Well, I guess the more one cooks the more familiar one becomes with their personal list of indispensable pantry products. Currently in my kitchen, these ingredients top my list (which is long...cabinet space willing). I consider them essential because having them on hand means I can always whip something up or I can elevate basic groceries to an improved level. I try to not run out of them, replenishing as needed. I am going to cheat a little by making each item a sort of 'category'.
TOP TEN-ish BASIC BASICS
1. Salt and Pepper - kosher salt is a must. I also like to use a nice finishing salt like fleur du sel and freshly cracked black peppercorns.
2. Oil - canola for cooking, extra virgin olive oil for finishing and maybe a fancy hazelnut oil too.
3. Dijon Mustard - classique!
4. Hot Sauce - I have many, but sriracha is my MVP.
5. Vinegar - I can't decide which variety is most important, I love (and liberally use) them all. Some of my regular vinegars are champagne, balsamic, apple cider, umeboshi plum, rice wine, red or white wine. Oh, and I have been using distilled white vinegar and water as an unbelievably effective (and cheap!) all purpose cleaner, 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar in a spray bottle....genius!
6. Canned Beans - any kind will do. Beans are a quick protein you can always make a hearty meal with and they can be used in countless ways.
7. Eggs - if you have eggs you are rich.
8. Pasta - the ultimate go-to food, right!?
9. Fish (can or jar) - tuna, salmon, sardines, octopus, anchovies, etc. can save lives.
10. Nuts. No, honey. No! Maple syrup...wait! brown rice, oh NO! Soy sauce. I can't decide. Butter. Ha!
I almost really cheated and wrote 'Spices' for #10 but that would be an entire list of it's own! Speaking of which:
TOP TEN THINGS ON MY SPICE RACK:
1. Garlic powder
2. Red Pepper Flakes
3. Chili Powder
8. Smoked Paprika
Let's make everything taste good!