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Monday, February 16, 2009

Upgrade Your Pantry

I found these tips from Real Simple when I was trying to upgrade my pantry. It is very interesting to learn about the things inside our pantry that we always use almost everyday. I posted it here in case you might want to know. Take four meal building blocks — salt, pepper, olive oil, and cheese — from basic to gourmet


Replace normal table salt with kosher and sea salt. “Ordinary table salts have additives and whiteners and anti-caking agents and a rather murky flavor,” says Sally Schneider, the author of A New Way To Cook (Artisan, $25, “So I use kosher salt as an everyday salt: It’s inexpensive, and it has a very clear flavor.” She then uses sea salt, which varies in flavor and appearance depending on what water it has been evaporated from, at the end of the cooking process. “Sea salts are quite a bit more expensive and stronger, so it’s easier to oversalt if you use them for general cooking,” Schneider warns. Instead, she just sprinkles some on as a “finisher” to lift the flavor of any dish. Try putting it in a bowl on your table for guests to use.


Replace that store-bought preground pepper with whole peppercorns you grind yourself. “I have two pepper mills: one for the kitchen and a little one for the table,” Schneider says. Her reasoning? Freshness. “The flavor begins to dissipate as soon as you grind the peppercorns,” she explains. Schneider also recommends purchasing a pepper mill with variable settings for coarse or fine grains, then filling it with quality peppercorns. (Try Tellicherry or Lampong, both widely available.)

Olive Oil

Replace corn oil or plain olive oil with extra-virgin olive oil. “When you have a good olive oil on hand, it can be an instant sauce in itself — it’s that delicious,” says Schneider. Look for oils marked “extra virgin,” which means that the oil has been cold-pressed (no solvents were used to extract it) and that it has less than 1 percent acidity. “The term generally indicates a better quality, a more flavorful olive oil,” she notes. Since extra-virgin olive oils can have a wide range of flavors — from buttery and grassy to peppery — Schneider suggests buying small bottles to figure out what you like.

Parmesan Cheese

Replace generic Parmesan with Parmigiano-Reggiano. This versatile cheese is handmade in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy — and only in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano has the name stamped right on the rind. “Ordinary Parmesan — especially the pregrated stuff — doesn’t taste like anything compared to real Parmigiano, which has a very complex flavor,” says Schneider. “It’s not sharp, but it adds just the right kind of saltiness. It’s one of those foods that goes with just about anything.”


  1. Hi Cecile,

    Great recommendations. Have you ever used flavored sea salts too? I ask as I hand-craft a unique range of flavors in Seattle, where I am a vendor at our local farmers market.

    My salts are finishing salts, made of coarse, flaky hand-harvested Fleur de Sel. They make wonderful accents to natural ingredients, and as you already said, a little sprinkle goes a long way.

    If you're curious about recipe ideas and/or flavors, take a peak:



  2. Great tips! Thanks for sharing.