I underestimated how difficult it would be to consistently post new pieces every week! Definitely found new respect for people who do this on a regular basis on top of their hectic lives. Anyway, I also came to realize that the way I cook and prepare meals has been very dependent on what I see first hand at the market and what I feel like cooking for that day or occasion. And so, it’s probably more productive if I share what I consider staple pantry ingredients.
To start, the holy trinity of French cuisine: mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery). I’ve used this as a base for many of my soups, broths, when I’m roasting proteins as a bed underneath and so on. You get such a balance of savoury flavours when incorporating these ingredients appropriately. Now, I know I said ‘appropriately’ and that’s primarily because sometimes you might not need all three ingredients together. Perhaps you may just need some onions in one dish or not on another. This leads me into my next staple ingredient, garlic. Aside from warding off vampires, garlic has many uses across multiple global cuisines as well has nutritional benefits. Lately, I’ve been using a lot of roasted garlic in my dishes to give it more depth. My method of roasting garlic is kinda a cheater’s way of doing it because I don’t usually have 45min or so to spare just to prepare roasted garlic. So what I do is take as much cloves as I need for what I’m making and without peeling them put some extra virgin olive oil and salt. Make sure that the cloves are evenly coated with the oil and salt, then place them on a tray lined with aluminum foil in a preheated oven to broil (low) for about 2-3 minutes on each side. You may get some charring on the outer layer but you can just pop out the cloves anyway. Sometimes the oil caramelizes the cloves inside as well but I think that makes it taste better because you get that roasted garlic flavour resonating throughout the clove but there is also some sweetness and added texture from the caramelization.
Tomatoes of any kind are also very versatile for sandwiches, salads, soups, salsas or even just raw with some salt and pepper. Yes, tomato is a fruit, I can eat it raw if I want to 🙂 Moving on, I try to always have some greens in our fridge; you can buy the spring mixed salad or baby arugala or a bunch of spinach. Of course I use them for salads for side dishes, but I also find like using them as alternatives for lettuce in my sandwiches. I spent a good amount of lunches and diners during my first year of university eating sandwiches or wraps and I know some people can get tired of eating sandwiches all the time but making these simple alternatives for lettuce or mixing lunch meat proteins makes it more interesting. I started using hummus instead mayo and other condiments. Making these adjustments helped me defeat the infamous freshman 15! I actually lost 15-20 pounds instead of gaining during my first year and mind you, our resident cafeteria was a buffet serving different kinds of cheesecake and scrumptious desserts everyday. I had my share of cheesecakes and bread puddings; it’s about balance and moderation.
With that being said, I would take butter or olive oil any day. These two ingredients outlasted countless “fat free” alternatives for multiple reasons. The flavours that you get from using either shortening ingredients are better in comparison to using margarine and they’re healthier! You read it right, butter is healthier than margarine! Butter is made of products that our body can break down easily unlike margarine. I remember my chemistry teacher in high school telling us the difference in a more molecular level; margarine being hydrogenated, consisting of more hydrogen-carbon bonds, makes it harder to break down in our digestive systems.
Hmm what else? Milk, apple cider vinegar, bread, potatoes (or sweet potatoes), a can of chickpeas sugar, soy sauce and of course salt and pepper. There’s an array of herbs that you may include in your list but I chose to leave it out because picking your go-to herbs varies depending on what you like to put on your dishes. We plant some basil, rosemary, oregano, mint, sage and lemon thyme on our garden and transfer them into pots when the seasons change. I would also recommend buying ingredients when they are in season. Not only is it cheaper because there is an abundance of supply but more importantly, they would be fresher.
Here’s a link to Ontario seasonal food availability: http://www.ontario.ca/foodland/availability-guide