You can clean out your clothes closet, add storage bins, fold or hang your clothes in a certain way, and it works. The closet stays fairly clean and organized with very little maintenance. But the pantry is another kind of closet beast. It’s a beast because there are constantly things coming in and out and often multiple people using it. Pantries are known for being full of half-eaten bags of stale chips and nearly empty boxes of pasta. When left alone, they don’t work well.
Keeping a well-stocked pantry is a game changer for everyday cooking. When stocked well, you don’t have to think about it. You can just count on it. In order to stock an efficient pantry, a new set of rules is necessary. As soon as you get into the rhythm (which won’t take long), you’ll begin calling these rules habits and offering to make-over your neighbor’s pantry.
Keep a List
As soon as you think of something, write it down. This is a habit worth developing. Over- or under-buying will kill a pantry. I use a list-keeping app on my phone, Wunderlist, to keep lists separate for every store we shop.
Shop Your List, Not the Store
This is my number one rule. A list is no good unless you use it, right? It’s important to note, a minimal pantry starts at the store, not at home. Be mindful of what you’re buying.
Break Up Shopping
Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite tasks, and yet it has to be done on a weekly basis. To make it more manageable, I break up shopping into two categories—pantry/bulk shopping and weekly maintenance shopping. As you consider shopping in bulk, keep a couple things in mind. If an item is shelf-stable, do you have a designated spot to store the excess so that it doesn’t crowd the everyday? If perishable, can you consume it before it goes bad? If not, consider buying in smaller portions from a traditional grocery store.
Restock the Pantry When You get Home
If you’re anything like me, later rarely happens. As soon as you get home from the store, restock the pantry by emptying store-bought boxes and bags into the designated pantry containers.
I always have olive oil in my pantry. Did you know that olive oil is best fresh, like your red cabbage and your carrots? After all, it’s harvested from living fruits, olives! Fresh food tastes best. It’s true. It’s one of the reasons I became infatuated with the kitchen and recipe development. It’s easy to understand freshness when walking down the produce aisle. But it’s not so clear when you’re shopping for olive oil.
I haven’t always been so smart about choosing my olive oil. There’s so much to know in the kitchen. Too much in fact! That’s why I lean on California Olive Ranch for the very best—fresh olive oil. I love that California Olive Ranch includes the harvest date on the back of every label. They also recommend consuming it within 1 month after the date you open it. I use it in everything from sautés, to pesto, to vinaigrettes, to cookies. The bright, floral notes of their oil yield a brilliant flavor profile that only enhances my recipes. The Citrus-Poppy Seed Cookies in my book The Minimalist Kitchen are a perfect example of this.
If California were a cookie, I think it’d taste like this—bright and awakened by excessive amounts of citrus zest, spotted with poppy seeds, and held together with fresh, floral olive oil. This is one of my favorite cookies. I am not a traditionalist when it comes to making cookies at home. I prefer them to look as if they’ve been pulled from the shelf of a bakery case. These cookies are just that. They have a bit of height and are substantial in size. So substantial that one is plenty in a sitting. I also love the use of cornmeal in this cookie—for both texture and color.
Hands-on: 25 min. Total: 1 hr. Yields: 12 large cookies
- 2 1⁄4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1⁄4 cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Set aside.
- Prepare the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
- Prepare the creaming ingredients. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and zests on medium speed until well combined. Add in the oil, egg, and lemon juice. Continue mixing until pale and evenly combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides every so often.
- Add the dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients, mixing on low speed until just combined. The dough will be somewhat dense.
- Using a 4 tablespoon-sized spring-release scoop (2-ounce scoop/#16 scoop), scoop out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Carefully roll or liberally sprinkle the cookies with sugar. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes. The cookies will seem like they need a minute longer, but take them out anyways. Let cool on the pan for 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
If you don’t have any oranges around, use 1 tablespoon of lemon zest.
To bring butter to room temperature more quickly, cut it into skinny shreds, exposing as much surface area as possible.
Recipe excerpt from The Minimalist Kitchen by Melissa Coleman, available April 10, 2018. © 2018 Melissa Coleman.