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Apr 12, 2013 12:52 PM


Thinking of ways to help a novice cook I ordered her a book about herbs and spices. It got me thinking that I depend on lots of things other than what's in the spice cabinet. Onions and garlic are a given. Then there's soy sauce, mustard, vinegar, wine, etc. I might also include tomato sauce and paste.

What pantry or refrigerator staples do you depend on for building those layers of flavors we all love?

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  1. Used judiciously I think anchovy paste and fish sauce can provide what's usually referred to as "body" or "umami" (without being noticeably fishy).

    1 Reply
    1. re: lamb_da_calculus


      I was shocked decades ago to learn that the taste I so loved in Ceasar salad dressing was anchovy!

    2. without would leave a dish flat:
      fresh ginger, black pepper, salt, cumin, roasted garlic, shallots, rice vinegar, tomato paste, lemongrass paste, wine & beer, paprika, vanilla extract, cinnamon, chocolate, mustard, soy sauce and sesame oil, thyme, red pepper flakes, light cream and buttermilk.

      2 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        HillJ covered it well. I would add lemon (to brighten flavors) and sour cream (to add richness).

        1. re: pinehurst

          I was just coming back to add lemon!...hadn't thought of sour cream...and limes are pretty important to my dishes as well.

          Butter should probably be there too.

          Bland food...makes me sad.

      2. Different oils, Worcestershire sauce, cheese (think feta, etc., can't get that flavor elsewhere), bacon, ham hocks.

        1. I do a lot of Asian cooking so I would be lost without my fermented pastes and beans, oyster/fish sauces and cooking wines.