It all starts here!
Good cooking needs good ingredients.
For our family, this is a much appreciated ingredient. I often add just a little more than a recipe requires with no complaints.
We really like almonds, in a great variety of ways, both in savory foods as well as sweets. Most often for sweets, I either buy blanched almonds (with there skins removed) or, if not available, I blanch them myself. Then almost always, I roast them to a very soft golden shade of white. Just a little salt added enhances the flavor too.
Fresh apple cider adds much to a variety of dishes, from main meal-type, to desserts. I sometimes us cider in stews to give a sweetness to balance the other flavors.
Living in New England, one reveres apples. They have a season that seems to last all year long. During the spring we enjoy the beauty of the trees. During the summer, we note the progress of the fruit. Perhaps best of all, in very late summer and early fall, we enjoy the fresh fruit. And, through the fall and winter we find endless ways to use these gems, in all their diversity and scrumptiousness!
I use Argorio Rice exclusively for preparing risotto. This rice is quite plump in shape and absorbs liquid, read "flavor," wonderfully and deliciously well. Perhaps I'll find other uses for this particular grain.
This has a taste all its own, something like a cross between Swiss and Parmesan? While I'm not sure if that's a good description, Asiago is a wonderful flavor enhancer in many dishes.
Such a wonderful sign of spring, and this is yet another opportunity to make good use of this harbinger of much more to come.
I've learned that even though avocados are most often used as vegetables, they are actually classified as a fruit. I use avocado almost exclusively to make Guacamole, a great favorite with all our Southwestern dishes. On choosing an avocado, most important the skin should give a little when pressed lightly with a finger. It's a little hard to describe, but remember that the flesh has to be mashed and therefore should be soft enough for that.
Not used very often, but lovely addition in some dishes
I have to site Morningstar Farms for its excellent vegetarian Bacon Strips. Their flavor and texture are really tasty, not exactly the "real thing" but plenty close enough. I'm not sure I could fool my unabashedly carnivorous brother, but I surely look forward to trying sometime.
This is chocolate that comes in a bar. It's solid and is usually melted and then incorporated with other ingredients. It comes in different varieties of sweetness, or as I usually use it: unsweetened. There's a huge range of quality for this ingredient. A good guide is to use the best quality that you feel is affordable. The difference in quality has to do with the type of cocoa beans used, the choice of additives which make it possible for the beans to turn into a solid bar, and of no little importance: the process by which the beans are turned into a solid bar of chocolate. I've found Ghiradelli to be a good all around choice, though some of the more expensive brands I've used have produced more spectacular results. For some of my more mundane baking, I've used Baker's with very tasy results as well. You can have a little fun shopping for this ingredient!
This is one of my often used baking companions. It works well as a leavening agent for many delicious baked goods, from the savory to the sweet.
A very useful leavening agent for quick-breads and all kinds of cakes ... used when some of the ingredients may be either fruit or sour cream.
This wonderful, slightly sweet vinegar enhances a great variety of dishes.
I can understand why bananas are the most popular fruit, world-wide. They're delicious, just as is; they're also wonderful in combination, in a variety of ways. Whenever we buy a bunch of bananas, it's pretty sure that at least one of those bananas will serve as lunch for me, sliced and with a large dollop of crunchy peanut butter on the side.
Barley is a grain that had a lovely nutty taste, can be used in soups, salads, breads. It softens quite quickly as it is simmered in some sort of stock.
This delightful herb announces the arrival of summer in our family.
One of the most vivid memories I retain from an early childhood visit with my mother to her native Tuscany, is the intense fragrance of basil while visiting a convent just outside of Lucca. Growing up, in the summertime, my mother's overflowing vegetable garden always included basil. For some reason, it took me a while to discover the wonders this readily available herb, and I've still much to learn about it. So far, I know that it's best added at the end of most recipes in order not to lose its signature flavor. While I don't use it in many recipes, it's a must when I do.
Bay leaf has a special place in just a few of my recipes. It's unique flavor is almost a must in tomato sauce prepared for lasagne.
These came in great variety. We have used the traditional bean sprouts, as well as soy sprouts and broccoli sprouts. They're a wonderful addition, especially in many Asian dishes.
We use dried beans for all sorts of recipes, particularly soups, but also main dishes such as chile or Northern New Mexico-style beans that we use in a wonderful version of wraps, everything wrapped into a large flour tortilla.
Whenever appropriate, I like to use beets. I prefer to cook them from their fresh state, rosy-purple hands and all.
Though I don't use this often, when I do, it is indispensable. We could not have Thanksgiving without this ingredient in the all-important stuffing. There are other good uses as well. I knew nothing of Bell's Seasoning until learning about it from my Yankee mother-in-law, one of the many important contributions she made to my life.
This chocolate gives a real zing to certain products such as cakes, brownies, and frostings. Usually, semisweet chocolate can be substituted. Use the best quality chocolate you can. Ghiradelli is quite good and readily available. There are many other excellent brands, such as Valrhona.
We use dried beans in many dishes, not surprisingly. Black beans are the main ingredient in a favorite of my husband's: Black Bean Chili. Do try it.
A universal-type ingredient, which I use somewhat sparingly ... however, when needed, it's indispensible.
These dried beans have a distinctive flavor. Sometimes when they're cooking, I wonder whether or not so-and-so will like them. So far, everyone has. I use them in one particular dish, a very hearty soup (Blackeyed Pea Soup with Greens),which comes out with somewhat of a meaty texture and taste, very delicious on a cold January day.
For certain results, there's no substitute for bleu cheese, at least not that I've found. It's unsurpassed for a good combination of texture and tang.
These berries may be used in such a variety of ways. They're available fresh most of the year, and at all times frozen. These berries are wonderful for breakfast in pancakes or muffins, or as part of a fresh fruit salad. Blueberry pie ... hard to beat.
It seems there is an infinite variety of types of onions, each in some way indispensable. These are no exceptions.
This lettuce has a very tender leaf. The full head is often quite small. It's wonderful for certain salads, such as Salade Nicoise. Tender field greens may be substituted. However, when called for, Boston lettuce is the preferred choice.
I have to admit, I have never made a vegetable stock although I have a number of recipes to try. We use vegetarian bouillon for many dishes. I have not yet aquired the habit of making my own. I have been very pleased with both Knorr and HerbOx brands. One difference between the two is that each individual Knorr cube is for two cups of water, while each HerbOx cube is for one cup of water. So, depending on the cubes you are using, you can decide how many you need.
Since I haven't yet gotten into preparing fresh vegetarian stock, I have found a few brands of vegetarian flavorings that make very acceptable bouillon. Two particular favorites are Knorr and Better Than Bouillon. Both are definitely staple items in our kitchen.
You'll note I've listed brandy as a "baking supply." A few of our holiday goodies have brandy as an ingredient, and, just as I use vanilla, when called for, I use brandy as well.
Even though this is real brandy, I use it only as an extract. There are a few baked items which call for brandy. I buy it in the tiny bottles and store it with my other baking extracts. On occasion I have omitted this ingredient if I didn't have any, with very acceptable results.
We don't use bread crumbs for many dishes, but when we do use them, they add a lot.
We use these mostly for Thanksgiving stuffing, but sometimes find other uses for them. I buy fairly standard brands in the supermarket and find them very satisfactory, since it's what we add that makes it how we like it.
Different preparations call for different varieties of the seemingly unlimited kinds of bread available.
Mmmmmm, what a wonderful vegetable. It's especially wonderful in some sauces because its little florets really hold the sauce. We use it in a great variety of ways for good reason.
Brown rice is not really a substitute for white rice, at least not in my kitchen. It has its own taste and works very well in certain recipes. I have a real preference for Basmati brown rice.
These are just miniature cabbages. I do like the way they look and am also a big cabbage fan in all its varieties.
This is one of our staple vegetables for Thanksgiving. We don't have butternut squash very often although whenever we do we're reminded of just how delicious it is, simple and unadulterated with the exception of some butter. My mother-in-law wouldn't have.considered having Thanksgiving Dinner without a squash pie, a particular favorite of my father-in-law's. This pie is similar to pumpkin, though a slightly different consistency, and much milder flavor. It is easy to understand why this squash would find its way into a pie; at its best, this squash has a natural, and quite intense, sweetness.
Ah, the wonders of cabbage. I use it for so many different dishes. It's often an ingredient in soup. Of course, there's cole slaw. And then, just sliced very thinly, with onions sliced just as thinly, softly sauteed in olive oil or butter until the vegetables just begins to carmelize. That's a wonderful winter-time dish, delicious with baked potatoes for a wonderfully satisfying, simple meal.
There are some wonderful uses for canned tomatoes. In fact we've found that some pasta sauces taste better with the now-available "recipe ready" tomatoes than with fresh. Canned tomatoes also make for some very quick and still tasty meals. We wait for special prices on our favorite brand and keep a pretty good store on hand.
I usually buy these canned, as an ingredient for a very simple soup we have when a quick supper solution is needed.
Although I don't often use cardamom, it's a lovely addition to certain yeast breads. Perhaps I'll find other ways to use it in future cooking adventures.
Carrots go from appetizers through dessert. Though they are a vegetable, they definitely have a sweetness that lends wonderful balance to a tremendous variety of dishes.
Though I rarely use cayenne pepper, I like what it contributes in certain dishes.
I usually buy "hearts of celery" which may seem a bit tame. I find that's what works best in our kitchen. I use celery in so many different types of dishes, both uncooked and cooked. I've come to revere its place in my cooking.
We use extra sharp cheddar almost exclusively. Cabot makes a wonderful one and uses vegetable, rather than animal, derived enzymes to produce it. When Cabot is on special we almost always buy it.
Some preparations call for sliced cheese, plain and simple, of any number of particular varieties.
Cherry pie is a Thanksgiving favorite of two family members, and only tart cherries will do. We most often find these in 14 oz. cans. Last year we had quite a time finding them, and finally found glass jars of cherries imported from Bulgaria, perhaps the best we've ever had.
An ingredient for Cherry Pie, almost exclusively.
I have to admit, I don't get too fancy about chili powder. I purchase one of the well known brands. Sometine it would be fun to do a little exploring. Perhaps one of the on-line readers would like to contribute a little expertise on this subject.
Definitely one of my most favorite ingredients. I fall into the category of chocolate fanatics. I'm not sure I'd call it addiction. Not just any chocolate will do. We fanatics have our particular criteria without much allowance for alternatives.
We use these in many different ways: for cookies of course, but also for frostings, sauces, and wonderful hot cocoa.
One of a number of different kinds of vinegar I use for just the right touch in a variety of recipes.
There's nothing that smells better than an apple pie baking in the oven with a generous dose of cinnamon. Cinnamon is a wonderfully versatile ingredient, in desserts of course, but also in some main dishes. It's one of the few spices I purchase in larger quantities.
I distinguish classic olive oil from the extra virgin. For most cooking, I use the classic, sometines referred to as "regular" olive oil. I like the way it sautes. It has a very subtle flavor which adds to but doesn't detract from the other elements of a dish.
A wonderful spice, but to be used temperately or else it has a tendency to take over.
While cocoa is often a baking supply, it is also an essential ingredient in hot cocoa.
Though I use coconut infrequently, it does add a wonderful depth of flavor and richness to certain baked items, such as Aunt Sally's Brownies.
These have a taste all their own. Even the red, yellow, and orange varieties have individual tastes. Their flavor adds much of importance to any dish which requires them.
Though I use confectioner's sugar sparingly, sometimes it's what works best for a particular result.
I put this ingredient under the category "Stocks/Broth" because that is how I use it in some sauces and stews. The alcohol evaporates while cooking, leaving just the flavor enhancement as needed when included. I buy cooking wines in the grocery store, such as Holland House by label. Though many serious cooks would frown on this, taste is the test, and the results get very high marks in our experience.
There are only two kinds of frozen vegetables I buy: peas, and corn (not mixed because I use them in different ways). Somehow their taste seems less affected emerging from the frozen state. There are a few recipes that call for one or the other, or sometimes both. Using the frozen peas does make for speedy preparation. Try "Shepherds Pie" in a wonderfully satisfying vegetarian version. Also, "Corn and Pea Salad" is an excellent side dish which adds just a little crunch to a meal.
Though I use corn syrup infrequently, it's indispensable when needed. This ingredient lends a sweetness without affecting the consistency of a mixture. When used moderately it does not have to over-sweeten the final product.
Mostly, I use cornmeal for baking breads. However, once in a while we do have cornbread, a wonderful accompaniment to some of our hearty soups.
Cornstarch is very useful as a thickening agent. In connection with using cornstarch I once gained important information from a very seasoned cook, and excellent pie baker. She was visiting one time and offered to prepare a lemon meringue pie, a favorite of mine. However the filling of my lemon pie was always too soft, and never cut the way the beautiful pictures portrayed. This wonderful cook explained that when she measured cornstarch, she always packed it into the spoon. I remember her recipe had 7 tablespoons of cornstarch, and they were well-packed spoons. The pie was so wonderful that I immediately trusted her pointer, and now feel very confident of the results when making lemon meringue pie, and other constarch-based recipes.
Cranberries are one of the few berries native to America. I learned this on a recent trip to Carver Massachusetts. I went with a friend just as the cranberry gathering season was ending. The bogs are like nothing I had ever seen before. The cranberry bushes grow on perhaps acre areas which are recessed with a mote all around them so that the area can be filled with fresh water. Then some kind of machine loosens the ripened berries from the bushes; the berries then float to the surface of the water and are gathered. We saw one big dump truck just brimming with the beautiful berries. Looking at the berry laden bushes just before the berries are harvested is quite a sight: soft greenish- yellow foiliage with a reddish tint from the beautiful berries. Cranberry relish will never seem quite the same.
Once in a while, these little jewels are the quintessential addition to a dish.
We use cream cheese in various ways. However, most often it is an ingredient in some kind of baked goods. Cream cheese is certainly a staple item in our kitchen.
While I'm not exactly sure what it does, this ingredient is almost always called for when preparing egg whites to be whipped and baked or heated in any way. The results are good. That's what's most important.
I use cucumbers somewhat sparingly, mostly because of their high water content and, therefore, tendency to water down their fellow ingredients. However, their fresh taste, and gently crunch are just the right complement to certain dishes. The best cucumbers are small, and somewhat emaciated looking. The pickling variety is a good choice.
This spice I use primarily in Southern and Southwestern dishes. In the bottle, it has a pungent, not-altogether inviting scent. However, used well it adds an undefineable flavor which I wouldn't want to do without.
This is a useful ingredient when preparing some fruit sauces.
Dark brown sugar adds depth to so many dishes. Of course, it's wonderful in many baked goods. It also adds a lot to some vegetable dishes. To keep it soft, after opening a package, I slip in a chunk of fresh potato and just try to keep the package folded up well. I leave it in the refrigerator. There's one thing you have to remember about this method for maintaining the softness. After a while, maybe a few weeks, you have to take a very thin slice off the potato so that it doesn't become black and unsightly, or simply replace the potato chunk every few weeks.
We use dried beans in many ways. I particularly like Great Northerns for "White Bean Soup."
Hard boiled eggs are used in such a variety of ways, from appetizers through desserts. Used whole, or sometimes separated, they add a unique taste and richness for which there is no substitute.
What a versatile ingredient the egg is. The white separated from the yolk does wonders for a variety of dishes. White cakes, cake frostings, meringues, and a number of other dishes depend on the virtures of well-whipped-whites. If you are making a recipe which requires egg yolks but not whites, there is a simple way to save the whites for a future use. Place the unneeded whites in a freezer-worthy container. Leave the container in the freezer. When you plan to use the whites, let them defrost to room temperature and proceed to use them according to the recipe directions. One large sized egg white is a scant quarter cup. Also, many recipes give ingredient measures by liquid ounces. In that case, the whites may be measured in a glass measure.
I use egg yolks mostly for certain baked items. However, some sauces and puddings are much enhanced with egg yolks. The yolks, when cooked, also serve as a thickener. One does need to be careful to heat them very gently, since they will curdle and separate if overheated. Once or twice, when pressed, and when the yolks indeed did curdle just slightly, I ran the mixture through the food processor to smooth is out. The result was very acceptable, though not at its best.
We make every effort to purchase "cage free" eggs, that is eggs hatched from chickens which are allowed to roam free. I used to buy eggs from a local resident who had her own chickens. Since that opportunity is no longer available, I have taken to buying eggs which are labeled as hatched from "cage free" chickens as a second best. I miss buying them straight from "the farm" and hope to once again find such a source. There is a difference in the quality of egg as well as a greater confidence in the care of the animals. I have not chosen to give up the use of eggs and continue to find them a very necessary ingredient in our kitchen.
Though I rarely use eggplant, I do think it adds a lovely softness and silken texture to a dish.
For some dishes, short cut pasta is best. It is my husband's favorite, although I'll admit a preference for the long variety.
While I don't use this often, when I do there are no subsitutes, such as in pumpkin pie.
This is so fantastic. Man is it fantastic.
We most often use flour tortillas as wraps for a variety of fillings, either tending toward Middleastern or Southwestern influences.
One of the most basic ingredients used to produce such a variety wonderful foods from breakfast right through dessert in the evening... I can't imagine a kitchen without it.
This is a wonderful cheese something like Swiss in texture, and, even in flavor except that is has a distinct tang instead of sweetness, without a heavy aftertaste. I particularly enjoy using it in baked dishes, such as Christmas Eve Kuchen.
What a wonderful ingredient. We use them very infrequently, since they're not available for very long during the summer season. Growing up, we had a tart cherry tree which produced just enough for one wonderful pie each summer. What a gift, and treat that was!
These work excellently for cooked raspberry sauces or other such cooked preparations.
Sometimes a recipe needs a little fruit juice. It can be almost any kind, cranberry, apple, even pear or pineapple. I'll suggest the preferred variety, if important.
Garlic is great.
I most often use fresh ginger in Asian dishes, both cold and hot. In a pinch, I'll use ground ginger as a substitute, but there is a difference.
Ginger is an excellent spice both for baking and also for some savory dishes. Although fresh may be preferred, I sometimes use the ground in Asian dishes rather than do without if I don't have any fresh.
Green beans are a versatile ingredient for a number of recipes, both as a main dish and also as a side dish. It's so important to cook them to the correct point for each recipe. We choose the baby string beans when we're having the beans as an unadorned side dish; such beans should be cooked briefly just until bright green. For stewing, we choose the mature pods bulging with fully developed beans within. Then we cook the beans, most often in a tomato based sauce until the sauce is almost absorbed and beans are somewhat limp and full of the sauce's flavor.
Green chili peppers have a special place in norther New Mexican cuisine. They are often fire roasted and then peeled. They are usually available in "medium" or "hot" variety. Their unique flavor contributes wonderful taste to a great variety of dishes. These chiles can be ordered over the internet with just a little investigating, well worth the effort.
Though not many of the dishes I prepare contain green peppers, when called for, nothing serves as a substitute.
I'm not too knowledgeable on the subject of Greens. They come in such a wide variety of types: Mustard, Collard, Beet, Kale, and many more I'm sure. I really like them all, simply sauteed, or combined with other ingredients. They do have distinctly different tastes, and, so far I like all of them I've tried.
We use half and half in a number of sauces. Depending on what we have available, we sometimes substitute light or heavy cream with very good results, perhaps adding a bit of water to compensate for the extra richness, but then, sometimes richer is better.
This ingredient has become a staple item in our kitchen. We use often, in addition to using it for coffee. Half and half adds a richness to sauces without heaviness. It also works well with many desserts and is indispensible for our easy-to-make-very-delicious hot fudge sauce.
Iceberg lettuce has its place. We use iceberg leaves for most sandwiches. We also prefer iceberg lettuce for our Chef's Salads.
In our supermarkets, cream is designated according to its fat content, going from "half-and-half," to "light cream," to "whipping cream," to "heavy cream." I find uses for all except whipping cream. I have found that heavy cream consistently makes the best whipped cream. Heavy cream is also an ingredient in chocolate ganache, and in some sauces. This cream, used in a variety of ways, is a staple in our kitchen.
I may need to do some more research on harvesting honey. It is my hope that the bee-keepers take good care of the bees; I'd be sorry to have to give up this delicious ingredient. I've not yet seen honey labels promoting the bee-keepers care of the very special honey bees.
While we don't use this ingredient very often, it's indispensable when needed.
The few dishes in which these are used are often quickly prepared and serve as very satisfying main dishes or soups.
This is an optional ingredient in the recipe given for gravy. I use it very sparingly if I choose to use it at all. In truth, I believe all it adds is a depth of color, so, if the color looks right when the gravy is finished, I leave the Kitchen Bouquet out. When I choose to use it, it's just a drop, literally, or two perhaps. In the grocery store, I find it near all the extracts and baking ingredients.
My preference is to use the Barilla which is used directly from the package (i.e. not pre-boiled) and which most reminds me of my mother's freshly made lasagne noodles. I made the fresh noodles once, but find the Barilla a very reasonable substitute.
There is wonderful variety in the onion family. Leeks have a place of their own. They have a sweet earthy flavor with an affinity for potatoes and subtle sauces.
Lemons are a staple item in my kitchen. I try never to be without them because they sometimes turn up as a surprise ingredient. Just a squeeze of lemon can make the difference between "so-so," and, "just right." I really like things to be just right!
Lemon zest is a necessity if you're looking for an intense lemon flavor. It is the grated or finely peeled and julienned outer layer of the lemon, including just the yellow and avoiding the white which adds an undesirable bitterness.
For me, butter is an indispensable ingredient. I use the lightly salted variety for certain vegetable dishes and for some sauteing, in both cases somewhat sparingly. It has such wonderful flavor. Not too much is needed.
Fresh lime juice contributes unique flavor and for us, is a must in Guacamole. Lime juice is also a wonderful addition to most, if not all, fruit juice drinks. Particularly, try it with Pineapple Juice, and just a touch of seltzer.
Each pasta has its particular use. We like linguine with medium-weight sauces. In fact, it's probably the type of pasta we use most often.
Though I don't use Marjoram very often, I'm finding that it's a wonderful accent for potatoes in some dishes. I use it sparingly just so it contributes to the flavor without standing out on its own.
I have a huge preference for Hellmann's. I know some wonderful cooks who may disagree. I've even tried making my own but still prefer the Hellmann's.
I've really come to depend on the many varieties of mesclun mix available in most food stores. Some of the mixes are much better than others. I find my favorite mix of leafy greens at a garden market, happily within walking distance of our home.
My preference is for whole milk produced on dairy farms which give their cattle the space needed to live in contentment. We do purchase milk from organic dairies and have done some checking to learn about the care given the cattle which produce the mild for these dairies. As yet, the vegan choice is not for me.
I have a preference for using tapioca as a thickener in fruit pies. Tapioca helps produce a pie with clear, slightly thickened juice, without any added flavor
Molasses adds a wonderful oomph to many dishes, both savory and sweet. I use it in both baked beans and pumpkin pie and is irreplaceable in both.
I use mozzarella infrequently and am embarassed to say that I've never used the fresh mozzarella. Perhaps that's why I'm somewhat ambivalent about mozzarella. I only use it incombination with other cheeses and chiefly for its melting consistency.
Though I've always liked mushrooms, they have a special place in my cooking since becoming a vegetarian. Their taste and texture add a kind of "meatiness" to some dishes. Also, the variety of mushrooms is wonderful. I'll note which variety I recommend in each recipe.
We most often use dried mustard as an ingredient in a vinaigrette Francaise, i.e. when preparing an oil and vinegar dressing destined for a French inspired dish, such as Salade Nicoise. The addition of dried mustard gives the vinaigrette a lovely tang hard to describe. However, use sparingly. Once I got a little carried away with the result a bitter tasting vinaigrette.
Mustard is an excellent flavor used as a condiment or a flavor enhancer...we use it in many dishes though barely perceptible in the final product yet most important to its flavor.
The term "noodles" covers a lot of territory. There are so many varieties. I'll try and be specific in regard to the particular kind of noodle called for in any of these recipes.
Nutmeg has an affinity for both savory and sweet dishes. It combines very well with white pepper in dishes with white sauces. Of course, it adds much to many baked goods, including many breakfast goodies (such as pancakes, doughnuts) and many fruit desserts (such as apple pie).
Although I don't use oatmeal in many recipes, when called for, there is no substitute. Particularly, oatmeal cookies are a favorite in our home. A wonderful dessert, somehow we also feel like we're having something delicious with some good food value as well. Though, truly, I believe all good food has "good food value." I like the "old fashioned" because it gives more texture to the finished dish. If for some reason, a recipe needs a finer texture grain, I just use the food processor with a steel blade and pulse the oats two or three times. This works very well
I use this, instead of extra virgin, for most sauteing. It is a trusted staple without which I could not do.
We use these in a variety of ways and find them indispensible to those recipes that require the pimento stuffed variety of olive.
These provide wonderful flavor to many dishes. I think they are particularly important in vegetarian cooking, at least the kind we do.
My only reservation about this utterly necessary member of the onion family, is the great disappointment we feel when we find that what we thought was a sweet onion turns out to be anything but sweet. We do find the Vidalia variety quite reliable, also the Texas variety we've found more recently.
Most of the time, orange juice is a beverege in our home. But there's no substitute for orange juice in a pie crust.
There are very few recipes in which concentrated orange juice is specified, but, when it is, no substitute will do.
This adds a little zing whenever called for.
I use Oregano sparingly, especially in its dried form. It has a tendency to overpower a dish. However, sparingly used, it adds a little zing which I associate with Mediterranean cooking, even more than with Italian.
My first experience with using oyster mushrooms was in New Mexico. I was visiting a Farmers' Market in Albuquerque and one of the booths had these freshly picked mushrooms that looked too wonderful to pass up. I was inspired to call a friend who was happy to let me prepare a pasta dish at her home that evening. It was great fun and very delicious. See: "Albuquerque Farmers' Market Pasta."
I seem to have a particular fondness for root vegetables, in unison or combination. Each root has its unique taste, parsnips somewhere between carrots and turnip.
An essential in our kitchen. Specific varieties are right for specific recipes. Most often, I'll specify what I think works best for any given dish.
We're big peanut butter fans, used in a variety of ways. We most often opt for crunchy. Sometimes the creamy version works better for a particular recipe. For both taste and preparation, I believer the two, crunchy or creamy, are interchangeable.
A fresh just-ripe pear and a bit of extra-sharp cheddar, make a wonderful mid-day meal!
Peas are one of the two vegetables I buy frozen; the other is corn. At least once during their harvest season, I thoroughly enjoy buying fresh English peas,pods and all. The freshly prepared peas certainly have added flavor and texture However, just barely cooked frozen peas are very close in both categories.
Once a year we enjoy fresh peas, a sure sign that summer is really here.
Each type of nut we use has its unique contribution and affinity for particular dishes. We use these both as a recipe ingredient, and also as a condiment with such dishes as rice pilaf, a wonderful combination.
Dill pickles are both an indispensable condiment and also ingregient in a number of the dishes we prepare.
We use the Bread & Butter variety, just a little sweet with the sour.
These delicious nuts are really the seeds of pine trees. These uniquely flavored morsels are particularly wonderful toasted to a rich golden brown. They add a slightly smoky taste when used as a condiment with certain pasta dishes.
I use pineapple juice, as some other fruit juices, as a baking ingredient. Mostly, it contributes a wonderful texture to the final product, along with a subtle, yet piquant, flavor.
I have come to buy pineapple almost exclusively, shorn of its tough outer layer. I guess one could accuse me of getting "soft." So far, though, I've found the taste quality is dependably very good (sometimes really excellent), and I'm far less reticent to partake of this delicious fruit.
I mostly use plums for eating as fresh fruit. However every summer plum season, I try to make sure and bake a plum tart: quite simple and so delicious.
This is simply the water that's left after cooking potatoes. I usually cook potatoes in just the amount of water needed so that it evaporates by the time the potatoes are finished cooking. Occasionally it happens that there is still some water left. That water is a wonderful ingredient. It can be stored in the refrigerator and then used for soups, numerous baked goods, and in ways perhaps not yet discoverd. Just use your imagination mixed with a cooking sense for good taste.
These are wonderful for salads as well as certain hot dishes. There is no need to peel since the skins are very thin and tender. Care needs to be given not to overcook red skins, since they need a little less cooking than other types of potato.
Potatoes are a staple ingredient in our household. We make a practice of varying the starches we use for meals, and potatoes fit wonderfully into the mix. In fact, one of our simpler fall/winter meals is a very generous sized Idaho potato, well-baked, and then served with a variety of toppings, some of which may include, diced tomatoes, green peppers, sweet onions, tomatoes, also sour cream with thinly sliced scallions, and crisply cooked Morningstar brand Breakfast Strips. Truly yummy. Then we add a side dish or two, depending on the hunger factor. Left-over potatoes also add a lot used as an ingredient in certain baked goods, particularly some yeast breads.
I only buy the sharper version of this cheese. I think it has a slightly smokey flavor and enjoy using it sparingly.
This wonderful vegetable makes my favorite Thanksgiving pie. It also makes my daughter's favorite Thanksgiving sweet bread. I've tried using freshly cooked and pureed pumpkin, but for me, the result from the canned pumpkin is much preferred. For pumpkin soup, I use fresh pumpkin.
While I prefer canned pumpkin for pies, fresh pumpkin is the better choice for main dish recipes.
These are a staple item in our home, used in many different ways. I like them moist. Dole raisins are very reliable in that category.
Raspberries are wonderful as an ingredient in a variety of baked goods, and also in a sauce as an side dish. Just a few go a long way.
I've found, over the last few years, that peppers in all their different shapes, colors, and especially flavors, have become a staple in our kitchen. Each variety has its own important part in a given recipe.
Not being an imbiber, I go for the cooking wine available in most grocery stores. While this may seem unacceptable to many, I find the results are wonderful, taste-wise, and that's all that matters to me.
While I don't use a lot of Rice Vinegar, it enhances those dishes in which it is used. You can substitute White Wine Vinegar for a very close approximation.
I use ricotta almost exclusively for one of our lasagne recipes, the traditional one. An alternative that works well I believe is cottage cheese. Perhaps best is a combination of ricotta and cottage cheeses in equivalent amounts.
Though this herb can be over-used, it seldom is in my estimation. It just needs to be together with some good friends.
Don't let the name scare you. These are somewhat difficult to peel and slice but worth the effort. They work well in a surpisingly wide variety of dishes, including one of my favorites, a Chinese dish along with stringbeans and a number of other delicious ingredients.
This is a light tasting oil. It works very well for frying the likes of doughnuts or cookies, such as Schenkeli. More often, though, I use Safflower Oil for Asian preparations.
Somehow sage contributes a poultry flavor to some of the dishes we prepare. I think that's because sage is often used as a flavor enhancer with poultry. I'm learning that paying attention to such "go togethers" and incorporating the associated flavor accents in other food preparations satisfies any wistful longings for pre-vegetarian tastes. This is so particularly in two recipes, one for "It's not chicken salad," and the other a "Meatless Loaf."
Though often a condiment, salsa is an important ingredient in one of our favorite dishes, Black Bean Chili. I always use the "medium" range spiciness. Once, by mistake, I used the "hot," and we noticed immediately. However spiciness is in the preference of the taster. What tastes "just right" to me may seem too spicy, or too tame,for another. It's your call. Though purists may disdain it, I do use jar-packed salsa as an ingredient in a number of dishes. For table use, the fresh salsa would be my choice.
Hard to believe that I've never made salsa from scratch. Perhaps you have a favorite recipe. Whatever your preference, salsa is a necessary condiment in our home for some of our Southwestern favorites.
I agree with Julia Child. Salt is an important ingredient in many, even most, recipes. I haven't quite caught on to the preference for Kosher Salt, though I do stock it and use it when called for. I find salt important, with care taken not to overdo its use.
Although we use sauerkraut infrequently, there's no substitute when it's called for, particularly in our version of Grilled Reuben Sandwiches.
Savory doesn't emerge from my spice/herb shelf very often. It does well with potatoes, and croutons as well.
Scallions, or green onions, or spring onions are a staple item in our kitchen. They really give a little zing to so many dishes, such as egg salad, fried rice, and a number of other dishes. I find they need a little air when stored in the refrigerator, so I either leave them out of a plastic bag, or not very well wrapped.
This is an expensive ingredient, and well worth every penny. We use it sparingly and nothing can substitute for its flavor.
M-m-m-m ... sesame seeds, especially toasted to a light brown. We use these most often in Asian preparations as a late addition that contributes excellent flavor and subtle texture.
Shallots grow in cloves, something like garlic, and taste somewhat like a cross between onions and scallions. They seem to have an affinity with French cuisine. When called for and available, I like to use them. I have also substituted scallions and find the results very good.
While I don't use this often, it is an excellent element of Asian sauces and marinades; also certain cream sauces.
There are just a few ways in which I use these, and for me, there's no substitute.
We use these mostly in Asian dishes, although it is also good in some pasta sauces, and also, just steamed lightly with a hint of soy sauce as a side dish.
What a wonderful discovery Soy Sauce was to our family growing up. My aunt from Hawaii, who had married into an American/Chinese family, introduced this ingredient to our kitchen. Now, as with most, its a staple ... can't do without it. We use it mostly in Asian dishes. It's also an excellent ingredient in barbecue sauces.
We like spinach in a number of different ways: plain, in a number of pasta dishes ... and a wonderful salad that we serve with steamed white rice, a delicious meal anytime of the year. When I saute it simply with olive oil, garlic, and a little lemon squeezed on top, the fragrance is reminiscent of seafood for some reason. Whatever its nutritional attributes, it's just a delicious vegetable.
I've learned that stewed tomatoes have a taste all their own. I used to disdain them, but have learned that they're just perfect for some uses. I have at least one recipe that I once substituted plain canned tomatoes for the stewed, and felt the results were inferior. As I've said, taste is my measure.
While I don't use these often, they're very useful for sauces and purees.
We always buy fresh string beans. My mother used to have a wonderful garden, and she was very careful about preserving what she grew. String beans were always frozen. I have come to realize, though, that there is a huge difference between a frozen green bean, even if it had been home grown, and a fresh green bean, even if it was picked thousands of miles from here.
There are so many varieties of Swiss Cheese available. Choose your favorite.
Beware of Thyme. It can be overpowering. However I really like it in some savory dishes, just as a background flavor, usually mixed with some other herbs, such as Savory and Marjoram.
Tomato paste helps give intensity to certain dishes. Sometimes we use it sparingly (as in a mushroom sauce for pasta) or more generously (as in black bean chili). When called for, it is not to be overlooked. Its omission would be greatly missed.
There are so many different kinds of tomatoes which are used for so many different reasons. I'll try and refer to the particular kind in the recipes. Regular tomatoes are wonderful for burgers. Plum tomatoes are very good for sauces. Grape tomatoes have been a wonderful discovery. They invariably taste just next to home grown and are our choice for most salads.I'm not a gardener so I don't use as a rule all the different heirloom varieties, for example. I would suggest using the ones you like in whatever recipe.
It's difficult to find a good tortellini. So far the best choice I've found is Barilla, three cheese. I've wondered if some of the cheese used in commercial products may contain fillers. There is sometimes a coconut taste that is very disappointing, even inedible. Any pointers on this would be most welcome.
What can I say about butter. For me, it is an indispensable ingredient. I use the unsalted variety almost exclusively for baking. Sometimes when people comment about my baking, I wonder if it's the butter that makes the difference. Nothing can substitute for it.
Vanilla is perhaps the flavoring most used in desserts. For that reason it is essential to purchase the best quality vanilla you can afford. This recommendation is the result of a hard-learned lesson. One time a lesser quality vanilla virtually ruined what otherwise would have been a delicious dessert. Some time after this incident,one of my children provided me with a wonderfully amusing moment Secretly,this one (his girl friend an enthusiastic cohort) had exchanged the bad vanilla (even though its packaging listed it as "pure," not "artificial") with an excellent quality Madagascar vanilla. What a fun surprise was mine when I next went to the cupboard looking for vanilla, I have learned my lesson... "and a [not so] little child shall lead them."
We use vegetarian boillion for many dishes. I have not yet aquired the habit of making my own. I have been very pleased with both Knorr and HerbOx brands. One difference between the two is that each individual Knorr cube is for two cups of water, while each HerbOx cube is for one cup of water. So, depending on the cubes you are using, you can decide how many you need.
We use a number of cooking wines, sold at grocery stores exclusively for cooking. I know Julia Child would not approve. However we use wine only for cooking, letting the alcohol cook off. I find the results to be very yummy, and others seem to agree heartily. Of course, each cook may substitute as he or she wishes.
Though I've always like nuts, since becoming a vegetarian, I've begun to discover the tremendous variety available to us, their individual distinctness, and something about choosing just the right variety for a given dish. This is certainly true about walnuts. The recipe for "Butterscotch Brownies" calls for walnuts, and what an important ingredient the walnuts are, also in "Apple Salad."
We couldn't cook, or do much of anything without it!
Wheat Germ is one of my infrequently used ingredients but a very necessary one in a wonderful recipe for Meatless Loaf. Perhaps you have many other uses as well. Thankfully, Wheat Germ keeps very well, stored in the refrigerator.
Though not a great fan of white chocolate candy, I do find that white chocolate can be an essential baking ingredient, especially in White Chocolate/Cream Cheese frosting.
I find white pepper to be an important ingredient in a number of somewhat subtle sauces. I use it in many light cream sauces such as the sauce for macaroni and cheese, and some pasta sauces which use cream rather than tomato as a base.
We are particular about our white rice. We;ve learned that we prefer a medium grain variety to the "extra fancy long grain" normally featured. We find River Rice to be a very dependable choice. Over the years, with my mother's expert input, I've learned that the proportion of liquid to rice specified in most recipes makes for an unsatisfactory result, usually very sticky rice. Rather than the two parts liquid (usually water) to one part rice, I've learned a different way to figure the proportion. Measure into a pan the amount of rice desired. Fill the pan with water up to a level just about one inch above the rice (or the space between the tip of your index finger and the first joint). That's usually just about right. I've also learned somethingelse important about rice. Depending on what season it's harvested, it retains more or less moisture. When I open a new bag of rice, the first time I use it, I start with the measurement just described. Then depending how the rice comes out, I adjust the proportion of water to rice, a little less water if the rice seems a little sticky, or a little more water if the rice seems undercooked. The difference is usually only a few tablespoons or so. While this may seem a little fussy, the process becomes "second nature" pretty quickly and makes for an excellent "batch" of rice every time.
As a keen dessert maker and eater, I am all for sugar. It just needs to be used thoughtfully. I don't like desserts to be too sweet.
There are so many varieties of vinegars. My favorite light colored is Heinz tarragon, but I rarely find it. Other than that, I'm still scouting for a favorite.
We use this for a number of dishes, often pasta. We do cook the sauce after adding the cooking wine, so that the alcohol evaporates and all that is left is the heightened flavor. I know that wine buffs would look askance at using cooking wine, but it is my preference and I am very happy with the results, as others seem to be, even those who enjoy having wine as part of the meal.
I understand this is not technically rice, but a vegetable gathered in marshy areas. I find this "rice" to add a welcome texture to our bread stuffing. I pre-cook it with some salt and butter so that the grains take on a little flavor of their own.
For Thanksgiving in our home, it's yams, not sweet potatoes. Such traditions are based on reason, I believe, though I'm not just sure what reason. All I know is, we don't tamper with our Thanksgiving yams. Really, it's the only time I use yams and we couldn't possibly do without them.
Yeast breads are wonderful to make. When I first started baking with yeast, I was so careful to follow the instructions but I've learned that such recipes are quite forgiving. It's a good idea to have some idea of the dough consistency needed. A sense of that comes with experience. I enjoy using up little leftovers in some recipes, for example a little leftover oatmeal, a little sour cream that needs to be used. While one is never quite sure of the outcome, a few alterations here and there always seems to add to rather than detract from the final product.
What cook doesn't need these? Very few days go by without peeling and slicing one or more of these.
The subtle flavor of summer squash stands by itself or in combination with other vegetables.
I respect the subtle taste of zucchini and try never to overwhelm it.