Lately I’ve been thinking about the ingredients that I reach for all the time; the ones I could never live without in the kitchen. Garlic, olive oil, herbes de provence, eggs, avocados, maple syrup… they’re standbys that I reach for on an almost-daily basis, and they never let me down. But there’s also a new guard rising up in my kitchen: ingredients that are relatively new on my pantry shelves, but when I think I might be running low on one of them, panic strikes! Click through to see my current culinary must-haves, and I’d love to hear which items you guys couldn’t cook without!
Raise your hand if you share my obsession with a highly organized pantry! To create a uniform look, I decant as much as possible into airtight glass jars, and corral boxes and bags into sturdy wire baskets. When I’m getting ready to head to the grocery store, one glance is all it takes to see what needs to be restocked.
*photo of my pantry taken by Paige Newton Photography
Maldon Sea Salt.
I’ve talked about my madness for Maldon before, but it’s worth mentioning again… in my opinion, it deserves it’s own category separate from other salts. It’s that good. A sprinkling of these gorgeous flakes over veggies (cooked or raw) takes them to an entirely new place.
There’s something about the meaty texture and briny flavor of Cerignolas that’s just… mindblowing. I’ve always liked olives and often incorporate them into cheese plates or pasta dishes, but when I’ve got Cerignolas and a glass of pinot grigio in hand, I can easily polish off a bowl of these myself before dinner.
I admit it: I’m totally late to the game with fish sauce. I’ve heard my chef friends wax poetic about its flavor and versatility for years, but I was always a little scared that it would make dishes taste too, well, fishy. But I’ve learned that it’s all about restraint, and nothing can replace the pungent taste of this stuff. My current fave way to prepare brussels sprouts is thinly sliced and sautéed with a bit of olive oil, fish sauce, lime juice and sriracha.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds.
I say toasted, because it’s really not fair to judge them when eaten raw. There’s no comparison with the nutty, addictive flavor that toasted pumpkin seeds develop, and I’ve been sprinkling them on salads, over yogurt and even crushed as a flavorful crust for seared meat. They also happen to be a terrific vegetarian source of protein, B vitamins, magnesium and iron.
Oh Cambozola, how I love thee. When you find your favorite cheese, take note, so you can remember to buy it again and again. Cambozola Black Label is my current go-to. I just can’t get enough of its creamy texture and just-stinky-enough flavor that’s the perfect entrée for even those of you who aren’t big fans of blue. Try it with a slice of pear and glass of champagne and… watch out.
Guittard Chocolate Wafers.
There are so many great chocolates for baking on the market now, but recently, my mom made what we all pronounced to be “the best chocolate chip cookies in the history of the world,” and the only thing we could credit it to was the inclusion of semi-sweet Guittard chocolate chips. Since then, I’ve been buying up these wafers, which are perfect for melting into a silky-smooth chocolate sauce, or simply nibbling on as an after-dinner treat.
I know, I know, who doesn’t love sriracha? It’s sweet and spicy flavor is the secret ingredient that gives so many restaurant dishes their kick. Lately I’ve been using it in place of red pepper flakes when sautéeing vegetables, and mixing a bit of it with mayo for a perfect quick aioli to spread on sandwiches or serve with artichokes. But be forewarned: if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself reaching for “the rooster” more and more frequently all the time…
I was (am?) a bit skeptical over all the health claims made by the coconut enthusiasts that are everywhere right now. But then I discovered just how delicious coconut water is mixed into smoothies and juices, adding a touch of tropical flavor and loads of potassium for very few calories. Don’t knock it ’til you try it…
*I’d love to hear: what fridge and pantry staples are you loving right now?