Grocery time again…how does it come around so often? I make my list, because I never go without a list – that’s fatal – a sure way to come out with a cart full of essentials
that have nothing to do with What’s For Dinner – you know – olives, and favorite teas, special cheese, fancy herbs and spices. You get home and realize: I just spent (fill in the blank) and have…nothing to eat. But I could garnish a fabulous salad bar, and I have a pantry full of exotic extras. So, everything
goes on the list, even standards like milk and cream. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about shopping…if it’s on my list, it’s more likely to make it into my cart and out the door. No guarantees…oh no, the grocery cart is just like life…being on the list doesn’t mean I’ll actually pick up the item. If I’m with Rob I’m much better. If I’m shopping alone, I’m likely to be one of the multi-tasking people who is also on the phone strolling down the aisles. (I do make a point of being off the phone when I go through the check-out. I mean, there are limits
!) Check out etiquette demands that the customer have the standard chit-chat that’s required for the process of spending amazing amounts in a few short minutes and leaving with checker and customer feeling like there was a fair exchange of produce for cyber money.
But the point of all this is…I suddenly noticed that so many of the things I now consider standard for my pantry/fridge were once unknown in my kitchen universe. Some of the change is due to exposure…you experience a taste and can’t get enough of it. Or you suddenly have access to an item that you haven’t been able to purchase in the past. Sometimes the adventure of trying a recipe that has an ingredient new to me is enlightenment enough, and I find that I have a new staple to stock.
Now I buy (on a regular basis):
~chopped dates – essential for making English Toffee Pudding dessert. I don’t make this often. But I might need to make it at any time. Best to be prepared; when you need this dessert, you NEED it.
~lemongrass – amazing flavor for Asian dishes, subtle but distinct.
~cilantro (love that taste and fragrance) – kicks up Mexican standards and Asian recipes, or just plain good in salads.
~fresh mozzarella – required for Caprese salad, and let me just say that I could eat this salad every day for the rest of my life; also perfect for a grown up grilled cheese (definition of grown up grilled cheese is multiple cheeses on a grilled panini that creates an ultimate ooey-gooey-eating experience when you take a bite…)
~ginger-peach tea – best flavor for unsweetened iced tea, my personal choice for beverage of the year.
~turbinado sugar – perfect for sprinkling on top of muffins or cookies to add a finishing touch before baking.
~Balsamic vinegar – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: good for salads, marinades, sweet and savory dishes.
~Dubliner cheddar cheese – so sharp it practically squeaks! Cannot. get. enough. of. this.
~egg beaters – an essential for Rob’s morning scramble.
~water crackers – perfect light pairing with sharp cheeses.
~small containers of gourmet ice cream – I love to get a BOGO or 2-for price and choose our favorite flavors. The small size is perfect for indulging without too much guilt, and this size has a significantly smaller freezer footprint than standard containers.
~edamame – I love these little beans, and they’re good for you. I think if you eat enough of these they actually erase the impact of cream addiction.
~Greek yogurt – so thick and luxurious!
~sparkling water – another thing I buy for Rob, when he’s not drinking “Hawaiian” water – water with various fruits diced up and added to give flavor without calories.
~rhubarb – best for fruit pies and crisps, and the best combination is rhubarb and orange. If you’re lucky enough to have a rhubarb plant you will never need to buy this again. You will have plenty to use in season, to freeze for out of season, and you may find yourself looking for unlocked vehicles to share your extra rhubarb bounty with fortunate strangers…yes, it grows at an amazing rate (at least in a rainforest).
~Bocca burgers – I can hear my son groaning now…he’s a meat snob and looks askance at anything vegetarian that masquerades as a burger. I don’t say that this replaces the classic grilled beef burger, but in a pinch, and especially if I’m eating dinner alone, it’s an easy and good alternative.
These are a few of my favorites at the market. Ten years from now, or possibly sooner, I’ll have a different list of kitchen standards. But at the moment, I’ll be feasting on these things. Hey, I know What’s For Dinner!