Photography by Carole Topalian
When the seasons begin to change, cooking takes on new importance. Beyond the extravagant holiday feasts, there are certain winter staples that are always good to have on hand for soups, teas, quick fixes or family meals. Hear what our publisher, Tricia Wheeler; managing editor, Colleen Leonardi; and recipe editor, Sarah Lagrotteria, keep in their pantries during the cold winter months—Jake Fernberg
Jams: In winter I love to have a collection of good and unusual jams to pair with cheese and wine, to bake into a brie or to mix as a base for salad dressing. Some winter favorites are apricot jam, fig jam and orange marmalade.
Dried Fruit: My salads in winter switch from greens accompanied by vegetables and move towards greens with fresh oranges and dried fruit. In the winter I keep dried apricots, cranberries and cherries in my pantry for toping salads.
Beef, chicken and vegetable stock: I keep boxed stock in case I don't have any homemade stock on hand. That way I can braise short ribs or a roast, make soup or noodles or prepare chicken and broth easily!
Pasta: I keep a selection of grains and dried pastas for easy weeknight meals. Angel hair pasta is a favorite; it cooks in minutes and I can make a meal from tossing a few shrimp in butter, garlic and red pepper flakes and serving it over angel hair. It’s a homemade dinner in less than 10 minutes!
Beans: Canned or dried beans easily turn into a soup or hearty bean dip, or fillings for tortillas. A slow cooked pot of black beans is incredibly versatile: it transforms to soup, bean cakes topped with poached eggs, a filling with cheese for quesadillas or a side dish with rice and a piece of chicken rubbed with jerk seasoning with just a bit of preparation.
Anchovies: These are always in my pantry along with canned clams. Anchovies get added to Caesar salad dressing and they always get mashed in my red tomato sauces (they add salty umami flavor).
And shortbread biscuits are always in my pantry; they’re my daughters favorite for an after school snack—with tea of course!
I love winter because it encourages me to cook more and play around with ingredients in the kitchen. Experiments aside, I always keep the following pantry items in stock once the cold hits in November. Here are some of my top staples that help keep me healthy and strong so I can smell the spring flowers come May.
Chicken stock, bay leaves, sea salt, pepper: The basics for any yummy soup. Always good to have some stock in the fridge to put in a cup with a teaspoon of honey, if you feel a cold coming on.
Chai tea: I prefer lose tea over tea bags, and it’s fun to make your own chai with spices from your local market. Keep cinnamon stick on hand for chai, or for making plain cinnamon tea by boiling one stick down in one cup water with ¼ teaspoon of ginger root and licorice root, if a cold should strike.
Root vegetables: I always have potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, and parsley on hand to steam or roast for lunch, dinner, or a snowy Sunday brunch.
Miso: A good soup for everyday eating, I love South River Miso after Terese Poston of Naomi’s Garden told me about it. Their chickpea flavor is my favorite right now.
Short grain brown rice: Since I’m gluten-free I rely on rice, and they say in the winter short grain brown rice is the preferred grain over long grain, which is better in the warmer months. Short grain brown rice is also full of water, so it keeps you hydrated.
Maple syrup: I always have a jug of maple syrup in the fridge for hot cereal, root vegetables, meats, and sometimes just a spoonful. Full of minerals, the sweet syrup is incredibly good for you, too.
When the weather turns cold, I stock up on the following items.
Dried beans (lentils for salads and soups, cannellini and garbanzo beans for stews, chilis and soups): I'm not a big bean person but I do think the taste is noticeably different if you start with dried as opposed to canned. If I have them in the pantry, I will use them, so I try and buy a bunch right at the start of the season.
Assorted dried pastas: I like fun shapes for my daughter (strozzaprette, radiatore, penne rigati) for pasta with tomato sauce (see below) and homemade mac & cheese. I like stelle for soups
28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes: Add an onion and butter and I am half an hour away from Marcella Hazan's perfect tomato sauce. I like to do the crushing myself as the sauce cooks.
Canned tuna fish and canned sardines (both packed in olive oil): These are key to two of our favorite quick meals. Making tuna melts instead of plain grilled cheese gets some protein in. Add a mixed greens salad and you have an easy and somewhat decadent meal. The sardines I marinate in lemon juice to get rid of the fish smell and use to top rice bowls alongside poached eggs and vegetables.
Coconut Milk: A necessary ingredient for great curries, peanut dipping sauces and soups.