February 13, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Kathy Gunst, author of "Leftovers" (HarperCollins, $25), says a well-stocked pantry is the key to turning leftovers into fine food. She suggests the following staples to keep on hand, but points out they are just a guideline. "You don't have to bDijon mustard or Chinese rice wine the next. But I certainly am not saying that if you don't have all the things in your pantry you can't use the book."

*Butter -- preferably unsalted.

*Canned and bottled foods -- red and white kidney beans, chick peas, capers, chutney, cornichons, horseradish, mayonnaise, mustard, pimiento, salsa, Tabasco, tahini (sesame paste) and Worcestershire sauce.

*Cheeses -- Parmesan, Cheddar, blue cheese and feta.

*Chile peppers -- jalapeno and serrano (fresh and in cans) as well as dried red peppers.

*Coconut -- shredded.

*Dried fruits -- dried figs, apricots, prunes and dates.

*Fresh garlic and ginger.

*Herbs and spices -- fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, parsley, chives and coriander (also called cilantro or Chinese parsley) and ground cinnamon, ground cloves, whole nutmeg, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, ground red cayenne, hot and sweet paprika.

*Mushrooms -- dried mushrooms such as porcini, morels and shiitake.

*Nuts -- almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pine nuts.

*Oils -- olive oil (both extra virgin for vinaigrettes and pure for cooking), nut oils (walnut, hazelnut and almond), safflower, vegetable and peanut oil and sesame oil.

*Asian ingredients -- Chinese chili oil, Chinese chili sauce, fermented black beans, rice vinegar, rice wine, oyster sauce, sake, Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce and tamari.

*Pasta and rice -- spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, angel hair, orzo (rice-shaped pasta), Chinese rice noodles, cellophane noodles, brown rice, white rice and short-grain Italian rice (Aborio).

*Sun-dried tomatoes -- marinated in olive oil and dried.

*Tortillas -- corn and wheat tortillas.

*Vinegar -- balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar and wine vinegar.

*Wine -- dry red and white table wine, dry sherry and dry vermouth.

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