Stocking Your Gluten-Free Pantry
I have lived my whole life in areas of the world that tend to be unexpectedly hit by natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. So I have learned the value of a well-stocked pantry. But of course life has a way of throwing everyday emergencies at you, and it is at times like that when the pantry can be your saving grace.
Whether you have five minutes or five hours to get food on the table, the pantry is the best place to "go shopping." After all, no one wants to run to the store every time they have a meal to prepare.
I consider the freezer, refrigerator, and spice cabinet part of my pantry as well as the actual pantry itself. You might think that as a cookbook writer and recipe developer I would have a huge pantry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people have more space in their broom closet than I have in my actual pantry. This being the case, I must choose wisely what I put in it. Here is a list of what I consider the essentials.
Almond Flour. Great for grain-free baking and cooking. Look for finely ground, blanched almond flour. It is available in health food stores and on the Internet. Recently I have started seeing it in regular grocery stores.
Almond Milk. A great dairy-free milk alternative, I use almond milk for baking, adding to cereal, and in desserts. Unopened almond milk containers can be stored in the pantry.
Baking Powder. A leavening agent that helps cakes and breads rise, I use aluminum-free, double-acting baking powder. Corn-free baking powder is also available.
Baking Soda. Used in baking as a leavening agent, it also has a wide variety of other purposes so it earns its place on my pantry shelves.
Brown Rice Flour. I use only superfine as it produces far superior results and is a great way to add whole grains to your gluten-free diet. My favorite brand is Authentic Foods. It is available in natural food stores and on the Internet.
Canned Beans. I love dried beans and always stock them, but unless I have hours to soak and cook them, canned beans are a go-to staple. I stock a variety: black, white, kidney, and chickpeas. They are great for making quick soups, for adding to salads, and for stews and casseroles.
Canned Coconut Milk. Coconut milk is my preferred dairy-free alternative for baking and in making desserts and some sauces. I stock both full fat and low fat. The full-fat milk has a pronounced coconut flavor while in the low-fat version the coconut flavor is much less pronounced.
Canned Fruit. Of course I prefer fresh fruit but I do stock a few cans of my favorite canned fruits such as dark sweet cherries, peaches, pineapple, and mandarin oranges for last-minute desserts and for adding some zing to salads.
Canned Mild Chilies. These not-too-spicy chilies add depth of flavor and a little heat to Latin-inspired dishes.
Canned Tomatoes. Unless tomatoes are in season "fresh" ones can be tasteless. For soups, stews, and sauces I always keep a stock of canned tomatoes on hand. The tomatoes for canning are picked ripe and canned shortly after, often making them a better choice unless it is the peak of tomato season. I stock both small and large cans and love the San Marzano tomatoes from Italy but I will also buy store-brand cans of diced tomatoes when they are on sale.
Canned Tuna. Great for a quick lunch, mixed with some mayonnaise and veggies and wrapped in a lettuce leaf. I keep both tuna packed in water and in olive oil so I can choose depending on my mood and the number on my bathroom scale.
Chipotles in Adobo Sauce. Smoked jalapeño peppers in red sauce can add smoky depth of flavor to dishes as well as heat. They come in small cans andare sold in the ethnic section of the grocery store. I rarely use a whole can in one recipe so I open the can, pour the contents in the blender, puree, and store in a small jar in the fridge; this way I can use just as much as I need for any given recipe. I add it to mayonnaise or stir it into sauces, stews, and even salad dressings.
Chocolate. I keep bags of good-quality bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips on hand at all times. Stay away from inexpensive store brands as they often contain wax fillers. In my world, chocolate is an essential.
Condiments. With a good stock of condiments you can whip up a tasty meal with little thought or planning. I am never without ketchup, hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, chili garlic paste, gluten-free soy sauce, fish sauce, a variety of mustards, A.1. Steak Sauce, gluten-free taco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and jarred salsa. Jams and jellies are a must as well. See note above under mayonnaise about cross contamination.
Cornstarch. Good for thickening soups, sauces, and gravies. If you are intolerant to corn, use tapioca starch or arrowroot powder instead.
Dried Fruit. It is great to keep a variety of your favorites on hand not just for snacking but for sprucing up salads, baking, and adding variety to stews. You can typically find cherries, cranberries, apricots, and dates in my pantry. I use dates in baking and cooking as a natural sugar substitute.
Dried Gluten-Free Pasta. After much trial and error I finally found a brand of dried gluten-free pasta I like, Tinkyada. It comes in both white and brown rice varieties and in various shapes. You may find you prefer a different brand but whatever kind you like, it is always a good idea to have a few bags for when you need a quick go-to meal.
Dried Herbs and Spices. I keep a variety of peppers: black, cayenne, and hot red pepper flakes as well as paprika, cumin, sage, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chili powder, coriander, curry powder, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, dried onion, ginger, nutmeg (always whole to grate as needed), cinnamon, and cloves. I have a few more odds and ends in there butthese are the ones I reach for on a regular basis. Many people think that spices last forever but they only have a shelf life of six months or so before they lose their flavor. Go through your spice cabinet and replace your dried herbs and spices on a regular basis.
Dried Mushrooms. A little packet of dried mushrooms doesn't take up much space in the pantry but they add amazing depth of flavor in stews and soups.
Extracts. Always buy pure extracts such as vanilla and almond. Not only are imitation extracts inferior in taste, they often contain gluten.
Frozen Vegetables and Fruits. Before you scoff, realize that frozen vegetables and fruits are flash frozen almost immediately after picking, which means they are often fresher than the veggies you have languishing in your refrigerator drawer. Also certain vegetables are just so much more convenient in frozen form. It takes pounds of spinach to produce the same amount in one small frozen package, shelling enough peas or peeling enough baby onions for a family can take ages when fresh but they come already prepared in frozen form. I typically stock frozen peas, corn, spinach, baby onions, raspberries, strawberries, mixed berries, and mango chunks.
Gluten-Free Cake Mixes. As much as I love to bake from scratch, you never know when you might have an emergency cupcake need. With a little doctoring, the new mixes taste almost as great as homemade.
Gluten-Free Chicken and Beef Stock. Now available in most grocery stores, I like the type that comes in a box as it can be stored in the refrigerator without transferring into another container. An essential for making soups, stews, gravies, and sauces.
Gluten-Free, Graham-Style Crumbs and Crackers. These are perfect for making a quick gluten-free crust for pies and cheesecakes. Available in some regular grocery stores, health food stores, and on the Internet.
Gluten-Free, Panko-Style Bread Crumbs. Perfect for breading meat and fish or for adding a crunchy topping to casseroles and such. Made by Kinnikinnick,this is one of my favorite gluten-free products. Available in some regular grocery stores, health food stores, and on the Internet.
Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread and English Muffins. I store my gluten-free bread and English muffins in the freezer, so I believe they can be classified as pantry items.
Ice Cream. There is no better quick dessert than ice cream, either full of dairy or dairy-free. I sometimes even melt vanilla ice cream and use it as a sauce for cakes and pies.
Jarred Roasted Red Peppers. It doesn't take long to roast red peppers at home but you have to think ahead and buy the fresh peppers first. The great thing about the canned variety is they sit there waiting for you until the moment when inspiration strikes unexpectedly.
Jarred Tomato Sauce. For those times when I don't have all day to simmer tomato sauce I find jarred a perfectly good replacement--although I do doctor it up with fresh onions and garlic, a can of diced tomatoes, extra herbs, and perhaps a splash of red wine.
Mayonnaise. I keep good-quality mayonnaise and egg-free mayonnaise substitute (such as Vegenaise) on hand for making creamy dressings and for baking. If you have non-gluten-free people in your household, you need to make sure they do not use a knife for spreading mayo on their bread and then stick it back into the mayo (or any other condiment or jam) jar, otherwise cross contamination can occur and you could become ill. If you cannot trust that they won't be extra-cautious, you may want to have your own designated gluten-free jar.
Millet. I keep whole millet on hand for making hearty, whole grain hot cereal. I also use millet flour in baking.
Nonstick Cooking Spray. This is such a time-saver. It is so much easier to spray a pan than it is to brush on oil or butter. Do not buy baker's nonstick cooking spray as it contains flour and thus gluten. Organic varieties are now also available.
Nuts and Seeds. I keep a variety of nuts and seeds on hand. I buy them in bulk, which saves money, and store them in the freezer, which extends their shelf life. Nuts can be ground for making gluten-free, grain-free pie crusts, they are great for coating fish, chicken, and pork, dressing up salads, and they are wonderful for snacking.
Oats. Buy only certified gluten-free oats. Oats themselves do not naturally contain gluten but due to growing and manufacturing processes, cross contamination can be a problem.
Oils. As I said, I don't have a huge pantry so I stock extra-virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, and sesame oil. I find that in most cases these three will fill any need I have.
Olives. I keep a variety of olives on hand not just for using in recipes but also to use as an emergency appetizer for unexpected guests. I stock kalamata, Spanish green olives, and even small cans of sliced black olives.
Peanut and Sunflower Butters. I keep both on hand for baking and for when I need a quick snack. I stock sunflower butter so I can prepare nut-free dishes.
Potato Starch. Also an ingredient in my Sweet Rice Flour Blend, potato starch is not the same as potato flour. It is available in natural food stores and on the Internet.
Quinoa. The whole grain superfood, this is great for gluten-free porridges, pilafs, and as an alternative to rice or couscous. I buy prerinsed quinoa as it saves precious time in the kitchen.
Rice. I always have arborio and brown rice on hand as well as instant rice for those times when I need a really quick meal.
Salt. I cook exclusively with either kosher or fine sea salt. If you use regular table salt, use half the amount called for in the recipes.
Sweet Rice Flour (also known as glutinous rice flour). I buy either superfine or Asian.
Sweeteners. I always have granulated, raw, brown, and confectioners' sugaron hand as well as agave nectar, maple syrup, and palm or coconut sugar for when I want unrefined sweeteners.
Tapioca Starch. Available at Asian markets and natural food stores, this is good for thickening sauces and gravies. It is also an ingredient in my Sweet Rice Flour Blend. Asian tapioca starch is less expensive.
Vinegars. I stock a few more varieties of vinegar than oil: balsamic, red, and white wine. Sherry, apple cider, and rice vinegars each fill their own niches. If space was not an issue for me I would probably keep even more varieties but these fill most of my needs. I don't buy bottled salad dressing because it is so easy to make it from scratch so I figure I have earned a little extra pantry space for vinegars.
White Rice Flour. I buy either superfine or Asian white rice flour in bulk and keep it on hand for making gluten-free flour blends. They are available in natural food stores, Asian markets, and on the Internet.
Xanthan or Guar Gum. Used in baked goods and in my Sweet Rice Flour Blend, it helps hold gluten-free baked goods together. Available in natural food stores and on the Internet. I store mine in the freezer. For people with corn allergies, choose guar gum instead of xanthan gum.
SIMPLY ... GLUTEN-FREE QUICK MEALS. Copyright © 2012 by Carol Kicinski. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.