This post deals with many basic items that are collectively very important in food preparation in this house. These items are key to what goes on in our kitchen. Many items others might include here are left out and our reasons for leaving them out may be as important as why we included other items. I may make a point about that here, but I’ll do so later in the post.
The idea at the outset is to make a short list of all such items as are used in many dishes in one place together with some ordering information on particular brands that may be superior to others. In most cases, general uses for all such items as are discussed in this post will be obvious or I will take note of how such uses are important in later posts. When I write about particular dishes in later posts I may still refer in some detail to the use of items discussed in this post, but then refer readers back here to ordering and other information given.
The first item on my list is oils. I use only oils that are liquid at room temperature. I buy primarily safflower oil, canola oil and olive oil. I buy extra virgin olive oil, usually Bertolli or Pompeian. These brands are widely available. I buy the largest container available and store at room temperature. I have several small containers to which I can transfer garlic cloves mixed with specific herbs or just use the herbs alone. After a week to ten days I can usually begin to use the garlic/herb oils in salads or various other dishes. They can be decanted away from the garlic/herb mix or simply used directly.
One company that I know of that makes a substantial variety of herb-infused olive oils that are quite good is the Florida Olive Oil Company, which also sells a great variety of balsamic vinegars which are an indispensable mixed with many herb-flavored olive oils in fresh salads.
Florida Olive Oil Co.
384 St. Armand’s Circle
Sarasota, FL 34236
I keep both white and red vinegar on hand for some dishes but also balsamic vinegars from the Florida Olive Oil Co. or either the Colavita or Monari Federzoni brands both of which are widely available. Florida Olive Oil Co. has nearly equivalent stores in different locations. There is one that is very similar in Tubac Arizona (south of Tuscon, AZ). Other outlets may be found in other locations.
Peppers and Pepper mixes are critical for many dishes. I buy Tones peppercorns. Many dishes in my view require a freshly ground black pepper–usually in very small amounts and with herbs or herb mixtures as directed. Peppers and herbs usually substantially diminishes the need for salt or even the perceived need for what amounts to excessive salting of food.
Don’t misunderstand. We all need salt and particularly the trace amounts of iodide that are present in iodide-supplemented salt. The body needs salt at modest levels to replace what is lost daily, but the regimes which people who may wish to lose weight or attain a higher level of cardiovascular health may attend at their doctor’s request may be excessive. Remember, the doctor did not say salt-free. The doctor was requesting that you cut back your excessive salt intake. Buy iodide-supplemented regular salt and use it sparingly if you’re cutting down on salt, but use it. Iodide is a required trace element in the diet and is primarily needed to maintain the proper condition of the thyroid and to make suitable amounts of thyroid hormones. You may not get sufficient iodide from sea salt which many may currently grind into their food.
In addition to peppercorns a finely ground white pepper is also excellent in small amounts in some dishes. Also, if you grow jalapeno peppers or other types of hot peppers of various “hotness,” you can use these in a variety of dishes. I buy them, usually one at a time and cut them up into a variety of dishes. If you grow them yourself you may have far more than you need–even though they keep fairly well in a refrigerator there are often too many. Take the freshly picked jalapeno peppers and cut them in half the long way–remove and discard the seeds. Take the flesh of the peppers on a cutting board and cut them up into small pieces. Put them all in a small zip-lock bag and freeze. You can spoon these out in small amounts into various dishes over the winter when fresh jalapenos are not coming out of the garden.
There are two specialty ground pepper mixtures that are available through Alden Mills: lemon pepper and garlic pepper. The garlic pepper is a good addition to some dishes but the lemon pepper I find indispensable on chicken, fish and pork added prior to baking. The Alden Mills lemon pepper is sometimes hard to find and you may need to order it directly by calling and placing an order. Alternatively, if you call them, you may be able to find out where it is sold locally–always a better alternative to shipping charges.
Alden Mills House
P.O. Box 326
Alden, MI 49612
Marinades and salad dressings are generally specialty items. We usually use vinegar and oil as a salad dressing–and often one of the herb or garlic-infused olive oils or balsamics noted above. One commercial product which is, for the most part, a vinegar and oil dressing is used a lot and also used to marinade chicken that is then charcoal grilled indirectly–more about that later. This product is “Garlic Expressions” and while it may be more widely available than Alden Mills products the Garlic Expressions is often hard to find. It is distributed through
LarMar Foods, Inc.
Perrysburg, Ohio 43552
Finally sauces, salsas, mustard and other condiments are generally prepared fresh. We generally use both of the salsa products prepared and sold by Artisan’s Table of Tuscon AZ (see yesterday’s post). We also use Chipotle Mustard from Artisan’s Table most of the time, but for some dishes may use Grey Poupon. We rarely use catchup or other condiment products which tend to be loaded with excessive amounts of salt.