The Party Ready Kitchen

Vintage Kitchen by gojeffrey from FlickrIn the kitchen by Claudio Marsuoka from Flickrkitchen

I’m not talking about boxes and boxes of Rice-a-roni and baking mixes or the latest stainless steel design with restaurant-grade appliances.

A kitchen that gives you endless quick, last-minute ideas makes prepping for any dinner, whether a large group of guests or just casually for you and friend, a far less daunting task. I have also found that the combination of items gives me the freedom to try a surprising number of new recipes without a trip to the store for special ingredients.

Fridge Items

  • cheese (at least one grating cheese, such as parmigiano or pecorino romano, and a slicing cheese, such as chedder or smoked gouda)
  • savory fruit spreads (fig, quince)
  • mascarpone or ricotta (with a little fruit, the perfect healthy, no-prep dessert)
  • lemons and limes


  • frozen berries* (mixed berries or blueberries and raspberries; for impromptu dessert sauces, mixed drinks, smoothies)
  • your favorite frozen vegetables* (for cooking)
  • fish filets
  • ground beef
  • sausage
  • vanilla ice cream (perfect for topping off desserts)
  • shrimp (peeled and de-veined)

Canned Items*

  • tomatoes (in winter, it is better to use canned tomatoes than ‘fresh,’ out of season)
  • tomato Paste
  • chickpeas and other cooked beans (great in salad, pastas or curries)
  • your favorite canned vegetables (for salads or pastas)
  • tapanades and pestos
  • capers
  • anchovies

Dry Goods

  • pasta, pasta, pasta (any type, but I always try to keep penne rigate, spagetti, linguine and rotini in stock)
  • rice (Arborio for risottos and basmati for Indian food)
  • couscous (cooks in a flash – great with whatever veggies you have on hand)
  • crostini
  • gnocchi
  • nuts (I try to keep at least almonds, walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts on hand for desserts, salads, and appetizers)

Spice Cabinet

  • broth cubes
  • corriander
  • cumin
  • red pepper flakes
  • crushed red pepper
  • dried red pepper
  • cinnamon
  • oregano
  • basil

Alcohol Cabinet

  • at least one bottle of red and white that you can use for cooking
  • (good for mixing and also for baking!)
  • one bottle each of vodka, gin, rum
  • interesting liquors for mixing (chamboard, crème de menthe, cointreau)**
  • after dinner liquors (I have brandy, sambuca, amaretto, anisette, baileys, khalua)**

Cooking Implements

  • large Stockpot (even better if it comes with a built in strainer)
  • 1 12 inch frying pan
  • 1 14 inch frying pan (for large pastas)
  • 1 8 inch frying pan
  • large cheese greater
  • microplane (for fine cheese, chocolate or fruit rinds)
  • magic bullet (for spice pastes)
  • wooden mixing spoons
  • slotted spoon

Cooking Staples

  • garlic heads
  • onions
  • potatos
  • ginger root
  • olive oil
  • canola oil
  • salt
  • pepper (grinder)
  • flour
  • sugar
  • brown sugar

To purchase weekly or bi-weekly

  • milk
  • baguette
  • cilantro/parsley

* A note on canned and frozen fruits and vegetables: when fruits or vegetables are not in season, you are better off using canned or frozen items from a taste, health, and cost perspective. I am a self-admitted food snob – trust me – ‘fresh’ is not always better when you are talking strawberries in January in the Northern Hemisphere.
** Also great for desserts and baking!