The "Reccomend good ingredients" thread

Because good ingredients make good food.

I reccomend Makoto’s Dill Dressing to anyone that has a hard time finding a salad dressing they like other than ranch. Italian dressing too tangy? Bleu cheese too bitter? Give this a try. It’s a sweet, but not so much that it feels like it shouldn’t be put on a salad. It’s unusual, but more along the lines of “Hey now, this is new!”, rather than “Hrm. This tastes weird”. I’ve been using it on all of my salads for a while now. A bottle usually costs me $3.69 and lasts around two weeks. A bit expensive, sure, but damn it’s tasty. It’s a white dressing that comes in a plastic bottle with green plastic wrapped around the top.

Suprisingly enough, Makoto’s own website doesn’t even show or describe their dill dressing, only their ginger dressing. Still, the label on the bottle is very similiar. Unfortunately, it’s not available everywhere in the U.S.

What ingredients would you like to suggest?

Pacific Foods Mushroom Broth.

It’s fat free and not crazy with the sodium (1 cup has 530 mg, 22% RDA), but nonetheless, it really packs in the rich, meaty flavor.

I always use it as a base for my lentil or bean soups, which get rave reviews, even from my ‘shroom-hatin’ hubby. Also excellent for pilafs and risottos.

I’ve noticed that Alton uses Pacific Foods broth (with the brand name strategically masked out), so clearly you can’t go wrong.

Trader Joe’s Vanilla Paste. I got a bottle as a gift from some friends who spent a semester in the US, and it’s been key to many a successful semi-fredo and a kick-ass Guinness chocolate cake. Then last week it ran out…my life is over!

Dang, as a baker I could name a lot of special ingredients. But since it seems like we are going with commercially produced items, let me mention Oetker brands Whip-it. It’s a powder added to heavy cream, to enable it to hold it’s shape when the cream has been whipped.

Without Whip-it I can’t make the better sort of tortes, as whipped cream starts falling after only a couple hours. With this product the piped decorations keep their shape, and cake layers are held apart.

Whip-it doesn’t change the color, flavor, or texture of the heavy cream either.

Hmmm. What do you suppose would happen if I made a bowl of butterscotch pudding using heavy cream and added this? Would I get a hard, sliceable hunk of pudding that retains its shape? I think that would be worth finding out. What do you think?

The mushroom broth sounds good too. I didn’t even know they sold broth of anything other than poultry and beef. I bet it would go real well on a steak with some sliced portebellas and maybe some rice. Or maybe on some perogies.

So where can one find this miraculous substance? I used to use Rich’s Whipped topping (Pace and for awhile even Sam’s used to carry it), but it kinda coats the roof of your mouth. A less than pleasant effect, IMHO.

The above link should help. Click on “Products”. then scroll down to Whip It

Try stores that have a good sized European foods division, or gourmet section. Oetker is a German company, with a North American division. The last time I bought some it was from a wonderful European foods store in Lawrence, Kansas. Also got some from a German foods store in Kansas City.

When my parents made their first trip to Germany, just as the wall was being dismantled, my mother got me an Oetker book, German Baking Today, in Cologne. Kind of like Betty Crocker, a lot of brand name recognition. I finally found Whip It in my own town, but the store closed, darn it!

Go to a Greek or Russian deli and look for imported feta cheese. What you’ll get there is much better than the flat overly salty mush that passes for feta at the local grocer’s.

Add the feta to pasta sprinkled with a good viniagrette and a few other ingredients like fresh spinach and maybe a little ham or salami. Refrigerate overnight and you’ll have some really excellent pasta salad.

My other favorite ingredient is bok choy, the Chinese vegetable. Bok choy is easily prepared in many ways including steaming, stir frying and sauteeing. Add in some mushrooms, a bit of chicken and your favorite sauce and you’ll have a meal rivaling the best take out Chinese place.

I like it because it’s a crisp cruciferous vegetable that isn’t bitter like broccoli.

Baker do you know of an American or more mainsteam alternative to Whip It? I don’t know if I have any European groceries by me. I’ll check my local Publix to see if they carry it, but I don’t think they will. I would love to experiment with this product.

Not sure. If there is a mainstream grocery that has a section devoted to specialty items, it might be there. You might be able to order it directly from that site, but I don’t know if you’d have to buy a minimum amount.

Tell you what, if you can’t find it shoot me an email, it’s in my profile, and I’ll mail you a few packets, so you can try it out and decide if it’s worth ordering direct.

Buy your spices from Penzey’s. You’ll be glad you did; everything you make will taste better.

Thanks for the link, Baker. .

And for Joeski and others who are interested, I found Whip It on Two packets are 99 cents, and the company is based in TX so there shouldn’t be a problem ordering it.

Thanks for your link too! I can also recommend the chocolate glaze, and the fruit glazes, on the same page. There are two Oetker links at that site, click on the Oetker/Canada link to find the Whip It.

Buy good canned tomatoes during the off-season. I keep about a dozen cans of Muir Glen whole, peeled and fire-roasted tomatoes on hand when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season. I’m sure there are better brands of canned tomatoes, but Muir Glen is reasonably priced and I don’t have to go to a specialty store to buy it.

There’s another tip: skip the diced and crushed tomatoes and go right for the whole. They taste better and you can just crush 'em in your hands or give 'em a whirl in your food processor. The taste is worth the extra step.

I’ve decided to, unless Barilla sauces are on super-mega sale, make my own pasta sauce from now on. I keep olives, anchovies, basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar and garlic on hand anyway, and the extra few minutes is definitely worth it.

Their best blended spice is their Baking Spice. Add a half teaspoon of this to a batch of pancakes or to muffins, fruit pie, etc. I use it in blueberry pancakes, which makes them taste like blueberry pie. Great stuff.

My ingredient tip is to buy spices from Middle Eastern and Asian grocery stores. If you live in a decent sized city, you should have plenty of them around. The quality is far better than anything bottled up by McCormicks and it’s cheaper than dirt. For example, I can get a pound of whole coriander for under $3–the price of a tiny McCormick’s bottle. You can also find saffron threads (and they’re not safflower) at reasonable prices. On average, I find I can buy spices at 10-25% of prices of major grocery stores, and better quality at that.

Garden Fresh Salsa is located in the refrigerated section of produce.

I tried it because it is a local company - Ferndale, MI…home of award winning Salsa and Chips?.It’s just not right…and area so devoid of latino culture …but it works…so well…now it is the only salsa & chips I buy. Regular chips are now plain & nasty with the taste of perservatives. Other salsas are flat and full of after taste.

I have converted everyone over to the good stuff.
Join me.

I’ve got a few Asian groceries around me. Pulykamell, want to reccomend me some spices? I eat lots of meat and canned vegetables. Anything that can improve the taste of either of those is an object of desire for me. Garlic and Adobo just isn’t cutting it.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop eating canned veggies. Buy fresh. If your shopping habits don’t support fresh vegetables, buy good frozen ones. Is there a Trader Joe’s near you?

My preference for canned vegetables isn’t based on taste as much as it is practicality. Canned foods last longer, are cheaper, and easier to prepare for the pot. When I have the extra money and time I’ll buy fresh, but otherwise I stick with the canned stuff.

And I always thought canned vegeas tasted better than frozen products. Frozen vegetables always taste like they’ve had freezerburn to me. We don’t have a Trader Joe’s down here to my knowledge, but we have other fresh produce markets.
By the way, I’d like to encourage anyone that tries anything sugeested here to post impressions.