Aside from the basic butter, milk, eggs that are given kitchen necessities, there are a few things that I keep in my refrigerator and pantry at all times. If these things aren’t there, I’m like a lost puppy trying to get meals together. No matter what I find myself fixing, these things help me to ensure the plates I serve are full of flavor. They might seem like no brainers but its taken me a few years to really figure out what my refrigerator necessities are – aside from the actual poultry, seafood, meat, grains, fruit and vegetables.
While not the healthiest thing in my refrigerator, heavy cream has many uses. A splash of cream will add depth and richness to any dish or sauce. It’s not that you should drench your food in cream but a little goes a long way. You’ll find that I use a splash of cream in many of my recipes. Not enough to take away from healthful qualities of what is being served but just enough to add that extra little bit of something.
Whether it be chicken, vegetable, mushroom, beef or seafood stock, stock will give you a flavorful basis for any soup or sauce. It also gives you a flavorful alternative to water for preparing rice, couscous, pasta, etc. The key is to find sodium-free stock so as not to unnecessarily increase your sodium intake. Oh and don’t use bouillon instead. Just don’t.
Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice but a large bottle of lemon juice can help you out in just about any situation. As with heavy cream, I usually just add a splash to what I’m serving. Typically, I’ll add a little bit of lemon juice to vegetables. I use very little salt in my cooking and the bitterness of lemon juice provides great balance, especially when accompanied with fresh herbs.
An otherwise bland meal is automatically elevated by adding fresh herbs; they add life, flavor and brightness without any unhealthy additives. A dish can be taken from Latin to Italian to Southeast Asian to French to Middle Eastern, all depending on the herbs one uses. If fresh herbs are too difficult to keep up with, I’ve found that Gourmet Garden herb and spice pastes offer a great alternative to 100% fresh herbs and can be a money saver if you find a large quantity of your herbs going to waste.