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what are your favorite taste picker upers in the pantry that you couldn't do without?

(I want to start a list to send off to a college student)

ancho chiles in adobe sauce, worcestershire, canned jalapenos, four year old balsamic, rosemary twigs, preserved lemon, curry powder....

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  1. fish sauce, salted shrimps, cumin, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star annise.

    5 Replies
    1. re: epabella

      Definitely fennel seed. I travel with a little bag of it.

      1. re: c oliver

        i have a huge bag of fennel seeds I bought for a cookie recipe - but I have no idea what to do with it? What do you use it for?

        1. re: Apple

          -on a low flame carefully toast fennel seeds, black pepper corns and coriander seeds and make sure they don't burn. (for an asian variation i'll also add sesame seeds)
          -grind up in mortar and pestle or whatever is handy and mix with some ancho chili powder, a bit of cayenne and brown sugar.

          great as a dry-rub for chicken, pork ribs and chops on the barbecue or smoker.

      2. re: epabella

        holy cow, i love these! it's so great to be able to get access to someone else's go to list--it such an opportunity to make a leap into all new taste sensations

        1. re: fayehess

          don't forget to toast the seeds to bring them back to life before grinding them. keep the pan on low, keep an eye on them and constantly stir because they burn so easily.

      3. Smoked paprika, lemon pepper, extra hot crushed red pepper, sherry vinegar, Spanish extra virgin olive oil, sriracha

        1. Several of the Penzey's spice blends, like "Sunny Paris" or "Tuscan Sunset" or Fox Ridge."

          Rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, white and red wine vinegars, and good old apple cider vinegar. Sesame oil. Good quality honey.

          Organic versions of "Better than Bouillon" soup base (I wouldn't use these as my primary stock but they are great at "kicking it up" when your homemade stock is missing something).

          Tabasco sauce (of course!), but also Cholula (really does seem to go better with Latin American foods) and my personal favorite, the oakey, not-too-hot "Tennesse Sunshine" brand of hot sauce.

          Good pepper and a grinder. Whole nutmeg and a grinder. Sea salt. Tamari or good quality soy sauce.

          1. Anchovies, bonito flakes, ume, nori, gari, miso, raisins, peanuts, almonds, dried fruit (apricots, mango, ...), unsweetened bitter chocolate, capers, tomato paste, olives, dried shiitake and matsutake mushrooms, honey, maple syrup, dried African game meat, fermented black beans, kimchee, dried cranberries.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Dried African game meat? Where does one find that? I don't know about you, Sam, but when I was a poor college student way back when, I could barely afford ground chuck!

              1. re: cheesemaestro

                In the supermarkets in Nairobi. A little goes a long way.

                We didn't all that much meat back in college and grad school. Still don't.

            2. In addition to those already mentioned: soy sauce, Bragg's amino acids, Tabasco, cider vinegar, seasoned salt, smoked salt, tricolor peppercorns, white pepper, Indian pickles (lime, etc.), roasted pumpkin seed oil.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChristinaMason

                oh right and to echo what Sam said, dried fruits and nuts of all kinds. My favorites are almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, and dried cherries or cranberries.