As I was preparing dinner the other night, I began to mentally jot down the ingredients that made an impact on how Greg and I eat today. I counted four in the dish I was making. Four that up until a few years ago I hadn’t heard of and many I didn’t think were at my grocery store (they are there if you check the right places).
Ingredients that changed our lives.
Granted, I am a woman from a small town in Indiana who moved to another small town in Minnesota (with a few years of bigger city living mixed in). From the Midwest to the Midwest (although the first no more than 10 minutes from the city of Ft. Wayne and the second no more than 40 minutes away from the Twin Cities).
I’m no stranger to chain restaurants, living paycheck to paycheck, being a picky eater as a youngster, I didn’t grow up in a gourmande family, and most stores in the area where I lived over the last 30 years didn’t have some of the ingredients that others think nothing to go out to the corner store and bring home. (It truly can be that difficult to find the simplest of ingredients. I understand.)
They may not be groundbreaking or perhaps it’s the opposite and you think me some fancypants chef (ha). I can see it go either way, having a foot in rural and one in urban living (and somewhere in-between but that would mean I have 3 feet….).
I’d guess some of these things have changed your life too or could if you knew about them.
I’ve been in this food enthusiast/food writer scene as homecook for some time now, or at least in the fast lane of learning, adjusting, and opening my mind. Thus my interest has grown, skill advanced, visits to non-chains increased, I’d like to think my ability to put together a delicious meal sans recipe and to know what would make a great meal by just glancing over the recipe has vastly improved.
Not just for me but for my family, for Greg. We have almost daily conversations about ingredients, about food, about what something is missing or could be improved with, and we often create a plan to make something spectacular over the weekend. Something to look forward to at the end of a busy day because there isn’t much rest and relaxation on our weekends.
I know there’s a notion that meals with some of the ingredients are complicated or you won’t like them and therefore, you don’t want to try but that is false. Making a meal with just a few basic items then enhancing the dish with a touch of one or a couple of these ingredients is easy. Not scary. Not newfangled or faddy/trendy. Not for just “those” people who eat “gourmet” dishes.
And if you haven’t thought about these ingredients in a while, maybe take them for granted, perhaps you could try them in new dishes (and share) or old dishes you haven’t prepared in years.
The ingredients are there for everyone. Some have been used for centuries or longer. Some were created not that long ago. Many probably took time to perfect and now they are often inexpensive items on a grocery shelf. Waiting for you to grab and get cooking. If they aren’t inexpensive, they are probably worth the price and worth finding a place to fit in your budget. It often only takes a little.
Sharing these with friends and family excites me. I know you have probably experienced a flavor in this one meal and couldn’t pinpoint what made is so special. Something that if it were missing, would be, well, missed. That’s how I knew an item went on the list. If I’ve had a similar meal missing that something I made a note not to leave it out when making such and such…after testing my missing ingredient theory that is.
Ingredients often make something wonderful happen when paired with one or a few other ingredients-the ones that go hand in hand-so I made a note to try to combine them. That lead to mixing different cuisines and noticing flavors in dishes at restaurants. What it undoubtedly lead to most of all is an appreciation that I state “changed my life.”
So finally, here they are.
Ingredients That Changed My Life:
Chipotles in adobo
Garlic chili paste
Coconut oil/peanut oil/other oils
Rice wine vinegar/other vinegars (like really good balsamic vinegar)
Sesame oil (toasted)
Mirin (sweet rice wine)
Vanilla bean paste/vanilla beans
Fresh herbs (beyond basil and parsley)
Bitters (for drinks)
Not a cooking ingredient but definitely one for making this blog happen and my life in general better, Instagram.
What do you love? Tell me what I’ve missed or must try.