It’s pretty realistic to say that from now until the New Year, we’re all pretty checked out (in a celebratory kind of way). People drop into town, friends stop by for a drink or more— it’s all very impromptu. In our home, our way of saying welcome is by dimming the lighting a touch, turning on our amber salt lamps and dotting around our chunky faux candles. I also make sure that the pantry is fully stocked so that throwing down a cheese plate or a large bowl of pasta happens in a snap.
Here are some kitchen must-haves during our favorite party time of year:
Saira’s Holiday Pantry Essentials
Cardamom Pods/ Cinnamon Sticks, Star Anise— Pick a couple of woodsy spices. They work like a charm if steeped in a chai/ warm cider or a quick mulled-wine.
Orange Essence – Add drops of this unexpected citrus note to pancakes, beverages, pie crusts and even to pilafs. This little touch will set staple classics apart.
Dried Fruits and Roasted Nuts – If you don’t have time to run out and grab grapes and apples for your cheese plates, throw on dried fruits and nuts of different shapes and sizes. Throw any nut variety or even mixed nuts together with garlic, E.V.O.O and some parsley for a fabulous pesto.
Bouillon Stock Cubes – Don’t get judgmental here! There are some really good stock cubes that are cleaner than their 1970’s predecessors. Helpful for use in a quick pilaf, jazzed up pan juice, risottos and marinades.
Brined Capers – Probably one of my personal favorites for flavor and mileage as a little goes a long way. Scatter a few on smoked salmon, throw some in with fish or chicken or simply brown some in butter and a splash of lemon juice and top it on a dish – it adds an immediate mustardy oomph.
Preserved Lemons – Love, love, love. These salted whole lemons are not tart, and nor are their skins bitter. In fact, these fleshy fruits are mellow with a lemony-depth. Add a piece to stews, combine it with cured olives and throw it in a bowl with other tidbits for snacking (you can never have enough small bowls of goodies dotted around the coffee table.
Pickled Cherry Peppers – With colors that echo holly berries, how can you say no to these. Lightly sweet and lightly spicy, these are a perfect addition to any dish without causing an assault on the senses. I like to serve these at breakfast with a large platter of sausages and toast.
Horseradish – Hello Sinus!! Yes, holiday season is in full swing with sniffles. Add a gentle smear of this to sandwiches, roasted meats, mashed potatoes.
Savory-Sweet Preserves, like a mango chutney, habanero jelly— We’re going after the sweet, fruity, gelatinous consistency with subtle heat to pair with cheese boards, thrown together with dressings or basted on grilled meats and fish for evenings of lighter fare.
Sriracha– Yes, we’re getting specific on the type of hot sauce here. Sriracha has a great balance of flavor and viscosity. It’s not too runny, nor is it too acidic, which makes it perfect for spreading. It also combines well with condiments like mayo for that stunning coral spicy mayo effect. Squirt some into your stir fries; be it fried rice or a holiday side dish.