Building a Sustainable California Pantry

Posted: Mar 16 2016

The clocks are set and it's time for a little spring cleaning. Building a sustainable, organized pantry will help carry us through the year, making meal prep more efficient and cutting down on fresh food waste. Let's make some room!

Begin by clearing your pantry of stale spices, combine half-empty bags of pasta, and label and sort through canned goods placing older products toward the front. If you amass bags of alternative flours from the bulk section (as we tend to), throw them all together in a glass jar labeled “multi-grain flour”: ideal for pancakes and waffles or bumping up the flavor profile by adding to whole grain yeast breads.

Once you’ve sorted and streamlined, it’s time to restock. California has some of the best agriculture and one of the longest growing seasons in the country. As a result, we have a vast array of high-quality produce available for fresh eating and preserving. From heirloom beans and grains, to specialty Italian olive varietals and rare citrus, finding interesting pantry goods to compliment fresh ingredients couldn’t be easier.

Sourcing local preserved food goods means your money goes directly to small farmers, growers, and food artisans who work hard to maintain traditional cooking methods. These experienced makers provide fresh, local foods and celebrate diversity of cuisine and produce.

Make your pantry work for you. Start with a collection of goods you’re excited to cook with, not sad bags of unknown legumes you’re forced to throw into a pot of chili. Get to know what’s local and applicable to your household palate and cooking style, and then stock items you love and look forward to using: you’ll find that creativity follows close behind.

  • Pasta: we all reach for pasta mid-week when there seems to be no time, no energy and nothing fresh in the fridge. This line of hearty, organic semolina pasta from Los Angeles producer, Leah Ferrazzini, is made using traditional bronze die extraction and comes in long, short, and medium shapes. Use them in baked pasta dishes, with sauce, or add to quick soups and stews.
  • Olive Oil: a great, everyday olive oil is essential and does far more than serve as a fat for sautéing. Scout Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Clovis-based company, has a refined, green yet buttery flavor. The oil works well in vinaigrettes, brushed over pan-fried fish, or drizzled over tomato basil soup. Think outside the box and drizzle over over vanilla bean ice cream with seasonal berries.
  • Omnivore Salt: Though it may seem obvious, having a great-tasting salt means your food has a head-start on success. This San Francisco Bay sea salt from Angelo Garro is blended with locally foraged herbs and organic spices that give dishes an overall savory flavor profile and just a hint of heat. Use it on avocado toast, fried eggs, or seared pork chops.
  • Garlic Dill Pickles: Never underestimate the power of a great pickle. This fresh, firm example is tangy and piquant with a savory crunch. Dice and fold into yogurt, add a spoonful of brine to dressings or marinades, or chop and add to potato and egg salad; the cool, vinegar bite lends a nice contrast to stewed meats as well. 
  • Cara Cara Orange Marmalade: Jams and preserves are great for toast, but they have the potential to be so much more! Made from Central California-grown citrus, this Cara Cara orange marmalade from Chapala Farms in Santa Barbara is just as impressive stirred into an Old Fashioned as it is in a garlic-soy marinade.
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