|A key ingredient to cooking success is knowing a little something about the ingredients themselves. Here is some useful information on what to look for, how to buy, where to store, and how to prepare meals with them.
All-purpose flour is milled from the inner part of the wheat kernel. It’s a combination of hard (high-protein, like bread) and soft (low-protein, like cake and pastry) flours, and is suitable for most uses. For best results, avoid bleached flour.
This dried seed pod comes from evergreen trees and has the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. This spice is also known as Jamaican pepper for its peppercorn-like appearance, and its growth on the island of Jamaica.
Almond extract is made from bitter-almond oil and is usually combined with ethyl alcohol. If stored in a cool, dark place, it will keep indefinitely.
Also called Green Chiles. Mildly hot.
Angel hair pasta
Spaghetti made in very fine strands.
Artichokes can be purchased fresh or canned. Use a scissors to trim the top fourth of the outer leaves and the stem. Soak to clean thoroughly. With a stainless steel knife, slice off the top quarter of the pale green cone. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon to maintain color. Cook by steaming, or simmer in boiling water with additional lemon juice, covered, for 40 minutes, or until tender. Scoop out the fuzzy choke with a spoon and discard. The artichoke heart is below the choke.
An Italian cheese with a rich nutty flavor.
A derivative of baking soda. Baking powder is a double action leavener that is activated when mixed with a liquid.
Use this leavener with pastries that contain acid to make them rise. Instead of baking soda, use baking powder with recipes that contain little to no acid (baking powder already contains acid).
A sweet but pungent vinegar. A bottle of medium-quality balsamic vinegar will cost around $10, and is well worth the price.
This leaf comes from the evergreen bay laurel tree in the Mediterranean. If used whole, remove bay leaves from a dish before serving.
Small, tight leaves that have a crunchy sweetness.
Black peppercorns are the strongest of all peppercorns. You can buy black pepper as cracked or finely ground, but freshly ground pepper is always the best.
Tender, pale green leaves.
Brown sugar is white sugar mixed with molasses. To create, add two tablespoons molasses to one cup white sugar.
Butter can be purchased salted or sweet. For cooking purposes, sweet butter can be purchased, since salt can be added as needed to any recipe. For great results, replace butter with Crisco butter flavored shortening sticks.
Buttermilk is made by adding a culture to whole or skim milk, giving it a thicker texture and a slightly tangy flavor.