Grocery Girl Goes Grocery Shopping

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With my new apartment kitchen cabinets nearly empty and my heart is clamoring to get busy in the kitchen, I know it's time to embark on some hardcore grocery shopping.

When my best girlfriend returned from a long trip, we decided to catch up and cook together at my new digs. She met me at the little market by my apartment, which sometimes wows me with great prices and gorgeous produce.

As we plotted potential meals, I realized I had no staples besides a small box of what I had carted with me from my former home—some flaky Brittany fleur de sel, Valrhona cocoa powder, a canister of steel-cut oats, and a few stray bags of soba noodles.

Stocking Up on Staples

That night we settled for some cheap-o balsamic and made do, but with my place of employment a wonderful store (employee discount here I come!), I am making a list for what I really want to have hanging out at home, next time I want to whip up a little something something.

  1. Good mustard. I'm a fan of Moutarde de Pommery de Meaux, which comes in a cute crock and is grainy and just a little sweet.
  2. Serious olive oil. My store is practically an olive oil museum, so it's just a matter of choosing what style I like. I prefer the depth of the unfiltered stuff, and the bolder, earthier, rougher around the edges flavor profiles.
  3. Canned San Marzanos. Always happy to throw them in with pasta, soup, stew, or whatnot.
  4. Vinegar. A killer balsamic, a champagne or white wine vinegar. And something cool and just for kicks, like the Lambrusco vinegar we're going to get in any minute now, made with the same grapes as the fizzy, lovely wine from Emilia-Romagna.
  5. Olives. I like the shrivelly, salty oil-cured ones from Provence and the Kermit green castelvetranos.
  6. Aborio rice for risotto, my favorite easy meal to show off with. Fragrant basmati.
  7. Grains for quick healthy meals. Quinoa and pearl barley are my favorites.
  8. Hot sauce. I can't believe I don't even own a bottle of Sriracha! Going to change this fast.

It's so much easier to up the cooking ante when you're not starting from empty. I want to get in the habit of making myself at least an omelette, a bowl of pasta, or some lentil soup instead of hitting up the Vietnamese takeout for the umpteenth time. Better for my mind, body, soul, and wallet.

Treats!

Next shopping mission: friends are coming over for wine and cheese. We might even put our coats and scarves on and head out to my underused roof deck.

I am set with a few good bottles. Especially bubbly. Now I need the proper munchies.

My store is a playground for drop-dead munchies! When I leave my desk I'm going straight for:

  1. French soft dried fruit is a revelation. Softer and juicier and more luscious by far than regular dried fruit. It's hard for me to keep these around for too long, they end up in my belly pretty fast. Figs, cantaloupe, prunes. Never thought I would be raving about prunes, but these warrant raves! Strawberries are super expensive but worth it.
  2. The cheese counter is a cheese extravaganza, and you really can't go wrong. I find that Langres always vanishes in record time, and a many-year aged gouda is a total people-pleaser.
  3. Peppadew peppers. These little bright red peppers hit all the right spicy/sweet/addictive notes, and lend some pretty colors to a cheese plate.
  4. Amazing crusty bread. I gravitate towards cranberry nut, I love all that sweet and nutty with my salty cheese.
  5. Popcorn with cheese? Brilliant.
  6. Some fresh fruit and veg. I like cut up radishes with coarse kosher salt. I will serve whatever looks good: persimmons, pears, Persian cues.
  7. Chocolate, because to me "treats" = chocolate.

New York is all about going out, but there's something uniquely satisfying about cooking, entertaining, and hanging at home. Especially when winter makes excursions so much more arduous.

And with some top-notch olive oil and chocolate, my apartment is feeling more like home.

About the author: Hannah Howard is a restaurant professional turned grocery girl. She loves pickles, recently returned to New York, and has a new baby blog.

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