What food/ingredient/recipe crushes do you have, or have had?

I’m sure anyone who likes to explore new cooking ideas will know what I mean. You try out a new ingredient, or test a new recipe and … BAM! Love at first bite. You can’t believe you lived your whole life so far without this wonderful thing. You use it quite frequent for a while, and eventually it either becomes a regular item in your cooking arsenal, or recedes into obscurity when the crush fades.

My current ingredient crush is Israeli pearl couscous.

Sure, I ate and cooked with “regular” couscous (in fine, medium or coarse grades) for years. But I never knew about pearl couscous. In fact, the only reason I tried it was because I like to keep couscous in the pantry as a kitchen staple but the usual stuff was unavailable at the store, so I somewhat reluctantly bought Israeli pearl couscous, recognizing from the way that it looked that it was a dubious substitute for ordinary couscous but not wanting to have a totally couscous-less pantry.

I subscribe to the NYT cooking column and noticed a recipe that specifically called for pearl couscous, so I tried it. OMIGOD, I love it. It bears little if any relation to regular couscous; it is much chewier with an assertive “in your mouth” texture.

It is my current food crush. I’ve since cooked another NYT recipe that specifically calls for pearl couscous and found it equally amazing.

Eventually my passion for pearl couscous will recede and I’m sure I will continue to use it, but I doubt I’ll feel the need to cook with it 2-3 times a month. For now, though…a blissful crush.

I’ve had various past crushes, but enough for now. What are, or have been, YOUR culinary crushes?

I’ve been using harissa paste for years. But a few months ago I happened to notice some harissa dry spice at the grocery. So I picked up a bottle and have been in love ever since.

It’s got a smokier flavor than smoked paprika. So it’s really good in stews and meats.

Chinese chili crisp, the kind with the grandma on the jar. Sometimes I sneak little spoonfuls right from the fridge.

Alton Brown’s lard and butter biscuits are my latest crush, but one weekend I used cold leftover applewood smoked bacon fat in place of the lard. Hoo boy that subtle note of smoked bacon is <chef’s kiss>!

Also poblano peppers in place of green peppers—I’ll never go back. Probably best in cooked applications—they are less crisp and a little tougher raw. But I go red/orange/yellow pepper for raw applications—I guess I just don’t like green peppers!

BIG cheer for poblanos - Jeffrey Steingarten (world’s best foodwriter) called green bells “the bully of the vegetable garden”, and I agree.


Spices: dried oregano from one vendor in particular and fresh basil in general. Can’t get enough the stuff.

A long time ago, sesame oil. Still love it, but it’s gotta be a certain kind.

A tell for “this is going to be meh” at a restaurant (especially Asian/Mexican or any restaurant serving salads (although salads are a whole other benchmark) is how much green pepper I see in the food.

I’m a fan of the toasted variety.

Pomegranate molasses! And ajvar. Not together (yet), but I bet they would be good together.

Yeah, that’s the stuff. :grinning:

Flavored vinaigrettes. There is a store in the coastal town of Port Townsend, Washington that sells about 50 different flavors of vinaigrettes. First bought some about 5 years ago and have been using them since. A few of my recent uses included green chili flavored with rice, cherry on the Easter ham and pomegranate on a flattened chicken breast. They also work great when added to mixed cocktails, a few drops of cherry added to a chocolate martini and Gravenstien apple added to a rye whiskey Manhattan.

That’s because it has no real connection to couscous. Ptitim, as they’re called in Israel (the word means “flakes”), are a form of pasta invented by the Israeli government in the 1950s as a cheap wheat-based rice replacement. It’s good stuff. I eat it all the time.

Chicken cordon bleau made with gouda.

Lemon-infused olive oil.

Many years ago my brother and I stopped for br eakfast at McDonald’s. I had to admit, the breakfast burrito was really good. He said, “They use coarse ground pepper.” I wasn’t sure that could make such a difference but…yep. Been using it ever since.

Also, kosher salt. I know this has been discussed in a thread elsewhere but to reiterate, standard table salt is fine, has iodine and it’s easy to oversalt. I discovered it via Alton Brown’s recipe for brining turkey.

And that recipe is about as good as turkey gets.

Smoked mozzarella. Not that I dislike the normal version, but find smoked brings more to the table in every single application I use - mostly cheesy flatbreads and salads.

And in about 2 months, it will be a festival of smoked mozz with fresh greens and perfectly ripe tomatoes from my MiL’s garden.

I had never heard of that, but when I looked it up I saw that it is quite similar to a long-forgotten crush I had on a Portuguese version (which doesn’t have the eggplant). I made it nearly every time I entertained for a good year or two after I discovered it.

I think I shall revisit that crush.

Same here. I like Trader Joe’s garlicky version even better.

Sumac. Adds an amazing lemony zesty tang to all sorts of dishes. Great in a salad dressing.

I’m also a bit nduja obsessed. I need to go easy, because it has a very strong flavour which could be off-putting if I have it too often.

I’m going to disagree with those upthread bemoaning green peppers. I find there are times they really lend a dish a much-needed sharpness and crunch it might otherwise lack - in an omelette, for example, or a chicken balti. And you can’t have a greek salad without them.

I see I’m entirely unoriginal here, but sesame oil. Honestly, I’m drawn to a lot of the ingredients common in Asian cooking: ginger, peanuts and peanut oil, teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce. I’ve used soy sauce in so many recipes recently that my boyfriend has declared that he’s tired of soy sauce and doesn’t want to try any more recipes that use soy sauce.