Cloves: Used in spiced rice, apple cider, pumpkin pies, and other “warm” recipes.
- Cinnamon sticks: Used in spiced rice and sangria.
- Lavendar buds: I use this to add a refined twist to things like ice cream, cookies, white wine sangria, and seltzer.
- Trader Joe’s spices: My precious stash of spices-in-grinders from overseas. Mine includes chocolaye-coffee-sugar, cinnamon-sugar, South-African smoke, smoked sea-salt, and pumpkin spice.
- Chipotle chili powder: Adds a smoky flavor to Mexican-inspired dishes
- Paprika: sweet, spicy, and smoked.