Fifty Key Ingredients to Have on Hand At All Times

There is no greater freedom than knowing you have key essential ingredients on hand all the time.  Here in Key West, this becomes clear on sunny afternoons when a trip to the grocery (all quarter mile of it!) would be a terrible interruption of our pool time cocktails.  Having a properly stocked pantry gives you plenty of creative options without even changing out of your swimsuit.  You can make a complete meal straight from the pantry or, even better, make a habit of going to the fish market or butcher each morning, buying the best looking meat or fish that day and you’re done!

Here are fifty key ingredients to have on hand at all times that will give you a wide variety of options for a great, imaginative dinner with no further shopping.  (Note:  We assume you already have salt, pepper, sugar, butter and  flour).

Dry staples

  • Lots of olive oil (both the average kind and good kind)
  • Pasta (long and short)
  • Polenta
  • A variety of rice (Arborio, brown, Basmati, Jasmine)
  • Orzo and couscous
  • Italian tuna packed in olive oil
  • Good anchovies
  • Black olives
  • Capers
  • San Marzano canned tomatoes (both diced and whole)
  • Tomato paste (in the squeeze tube)
  • Low sodium chicken broth
  • Black beans
  • Yeast
  • Dried mushrooms, such as porcinis or morels


  • Fennel seeds
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Bay leaves
  • Paprika
  • Dried oregano

Unrefrigerated produce (medium life)

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Shallots

Unrefrigerated produce (shorter life)

  • Fresh plum tomatoes

Refrigerated goods (medium to long life)

  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili sauce
  • Flour tortillas
  • Low-fat Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • Double-smoked bacon
  • Parmigiano Reggiano

Refrigerated goods (shorter life)

  • Lemons and limes
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Fresh ginger
  • Bell pepper
  • Scallions
  • Jalapeno
  • Heavy cream
  • Gruyere
  • Eggs

Frozen goods

  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Homemade chicken and veal stock

For the grill

  • Kingsford charcoal

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