In no particular order:
Bragg’s liquid amino – Great healthier substitute for soy/tamari sauce; lighter when you want that little umami somethin’ somethin’ but not POW-soy saltiness. Ya – they say that it has additional benefits of obtaining amino acids via this liquid amino but I’d think that you’d have to consume a lot of it. I just think it’s a lighter, healthier and definitely less sodium alternative to soy/tamari/salt.
Sake – (any of the large bottles sold at Japanese grocery stores for less than $10 bucks will do – I’ve been buying the Shirakiku sake for cooking in the green bottle with blue label). Great for stir-frys, deglazing with a lighter hand than white wine – it’s perfect for cooking.
Aleppo peppers – who knew that crushed peppers could be so sassy? Bright red flakes (minus the white seeds), tangy, bit oily and mildly hot – it has undertones of sundried tomatoes and deeper cumin-like spicyness with a middle eastern origin – perfect for adding some heat without craziness.
Fennel pollen – Italian’s cocaine, I’m told. Actual pollens of fennel, and often difficult to find. Perfect as a rub on poultry, pork and other proteins – it’s intoxicating and very intense.
Parmesan rind – Don’t throw away the hard parmesan (especially from a good parmigiano reggiano). It’s perfect for adding that umami and thickness to your soups and broths and brings your dishes to the next level.
Truffle-infused olive oil from O&Co – Maybe it was because I fell in love with the store in oh-so-cute-ile-st-louis, Paris but tasting bread drenched in this oil was absolutely addicting, I wanted to dab it like perfume. Simple, decadent, beautiful.
Bergamot specialty olive oil from O&Co – the salesperson in lovely Ile St. Louis – Paris told me that you will either LOVE it or HATE it and you know what? I LOVE it! So unique – you think, oh – it’s just orange essential oil but it’s more than that. It’s the lovely marriage of grassy olive oil + orange/earl grey-tea like bergamot with a sexy sweet bitterness that lingers on your tongue. Great as a vinaigrette over arugula, tangerines and few roasted almonds.
gochu jang/kochu jang (고추장) – the infamous korean HOT pepper paste, fermented usually with sweet rice and som’pin som’pin sweet like honey or sugar. Very versatile and essential for any Korean cooking and usually lasts for ~1 yr in the fridge. (I think they all have preservatives or it’s so salty and spicy that it pretty much preserves itself. More research to come on this later as I’m fantasizing about making my own from scratch, bottling it and calling it Kelly’s Korean Ketchup or something silly like that. Literally – I can think of 10 different sauces you can make with this. Spicy, tangy, sweet and definitely heat. Pick some up the next time you’re at a Korean grocery store – haven’t seen it anywhere else. It still has some ways to go before gets HOT~