I’ve been cooking more than ever the past few years and there are a few things I ALWAYS have on the shelves in my pantry. When I look at all of my recipes, there is a common thread of ingredients across everything.
Let’s start with the obvious – salt and pepper. I am a true believer in seasoning every step and salt and pepper are the typical go-to’s. I am not counting these in my list of 5 things because I really, really hope that you have salt and pepper already. My favorites are pink Himalayan sea salt and black peppercorn.
How I use it: This is the base for nearly everything I cook. When sautéing vegetables, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into your saucepan over medium heat. Then toss in your vegetables, salt, and pepper and cook down to a golden brown, but leave a little bit of crunch if that’s what you’re going for. Finishing olive oils are used for drizzling on top of bruschetta, mixing into a salad, and dipping fresh bread. These are the olive oils you’ll typically find at specialty shops.
Where to buy: I like to get the large bottles of olive oil for cooking (anywhere from 17 oz to 1.5 L). Aldi has really amazing prices on their olive oils. Avocado oil is another great option for cooking. My favorite local shops for finishing olive oils are Olive Oils & More and Fezziwig’s. Both ship across the U.S.!
Favorite foods to cook with: mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes
Favorite foods to finish with: fresh bread for dipping, garden tomatoes, salads, pasta
Visit your local specialty food shop and treat yourself to REAL AGED balsamic vinegar. This might be my favorite flavor. Pair it with fresh bread and olive oil – soooo delicious!
Favorite foods to finish with: drizzle on top of Brussels sprouts, make a perfect Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, mix into a green salad with goat cheese and blueberries, pour over olive oil in a small bowl with cracked pepper and dip with fresh bread
How I use it: Sometimes your food needs a little heat, so I like to keep a really good spicy seasoning on hand for when I want to add another level of flavor to my cooking. Toss your old red pepper flakes aside and upgrade to Doc Meyers. You’ll thank me later.
Where to buy it: Doc Meyers’ Extra Hot Crushed Red Pepper is my absolute favorite go-to. You can buy it online here. It’s a blend of 4 peppers – simple, but a little goes a long way! It’s also made by one of our best friends.
Favorite foods to use it with: eggs, pasta sauce, pizza, salsa, chili, Bloody Mary’s
How I use them: Chop and sauté with olive oil or butter, and season with salt and pepper
Where to buy: Grocery Stores and Farmers Markets: Avoid getting onions with soft spots. I try to have at least 3 at all times, sometimes more. Good onions can last anywhere from 1 to 2.5 weeks. I keep mine on my counter. Only store in the fridge once chopped up.
Favorite ways to cook with them: Top any type of meat – burgers, sausage, and steak; Toss into a bell pepper mix for fajitas
Cumin & Coriander
How I use them: When you need to up your flavor level even more, cumin or coriander may be the answer. These spices are sneaky good and if you don’t use them a ton right now, once you start you’ll realize what you’ve been missing out on.
Where to buy: Any grocery store
Favorite ways to cook with them: Both are delicious flavors to add to any type of Indian cuisine, but cumin can also be really flavorful with Mexican foods like salsa, fajita veggies, taco fillings, and enchiladas.