After three years of giving ideas, I hope that someone is really interested in upgrading their basic recipes just a little zing. Of course everyone has these staples in their kitchen for a start:
Mustard: Always have Dijon mustard on hand but stone-ground varieties will work.
Citrus fruits, especially lemons and oranges: For freshness, store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Juice is first but you also will grate the peel for flavorful zest, which can be frozen and used when needed.
Broth (fat-free, lower- sodium): These broths come in cans, cartons and even instant broth packets with water. I have a section in my pantry for seafood, beef, chicken, vegetable, and ham broths.
Shallots: This causes me problems in recipes. What is the difference between plain onions, shallots, and green onions? The shallots are small bulbs that are a bit milder than onions and store for up to six months in a cool, dark space. They better store for a long time for they are expensive. I use young green onions and think they are mild, which they are.
Black Pepper: I purchased black pepper seeds in a container that has a peppermill on top of the jar so I can grind it fresh as needed for that extra zing.
Kosher Salt: The large crystals of kosher salt help you eat a little less sodium because fewer fit onto your measuring spoon. That is a weak foolish statement. Kosher salt varies in taste from which part of the world it is mined. My pantry has three kinds now.
Onions (red, white, and yellow): Sautéed onions make a fragrant base for a number of delicious skilled dishes. There are subtle taste differences, but any color will do in a pinch. Don't purchase a whole bag because you think you are getting a bargain. I find when I do that many end up with mold and rotten. So I end up thinking the next time to purchase fewer and use them quicker.
Olive Oil: this gift from the olive adds fruity flavor and healthful fat to your meals. I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in cooking, cold dishes, and salads all the time. I purchase the big bottles which are not cheap but the oil gives the dish a healthful and tasty bounce.
Marmalade or fruit preserves: I add these items to add sweetness to many savory dishes. When it comes to chicken or turkey cooking, my marmalades and or fruit preserves are close at hand. You can get wild purchasing these items. I am always trying to use different tastes and a bottle of marmalade takes up space. I live fruit preserves in cooking for they have less sugars and more real fruit.
Garlic: Fresh garlic keeps well in a cool, dry cup board. I have garlic planted in my herb garden and each year they grow, flower, die and the next year they go through the cycle again. When I need fresh garlic, out I go with my trusty shovel and dig one or two up.
Balsamic vinegar: This is my choice to add a rich tart-sweet flavor to savory sauces and dressings. I just love the stuff. In a pinch you can substitute red wine vinegar. I cook and reduce balsamic vinegar for an elegant drizzle for fresh fruit. It took a while for restaurants to use balsamic vinegar but now most are catching on to this great taste.
Now for the Spice Shelf list. I have written on spices and herbs many times and I hope some ideas are gaining flavor. This presentation is a little smaller than before but my heart is still on the spice shelf.
MOST WIDELY USED PEPPERS: powdered cayenne, Tabasco (liquid), crushed red pepper pods, chili powder, black peppercorns (telicherry), and white pepper corns. I like Louisiana Hot Sauce better than Tabasco.
SPICES AND HERBS: whole bay leaves, sweet basil, dried thyme, oregano, dried rosemary leaves, dried marjoram, ground mace, whole cloves, whole allspice, ground allspice, nutmeg, ground mustard, and gumbo file'.
FREQUENTLY USED: ground bay leaves, ground thyme, fines herbes, ground rosemary, ground marjoram, tarragon leaves, ground cardamom, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, ground cumin.
OCCASIONALLY USED: chopped chives, chervil, turmeric, sage, saffron, whole dill seed, caraway seeds, celery seed, anise seeds, cream of tartar, dried ground chicory, capers.
BASIC MIXTURES: chopped and shrimp boil,(Yogi or Zataraub's), Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins), French wine vinegar, olive oil (Plagniol), orange flower water Pickapeppa Sauced, beef tea concentrate (Bovril or Wilson), bouillon cubes, Creole mustard, prepared horseradish.
NOTE: bottled spices deteriorate once they are opened, at varying rates. Check your spices fairly regularly, if their aroma is faint, throw them away and buy fresh ones. Stale apices add nothing to one's cooking except perhaps a slightly bitter, stale taste. Frank's Red Hot has a Sweet Chili Sauce for Dipping and More has just hit the market and it is really good.
Now for a story or two. I asked for help in finding pickled green tomatoes to purchase. Three days later a phone call came a nice gentleman said where I could purchase a gallon just North of Campbell on the main highway. Two days later I arrived at the station and sure enough there they were. So I got out of the store with the pickled green tomatoes and some pickled okra and slab of cooked ribs. That help cost me but I am a happy trooper.
Then I went into the down town Campbell area and saw where a restaurant used to serve only evening meals now had new owner that serve fourteen hours a day but only eight on Sunday, call Mom's Country Kitchen. It is in the area of the City Hall. New leadership means new food ideas for me. So I went in a purchased three fluffy pancakes with two eggs up on top with coffee. What I received were the best pancakes I have ever eaten and on top of that they served honey from Kennett, Missouri. How can you beat that? Big, fluffy, pancakes and served with Kennett Honey. Now someone top that. So I asked what they use for the pancake mix and the nice lady cook told me it was Kristeaz Belgian Waffle Mix. If you find that brand, buy it quickly and enjoy the best waffles, pancakes, muffins and etc. made of the Kristeaz Belgian Waffle Mix. The employees at Mom's Country Kitchen are the best. Thank you.
Have a Happy