Pantry Staples for a Mediterranean Kitchen
One question I have been asked so many times is, what’s in my pantry? Having a well-stocked pantry makes a huge difference with being able to cook at home versus always having to order in, or else having to rush to the grocery store because your missing an essential ingredient.
There are many staple items that should be in every pantry, as well as other ingredients that I like to have on hand because they have a long shelf life, and give me the ability to make my favorite foods at any given moment.
With the current global situation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and being quarantined at home, I made sure I had all the items I use frequently and stocked up on any that were running low or I was out of. I wanted to make sure I had enough items in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, so that if I am unable to get out of the house, I can still feed my family filling and nutritious meals for at least a few weeks.
So, I finally took the time yesterday and went through my entire well-stocked pantry/fridge/freezer and came up with a list of items that I feel like is vital for not just for a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean kitchen, but ingredients I believe are essential for any well-rounded kitchen.
What is in a Mediterranean Kitchen?
There is nothing more annoying, as I am sure many of you know, than having to run to the grocery store mid-cooking because you just noticed you’re out of one or two necessary ingredients to complete your dish. Below I have compiled all the items I think are indispensable to cooking many classic and wonderful Mediterranean dishes.
Mediterranean cuisine covers not only Levantine foods (Middle-Eastern), but also North African foods (Like Egyptian and Moroccan), Ottoman (Turkish), Spanish, Italian, Greek and French! The American Diabetes association recommends a Mediterranean diet as it is not only heavily plant-based, but also filled with recommended healthy ingredients such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. I believe all of the ingredients below are great staples for any type of pantry, as they give you the flexibility to make delicious variety of healthy well-rounded meals!
- Rice (Jasmine/basmati, brown)*
- Lentils (Orange lentils, brown lentils)**
- Vermicelli Noodles
- Bulgur Wheat (Course and fine)***
- Dried pasta
*I like to purchase my Basmati rice from an Indian grocery store. Not only is their quality is the best, their large 10-40lb bags are cost-efficient and last a long time, which is wonderful since rice has a very long shelf life.
** Lentils are wonderful because they are rich in iron and folate, an excellent source of protein, and are low in calories.
***Bulgar is a whole grain made from cracked wheat. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals and is very fiber-rich, so potentially a great aid for digestion. I use the course bulgur to make dishes such are Tomato Bulgur and the fine one for dishes such as tabbouli and kibbe.
- Old Fashioned Oats
- AP Flour*
- White Sugar/brown sugar
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
- Vanilla extract
- Variety of Nuts***
- Cocoa Powder
- Pancake Mix
*AP flour (all-purpose) works in pretty much every recipe. If you are feeling like an adventurous baker, I would add whole wheat flour, bread flour and cake flour to the list as well!
**I highly recommend purchasing whole coffee beans rather than ground coffee. Whole coffee beans retain their freshness for a MUCH longer time. Invest in a grinder, it is well worth it for fresher coffee. Additionally, a grinder is great for grinding all sorts of fresh spices you can use in your dishes to spice up healthy recipes! This is the one I have and love, the KitchenAid BCG111OB Blade Coffee.
***Sliced or slivered almonds, walnuts, pine nuts,cashews, ground pistachios. I store my excess nuts in the freezer in airtight bags or glass mason jars. They stay fresher and last longer.
Oils, Vinegars and Sauces
- Jarred marinara sauce*
- Oils (a neutral oil like canola or vegetable or sunflower, and olive oil)
- Nonstick Oil spray
- Vinegar (White, red-wine, apple cider, rice vinegar)
- Condiments (Ketchup, Mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) *
- Sauces— (Tahini, Barbeque, steak sauce, Soy sauce, Sriracha, Worcestershire*, sweet chili*)
- Jarred Olives (Lebanese green olives, Kalamata)Capers*
- Sundried tomatoes*
- Maple Syrup
- Nut butter (peanut butter/Almond)
- Rose Water, Orange-blossom water**
- Pomegranate Molasses**
*Refrigerate after opening
**I purchase both these items from my local Middle-Eastern market. Here is my favorite brand for them on Amazon.
- Stocks and bouillon cubes
- Canned tuna
- Canned Beans and legumes (Fava, Black, red kidney, Cannellini, Butter beans, Garbanzo)
- Tomatoes (Diced, crushed, sauce, and paste)
- Pumpkin puree
- Coconut Milk
Herbs and Spices
- Black Pepper
- White Pepper
- Seven spices
- All spice
- Cayenne Pepper
- Italian Seasoning or (Herbs de province)
- Garlic powder
- Onion Powder
- Ginger powder
- Chili powder
- For making stock—Bay Leaves, cloves, Cardamom pods
- Butter (unsalted and salted)*
- Shredded cheese—Mozzarella, cheddar (Can be frozen)
- Akawi, haloumi cheese**
- Parmesan Cheese
*Sticks of butter freeze wonderfully so, I tend to buy them whenever they’re on sale and freeze them for best value.
**My favorite akawi cheese comes in a jar with water. It stays fresh in the fridge for at least 2 months. Halloumi cheese is most often sold in a vacuum-sealed bag, it lasts for weeks in the fridge UNOPENED, but once it is opened, maybe a week or 2.
Fruits & Vegetables
- Romaine Lettuce
- Ground beef
- Chicken (Breast, legs, whole chicken, whole chicken cut-up, thighs, wings)
- Vegetables (corn, broccoli, Italian green beans, baby okra, Peas and Carrots)
*Fresh Molokhia can be washed, lightly sautéed and then frozen for months. Most Middle-Eastern grocery stores sell frozen molokhia leaves as well. You can also buy DRIED Molokhia leaves, which stay for at least 1 year in the pantry.