The ingredients I find myself using the most and keeping well stocked in our kitchen. What are yours?
Fleur de Sal & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
I keep a small sack of fleur de sal by the stove for garnishing food. It has a lovely texture, less “chunky” than other sea salt. This Portuguese-harvested salt is a great substitute for the more expensive fleur de sel (from France). I don’t use it to season food while it’s cooking, but garnishing with this salt treats you to a textured and layered flavor that cannot be beat. As for pepper, I am pretty simple. I prefer freshly ground black pepper – I usually buy the Trader Joe’s brand with the built-in grinder. I have yet to invest in proper grinders for salt or pepper.
Fresh Italian Parsley
The fresh herb I use most often, after rosemary and sage. I buy it because it’s cheap and I tend to use it all before having to toss it. It can also be frozen and added to fresh chicken stock for flavor. It’s a simple garnish and has a subtle flavor that I enjoy.
If I could, I’d put garlic in everything. I think its flavor is so beautiful and delicious, and I love how it changes depending on how it is prepared. You can roast whole garlic cloves to spread on crackers or bread with cheese, shove cloves into meat for depth of flavor, infuse oils, add minced garlic to sautéed vegetables or simply toss a few cloves into a roasted dish. Garlic tastes delicious in every savory dish. I move through it like it’s no-body’s business.
Whole Dried Red Pepper & Flakes
Highly underestimated for their ability to add heat to a variety of dishes. I use dried red pepper in the form of flakes, powder or whole dried (which I will customarily toss into a dish while cooking and then remove – like a bay leaf).
Delicious! I buy lemons and/or limes on just about every other shopping trip. It’s weird, because I love citrus, but I don’t eat oranges. Lemon juice or zest, however, end up in a boat-load of my dishes. Sometimes I will squeeze the juice into the dish, but more often I will toss a few slices in for flavor. Zest adds a subtler flavor. Limes are, for the most part, used in cocktails, Pellegrino and Mexican food (grilled meats/vegetables and guacamole).
The pinnacle of hard, Italian cheeses. I buy it whenever I can afford it. Rinds are always saved for tossing into soups, which infuses them with a deep, rich flavor.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
I recently read that unless you buy the right EVOO, you might as well be using vegetable oil insofar as the health benefits. But, even though I can’t afford good quality EVOO, I still use it as I enjoy the flavor. I buy a large bottle of the Trader Joe’s brand for general cooking and I love buying DeCecco oil as a bit of a splurge.
I use vinegars a lot, mostly for dressing salads. Balsamic and rice vinegars are what I most commonly use, although my friend K was just telling me how much she loves Bittman-recommended sherry vinegar, so I might be giving that a try next. Buying high-quality balsamic makes a HUGE difference, although I rarely do so.
I will throw nuts in any dish given the chance. It drives David…..well, nuts. I find that almonds are the most versatile, but I love using walnuts in salads and cashews in stir fries. Slightly toasting nuts brings out their flavor, no need to buy flavored or candied nuts – they just add sugar.
Pasta is not my favorite starch but I do think it’s the most versatile of the non-perishables (rices, polenta, bulgar, etc etc). I buy Barilla pasta when I find it on sale, penne is my favorite. I avoid long pastas like fettuccine, as I think they are better when homemade (ditto with ravioli).
All Photos: Veer