We're kicking off the blog with a list of some of our go to kitchen items. We've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen these past couple months, since we've been home, crop planning and strategizing for the coming season. I've realized there are a handful of ingredients I reach for regularly that make cooking so much easier and more flavorful if they are always on hand. So here they are!
Garlic- A member of the allium family, garlic packs tons of health benefits as well as flavors to almost any dish. Use it pressed raw in salad dressings, sauté it with onions as a base for soups and stews, or add it to any stir fry. I don't always feel like taking the time to mince garlic, but since I have found an effective garlic press, garlic goes in and it's a breeze. The one we like is all metal and only cost about $7.
Olive oil- A super easy salad dressing is olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, dijon mustard, pepper and garlic. Throw that in a mason jar, give it a shake and you are set for weeks of greens. A homemade salad dressing is a great way to improve any salad situation and avoid the added sugar of most store bought dressings. While you can use olive oil to cook and sauté just about any vegetable dish, it's health benefits and flavor are preserved mostly in it's raw state. Drizzling a little on a fried egg with salt and pepper on toast creates an explosion of flavor for breakfast (another go-to for us) or pour some on steamed veggies with rice for dinner.
Butter- Unless you're vegan, butter is a must in the kitchen. While it's got a bad rap for the last several decades along with many of it's fatty cousins, organic, grass-fed butter actually has tremendous health benefits. Fats make nutrients and minerals from vegetables more absorbable in the body. Use it simply on toast or add it to any sauce to enhance flavor and create richness. A few tablespoons added to a marinara sauce does wonders.
Soy sauce - Are you're feeling like adding salt to a dish, but want a bit more flavor? Soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free alternative) give many dishes a nice umami taste. It's fantastic in salad dressings, and compliments stir fries. It's also an easy way to flavor a simple side of rice and a fantastic marinating agent for chicken, fish, pork, or beef.
Fresh ginger- I always like to keep a hand-sized piece of ginger in the crisping drawer in the refrigerator. It keeps for quite a while and has a really bright flavor that easily spices up plain dishes. Grate some into soups, curries, stir fry, and salad dressings. It is also nice in a glass of water or cup of tea.
Balsamic vinegar- The first time I had grilled cabbage ( I know, not what you'd think of with cabbage, right?) it was coated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and it was perfection. I had never thought to prepare it that way and now I have won over many indifferent cabbage eaters with this tasty dish. Adding a little Balsamic compliments most vegetables in a stir fry or sauté, and it's a great marinade for chicken, lamb or beef. It's often the perfect balance of sweet and acidic and I use it often for salad dressings. If I'm feeling rushed I'll just drizzle it on top of a salad with olive oil, a little fresh cracked black pepper, and sea salt. Nothing fancy, but fantastically tasty. If you are feeling like a splurge, or have extra time in the kitchen Balsamic reduction is oh so delicious.
Lemon or lime juice- Another salad dressing essential, lemon juice adds the sour, acidic piece. We reach for it when a soup needs a little zing. If you are cooking greens like spinach or chard a little zest grated in really brightens what might otherwise be a chore of a dish to consume (for me anyhow). I know I'm supposed to like all of the vegetables that I grow, and I do, but getting me excited about swiss chard in the summer usually takes something enticing like bacon and lemon zest.
A few Spices- Sea salt, with a larger chunk size, just takes salt to the next level, particularly for finishing things like the aforementioned daily breakfast staple of egg on toast. Not only does it have better flavor, but it's rich in minerals compared to processed and refined table salt. Pepper- In particular a pepper grinder so you can get the nice bigger chunks. We keep Curry powder, chili powder, garlic powder, and a few others on hand. They can take a routine vegetable dish off in a fun new direction in no time.
Parmesan Cheese- We keep other cheese around don't get me wrong, Lily's an addict. Parmesan is a storage cheese for our uses. It lasts nicely in the fridge. I use it most often for a caesar dressing that allows us to eat bunch after bunch of kale with enthusiasm. It tops soups nicely, adds umami to vegetables, and tops a late night pot of popcorn cooked in bacon drippings. (ohh come on, fat is good!)
Bouillon- We are big fans of the jars of organic Better than Bouillon that you can find in most grocery stores now. Adding bouillon to boiling rice takes the grain to the next level. It makes soups a breeze. Quart of that stuff, whatever vegetables are lying around the fridge, maybe a can of coconut milk and we are off in the direction of a quick satisfying fridge cleaning meal. We use a base recipe for Tom Kha, a Thai soup that is hot and sour and silky with coconut milk, another of our pantry staples. But if coconut is not your thing, Tom yum is another option. Either way, buck tradition and add what you like.
Our not quite as often used but just as beloved pack of ingredients often go together in some capacity. Toasted sesame oil is great for sauces with peanut butter, or on vegetables alone. Coconut milk in rice instead of water is delicious and as an addition it makes a fast soup or curry.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our reliance on hot sauce. We use it as a condiment for just about anything. Our favorites include: Sriracha, Aardvark, Cholula, and our latest favorite was a gift from our friends and fellow farmers at Brown Bottle Farm. They are wizards when it comes to the kitchen and have made a hot sauce containing vinegar infused with their home grown chilies, spices and mushrooms!
So there you have it. Moon River Farm's kitchen essentials. The list could go on, but you get the idea. With these ingredients on hand we feel ready to whip up a meal on any night. What do you think? Have we left out something on your kitchen essential list? We love new idea's when it comes to food so let us know in the comments!
We hear spring is on it's way....
It's okay, we'll just wait.
Kayleigh and Lily