What basic ingredients are worth the extra cost and effort.
I’m an actual human being. I have a husband, kids, a job, all that kind of good stuff. Plus, I realize food can get pricey. So I laugh when Ina Garten and good ole’ Martha talk about running to the farmers market to pick out some gorgeous or beautiful ingredient that most people have never heard of. But…
A kitchen is like a business in some ways. You try to cut costs wherever you can and you try to find shortcuts to maximize your productivity. But just like in a business, there is a point where too much short cutting becomes unethical. That is why I follow this kitchen code of ethics. I believe that some ingredients are worth the extra cost and effort. If you skimp on these it is like skimping on seat belts. Just plain wrong. By using the kitchen code of ethics, your end product will turn out superior and you will feel at peace with your conscience. If you ever eat anything I make, I promise to follow this code of ethics. All of my recipes use the ingredients in the kitchen code of ethics.
I’m not asking you to have a beautiful persimmon on hand at all times, and you don’t need to pick up any gorgeous black truffles from your local pig handler, just some basics that are easily accessible and not terribly cost prohibitive will do.
Repeat after me. “I will follow the kitchen code of ethics, so that my family, friends and guests will not have to suffer the ill effects of inferior food.”
(I’m totally joking btw. I don’t actually think people who don’t use these ingredients are unethical. We can still be friends. But, I do really think these things are worth it and I credit a lot of my success in cooking on not taking the easy way out with these ingredients.)
My refrigerator always has at least a few lemons in it. I LOVE lemons! They last for a pretty long time and they are always handy. A little fresh lemon juice really brightens a lot of foods. That lemon juice in a bottle is only useful in a zombie apocalypse. For years I have been trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to grow an indoor Meyer lemon tree to negate the need for for that little bottle even during the zombie apocalypse. Hopefully I have time.
I cut up garlic almost every day. It is in almost everything I cook. Sure, there is garlic powder, but that has a very narrow spectrum of acceptable use. (I think it tasted a lot like bitter, burned garlic.) And there is the pre-minced bucket o’ garlic. But for me, the real deal is just better. It isn’t that much more work if you have a little know-how. A garlic press does wonders, but so does a knife. As a bonus, I love that my fingers smell like garlic for a few hours after working with it. Most people go to great lengths to remove that smell, but I love it! (In case you wanted a little too much information, I especially love to floss my teeth after I have been cooking with garlic because my fingers have a hint of garlic flavor. Seriously, I do.)
Ditto to garlic except I don’t use it quite as often. (And I don’t love flossing after cutting ginger.)
It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized Parmesan doesn’t come in a green can, isn’t pronounced parm-ese-ian and doesn’t taste like terrible gritty powder. That stuff is referred to as “abomination” at my house. It was banned for a long time, but has gotten a toe-hold with a few select recipes these days. I prefer to buy a big block of the real stuff and shred it myself. It is cheaper this way and lasts quite a bit longer than the pre-shredded stuff. (Even though the bane of my culinary existence is shredding cheese. I hate doing it. I pawn it off on whomever I can: husband, children, neighbor, friend, mailman. But for the Parmesan, I sacrifice.) You feel so gourmet even owning a wedge of Parmesan.
Alton Brown is pretty much my hero and he told me to use kosher salt, so I do. So should you. Really, it does seem to do a better job of being salty and not just chemical-y. Especially when salting chicken, steak, fish, pork chops etc. The larger crystals dissolve more slowly on your tongue and give a nice flavor. I only use table salt in some baked goods.
C’mon, does anybody NOT know that butter is one reason life is worth living? Shortening? Only every so often, when it is specifically needed. Margarine? No, never. Not ever.
Real vanilla extract
This one can be a lot pricier than the fake stuff, but the fake stuff just isn’t right. Costco sells it at a very reasonable price.
Like garlic, they are in almost everything I cook. Some people think they are a pain to cut, but I actually enjoy it. Onions are cheap and pack a ton of flavor. Onion powder just can’t compare in most cases.
As a kid, I remember smelling the little box of pre-ground pepper in my mom’s spice cupboard. I remember thinking it smelled awful and knew I didn’t like pepper. That was, until I smelled and tried freshly ground pepper. No contest! Especially because it is only a smidgen more work to grind your own. I can’t believe how different they are in taste and smell.
Well folks, there you go. You can now consider and formulate your own kitchen code of ethics to decide what is worth extra time and money to you.