Here's an impossible assignment from The Kitchn editors: list your top five pantry and refrigerator essentials. Only five? I've decided to skip good olive oil and flaky sea salt (and sneak them into this introduction instead) because they are almost too basic, like flour and sugar. Instead, I'll go for everyday items that elevate even the most ordinary dishes.
Dana's 5 Pantry Essentials
• 1. Pastured Eggs I get to the farmers' market 15 minutes early and join a queue for these eggs, for they are often sold out within 20 minutes of the market's opening. They are that good. Once I experienced their rich, bright orange yolks and firm whites, there was no way I'd ever go back to pale supermarket versions. And once I understood how those supermarket eggs were raised, I knew it would be pastured eggs or no eggs at all in my household.
• 2. Shallots Shallots are a sweeter, more delicate member of the onion family and therefore a little more versatile. Hint: Finely chop up a scant tablespoon of shallots and marinate them in vinegar before assembling a vinaigrette. The vinegar tames the shallot so that it plays well and doesn't overpower the other ingredients.
• 3. Parmesan I use Parmesan (or its slightly milder cousin Grana Padano) several times a week. Obviously it's the cheese of choice to grate over pasta and stews, but try it over hot roasted brussels sprouts and other vegetables. Shaved, it makes a wonderful salad cheese. The really good stuff is excellent when chipped into chards on a cheese plate.
• 4. Miso Miso is the secret ingredient I sneak into all sorts of dishes and sauces when a punch of savory umami is needed. I also keep a small tub of David Chang's Miso Butter (1/4 cup of white miso blended into 1/2 stick of butter) on hand to plop on top of roasted vegetables. Salmon marinated in miso and sake and then broiled is astonishingly beautiful.
• 5. Lemons There is very little in my cooking that doesn't benefit from a final squeeze of lemon.
There are legions of items missing from this list and I suspect that if I wrote this post again in a few weeks, a few items might even change. But all in all, I'm always sure to have these five ingredients (plus the sneaky two from the introduction!) in my kitchen at all times. From these items alone I can make a decent supper any night of the week which is as good of a testament as any to their practicality and deliciousness.
(Image: Dana Velden)