Everyone should have the ingredients on hand to make the foods that they enjoy. The benefit of taking the time to set-up your spice pantry is that it will enable you to get the most out of your favorite dishes, while allowing you to expand your repertoire once your interest or cooking skills increase. The following is an outline of a basic approach to stocking your spice pantry.
To cook American and European Cuisine, you should have these basics on hand:
A good extra Virgin Olive Oil for salads and oil infusions
A good Olive Oil for cooking
A higher smoke point oil for frying: Grape seed Oil
Tarragon Vinegar to make vinaigrettes
Balsamic Vinegar for both vinaigrettes and as a seasoning
Salt and Pepper:
Kosher Salt ( Use this salt for cooking)
Tellicherry or Malabar Black Peppercorns (Use a pepper mill)
An all around chile blend (to be used for making Mexican Dishes)
Several good Chile Powders: Cayenne, Pasilla and Sweet Paprika
Herbs and Spices:
Herbs: Basil, Bay leaf, Tarragon, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme,
Spices: Allspice, Cinnamon, Celery Seed, Clove, Cumin, Ginger, Nutmeg
Mustard, Mayonnaise, Soy Sauce, Worcheshire Sauce
Whenever possible, use fresh Parsley and Garlic. There is no substitute for their taste and texture. Shallots and Onion do well when dried and add nicely to gravies/sauces. There are also some herbs that are at their best dried. These include Oregano and Lemon Thyme.
For more information about spices, please visit the UCLA spice library.