I am frequently asked which brand of ingredients I use in my home cooking and why.  Like most cooks, sometimes I buy something because it’s new and intriguing, or on sale and worth trying, but there are certain things I would never go without.

I've narrowed the list to 10 items that I use on a regular basis.  They aren't fancy, they're just good, basic ingredients that I recommend you keep in your pantry at all times.  Here goes:


1.  Real Salt:  Salt is by far the most frequently used seasoning in my kitchen.  Real Salt is an all natural, ancient sea salt that has all trace minerals intact.  I buy it in 3 different grinds:  kosher, table (goes in my salt shaker) and powdered (for baking.)

2.  Whole Foods 365 brand Cold Pressed 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  I go through gallons of olive oil in a year.  I find that this one not only has a good taste, it is a quality product at a reasonable price.  I also love Colavita extra virgin olive oil, but at twice the price I've made the switch to 365.

3.  Colavita Balsamic Vinegar:  This has a great flavor and an affordable price tag for most of your balsamic needs.  Save the high-priced balsamic vinegars for garnishes when just a drizzle will do, and use this for everything else.  (I also like the Colavita white wine vinegar.)

Try this:  Green Salad with Caramelized Onions

4.  Pomi Tomatoes:  I've used these for years in lieu of canned tomatoes.  They taste better and have only one ingredient:  tomatoes.  Also, the boxes store more easily in my pantry than cans.

Try this:  Shrimp Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

5.  Amore Italian Tomato Paste in a tube (double concentrated):  I love this for its practicality.  No more tiny tins of tomato paste where half of it goes to waste.  Just keep the tube in your refrigerator and you'll always have tomato paste with a squeeze of your fingertips.

6.  Fage Plain Yogurt:  No artificial sweeteners, no extra anything, just yogurt.  I eat it with granola and honey, make savory sauces with it, and stir it into cakes for dessert.  It's a great source of protein, too!

Try this:  Pork Chops with Moroccan Spices and Yogurt Sauce

7.  Panko bread crumbs:  These add a nice crunch to just about any dish.  I like them because they are completely unflavored; you can enhance them any way you like without fighting any flavorings the manufacturer might have added.

Try this:  Baked Fish with Bread Crumbs and Herbs

8.  Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard:  I reach for this all the time when making salad dressings, deviling eggs or baking chicken.  It adds a nice flair without being overpowering.

Try this:  Deviled Chicken Drumsticks

9.  Plugra European-Style Butter:  Also known as cultured butter, European-style butter is made from fermented cream rather than fresh, pasteurized sweet cream.  The result is a slightly tangy flavor.  I always use unsalted butter for cooking and salted butter for spreading and eating.

10.  Kitchen Basics All Natural Chicken Stock and Vegetable Stock (low sodium or unsalted):  I rarely make my own stock these days, so I like to keep several boxes of Kitchen Basics in the pantry.  I like the flavor and color of this brand (some other brands look downright neon) and it's readily available.  When a milder flavor is called for, I dilute it with water

Try this:  Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup


So there you have it; my 10 favorite ingredients for everyday cooking.  Try some of these and let me know if you agree.  Bon appétit!