Basically, Basics

By Jessamyn Wallace

Photography by Stephen Vocaturo

 

 

A well-stocked kitchen is a happy kitchen, and if you recently moved off campus or are new to the cooking scene, fear not! The Buzz has you covered. The ingredients below are essential to a variety of dishes and cuisines. They are also inexpensive and have a long shelf life so you can keep experimenting with new recipes. 

 

White/All-Purpose Flour 

 

Always keep your kitchen stocked with this versatile baking ingredient. Nothing is worse than looking forward to pancakes on a Saturday morning, only to find out that there’s no flour in the pantry. Apart from the obvious baked goods, flour is vital for quiches, homemade chicken nuggets, pizza and countless other recipes. You can even try your hand at some freshly made bread and impress the roomies! If you want a healthier option, try whole-wheat flour; however, be aware that this tends to make foods heavier.  

 

 

Just like flour, sugar is crucial for most baking. With sugar in stock, you can whip up some blueberry muffins, a little chocolate cake or a tray of chocolate chip cookies. You might want to get fancy with some madeleines or meringues, but you cannot do any of that if the sugar supply dips too low. Sugar can also be an essential part of your morning routine to sweeten up black coffee. White sugar is also more flexible than its cousin brown sugar, so be sure to pick up the more versatile option. 

 

(Extra-Virgin White Sugar) Olive Oil 

 

Most serious cooking can’t get done without a little oil. Although it’s mainly preferential, and you can choose whichever cooking oil you enjoy most, olive oil is the healthiest option. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce unhealthy cholesterol and help boost healthy cholesterol. Lowered cholesterol can decrease the risk of heart disease. WebMD touches on a few of the health benefits of different oils, and might help you pick the best one for your needs. The biggest problem with olive oil, however, is the flavor that it adds to the food; if you’re not looking to add a savory touch to your meal, consider canola oil instead. But whether you want to fry up some vegetables and add them to a plate of rice, or cook up a few burgers, oil is necessary to getting the job done. You should always use olive oil when cooking in a pan, to prevent your food from sticking to the surface. Additionally, a few drops of oil should be added to pasta, after straining the water out, so it doesn’t stick to itself. For a quick but elegant snack, you can combine a little salt, dried oregano, paprika and other spices with olive oil in a small dish, and dip bread into it. 

 

Table Salt 

 

Salt is absolutely necessary to keep around. A mediocre dish can be perfected with just a pinch of salt. Use it on French fries, in baked goods, as a seasoning and just about everywhere else. If your water starts to boil over, throw a dash of salt into the pot; it should simmer down after that. A bit of salt can work wonders on a bland dish of macaroni and cheese. A little salt can also bring out the succulent flavors of chicken and fish. If you’ve ever wondered how to stop your salt from clumping in the shaker, here’s a tip: keep a few grains of rice in the shaker to absorb natural moisture. 

 

Garlic Powder 

 

It may sound like a strange choice for a kitchen basic, but you would be surprised how often a pasta dish is just a dash of garlic powder away from perfection. For everything from garlic bread to seasoned chicken, garlic powder works perfectly as a cheap and easy substitute to fresh garlic. McCormick suggests using 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder for every clove of garlic that a recipe requires. It has a long shelf life and countless uses, making it an ideal spice to always have around.

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