If you're someone who loves cooking at home, then you should keep a well-stocked pantry. One of the most important things when it comes to creating a delicious gourmet meal is to have the right ingredients on hand. Of course, you will need top quality produce, fruit, fish, or meat, but you also need to have the correct spices, oils, and other flavor enhancers. Below is a list of 4 great things to keep stocked in your kitchen. They won't perish quickly, so you can keep them for when you need them.
Truffles are an excellent way to enhance a simple risotto dish, finish a homemade pizza, or complement a wild mushroom sauté. However, make sure to choose black truffles. White truffle oil is very popular, but many chefs dislike it. The reason is that it tends to be a synthetic oil. It's made by chemists to mimic the smell and flavor of a truffle. Instead, you should look for black truffles. You can get them dried. When you are ready to use them, you just reconstitute them in warm water.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Cold Pressed)
You should have a really nice olive oil on hand to use as a finishing oil. A finishing oil is an oil that you add to the food after it's been cooked. For instance, a risotto Milanese is cooked with wine, onions, olive oil, and chicken stock. Before plating, many chefs like to finish it with a slight drizzle of really nice extra-virgin olive oil. The oil won't have been exposed to the heat, so it will retain it's character. The best kind of olive oil is extra-virgin and cold pressed. This is the oil from the first press of the olives, and they did not get heated during the process to a temperature higher than eighty degrees Fahrenheit.
Pine nuts are small, soft, delicate nuts that are popular in Italian cooking. If you are making a fresh pesto, then you will need pine nuts in addition to basil, olive oil and Pecorino cheese. You could also use them to make a simple, yet elegant sautéed spinach and pine nut dish, finished with some of your extra-virgin olive oil.
These nuts are also great for making desserts. You can make a pine nut tart, or small cookies called pignolis, which are made with pine nuts and almond paste.
Finally, don't forget the chocolate. Choose dark chocolate because it can be used in both entrees and desserts. Milk chocolate is too sweet for sauces used with entrees. You can make a chocolate and wine sauce for steak. When it comes to dessert, chocolate is an integral part of everything from mousse to tortes and cakes.