There is something so fresh and invigorating about the month of January. The start of a new year brings an opportunity to make positive changes in our lives. Six years ago, my new years resolution to use my new knives literally changed my life. If you resolved like I did to work on enhancing your skills in the kitchen, then I have the perfect tip for you. Being able to cook easily and efficiently relies very heavily on having the tools and ingredients you will need ready. But if you never cook, how are you supposed to know what to have at hand?!?
Here are the Top 10 kitchen essentials you need to have :
#1 KOSHER SALT
Salt is not just a flavor. Salt is something that EXTRACTS flavors from other foods. It makes all of your ingredients MORE flavorful. Instead of seasoning your food when your dish is already done, try using the recommended serving of salt a little at a time while you are cooking. Every time you add something to the pan, add a little bit of salt. That way, every ingredient will be at it’s most flavorful and you won’t need to salt it at the end.
#2 FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPERCORNS
You can by a reasonably priced black pepper grinder full of whole peppercorns at any major grocery store in the spice section and it will be WELL worth it. Spices and herbs have oils and when they are crushed or broken those flavors are extracted. Grinding your pepper fresh will have a way bigger impact on all your dishes. Like salt, you should add it a little bit at a time instead of all at the end.
#3 GOOD OLIVE OIL
Next to salt and pepper, this is probably the ingredient I use most. I use it to cook, marinate and season. It is insanely versatile and I use it in almost every dish I make.
#4 FRESH GARLIC
Besides the fact that it is very good for your health, it is freaking delicious. Not to mention, it is used in pretty much every culture’s food so it is a perfect staple to have on hand and is easy to come by.
#5 BALSAMIC VINEGAR
Something tangy in the kitchen is a must. Making homemade dressing is one of the easiest ways to seriously improve your salad game. Just a little oil and vinegar with salt and pepper on greens or vegetables can completely morph them from dull to delicious. It’s also great when roasting veggies or in a meat marinade. You could sub Red Wine Vinegar if you prefer it.
#6 DIJON OR WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD
Dijon is not just for your hot dogs. I use it in marinades, dressings and sauces. Mustard can add delicious flavors and textures and don’t be afraid to try different kinds. A Dijon with herbs I picked up on a trip to France has become my fast favourite!
#7 FRESH LEMON
Aside from being a great garnish for my occasional vodka soda, lemon is a necessary staple in the kitchen. Cooking is all about balance and acids are a major component. Like vinegar, lemon is perfect for marinades and dressings. It’s also great if you juice and it can also work as a natural ant killer when you don’t want to use harsh chemicals in the kitchen.
#8 BROWN SUGAR OR HONEY
Sugar, like salt extracts flavors from ingredients it is cooked with. It creates great flavors when cooking and roasting as well as adding great flavor to marinades and vinaigrettes. I personally think brown sugar provides much more flavour than white, but honey is a great sub and is also great in tea.
#9 ITALIAN SPICE BLEND
People always ask me what spice is most important to have on hand in the kitchen. To be honest the real answer is whichever one is your favorite. You don’t need to have a ton of spices on hand because they expire after 6 months. Some markets have bulk spices you can purchase, as you need them. I keep Italian blend on hand because it is versatile, flavourful and you are getting at least three for one!
#10 RED PEPPER FLAKES
To fulfill your pantry, we have to round things off with something spicy. Just a few shakes of red pepper flakes into a dish as you are cooking and you will give it the perfect heat.
Is there anything else you’d add to the list?
Written by Angela Samuels