Favorite Ingredients

by Sherri Koehler on November 18, 2010

There are a few ingredients I consider indispensable in my kitchen. Several items I’ve been known to bring with me on trips when I know I’m going to be cooking or I’ll have researched where I can procure them locally. Most of these are pretty easy to find and they show up in a lot of my recipes!

Miso – My wife and friends joke that this is my “secret ingredient” in many dishes. I use white miso in light things like a sweet/salty glaze for grilled tofu or salad dressings, the much stronger red miso in stews and gravies, and I’ve used chickpea miso to make some dishes soy-free! It adds a wonderful salty, sweet, savory taste to any dish.

*My current favorite miso is a product called Jorinji Miso made by the Soy Beam Jozo Company right here in Portland, Oregon! They make miso a small batches and it is amazingly good. A friend visiting from San Francisco, who has also lived in Japan, has asked that I please bring some down when next I visit.

Maple Syrup – I love the sweetness that maple syrup adds and will use it a lot in salad dressing, sauteed or roasted veggies, baked beans, and tempeh bacon. I do use agave, but only when the warmer, stronger taste of maple syrup would be distracting.

Nutritional Yeast – We go through so much of this in our house that I’ve been tempted to get it in 25 pound bags! This is one of very best ways to add a salty taste to a dish without adding a lot of extra sodium; only 5mg of sodium in 2 tablespoons! The fine flake is extra nice for just shaking onto stuff or using for salad dressings because it mixes in so smoothly.

Dried shiitake mushrooms – I don’t actually like mushrooms much, unless it is something fabulous the chef at Andina surprises me with, but I will admit that the flavor dried shiitakes impart to broth is really awesome. I regularly use big, dried shiitakes to make my own dashi (a Japanese stock) or just to add a richer, darker flavor to vegetable stocks.

Hoisin sauce – Often mistakenly called “plum sauce”, hoisin is a sweeter, thicker cousin of soy sauce. I occasionally add a little to a quick stir-fry and call it dinner! More than any of the other distinctly Asian condiments I keep on hand, I think the hoisin gets used the most.

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – I generally add very, very little salt to any of my dishes. If we want a little more saltiness we add it when we eat, usually via a little bit of Bragg’s. Yes, it still has quite a lot of sodium, but it also has a whole pile of amino acids along with that sodium and I like the way it tastes in things like soups.

Citrus – I like to try and keep at least one lemon and one lime on hand. Nothing beats the taste of freshly squeezed citrus in dishes, not to mention the option of adding the grated peel! A little fresh lemon and some miso whisked together and you’ve got yourself an awesome glaze!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jessica December 16, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I have some miso in the pantry that I’ve wondered what to do with. Thanks for reminding me about it! Maybe I’ll slip it into something and see how it does.


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