Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Dish’s Three Kitchen Staples


I am one of those scatter-brained New Yorkers who, no matter what I do, cannot seem to keep a steady amount of normal food in my apartment. Some weeks I’ll go out to eat every night; other times I’ll work late and then order in. Sometimes I’ll eat at 11am and then at 4pm and then not be hungry for a full-on meal at dinnertime. Whatever it is, there is always an excuse for the lack of staples in my kitchen. However, there are three items that I do always have on hand. They may not be the most everyday items but I find myself calling upon them more than one might think. Pine nuts, truffled sea salt, and Ghirardelli chocolate chips have varied and practical uses to make the home cook look like a pro and to add a little enjoyment to the everyday schizophrenia of living and eating in Manhattan.

Pine nuts add a small luxury to any dish. If you want a salad for dinner but want it to feel like a full meal, simply toast the pine nuts in a pan over the stove and sprinkle them on top of your greens. You’ll end up with an instantly gourmet-tasting dish. Furthermore, pine nuts are delicious mixed in with yogurt in the morning, adding a soft crunch. They keep forever so no worries if you stash them in the freezer and forget about them for a while. They’ll taste as fresh as can be when you get around to using them…or find yourself in a pinch and have nothing else on hand. Pine nuts also make a lovely addition to any chicken dish. Either pour a handful on top or blend the nuts with a bit of oil in the blender and drizzle your nut oil over the finished poultry dish.
Kitchen staples: Pine nuts, truffled sea salt, and Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
The sea salt with truffle will work wonders on just about everything. Start your morning out by adding a pinch to your eggs for the ultimate treat. Even if they are just whites, your über-healthy breakfast will now taste über-good! If you have no time to make a proper dinner and find yourself boiling a box of pasta more than you’d like to admit, add a little of the truffled salt to make the dish worth making over and over—even presenting to guests. Incorporate the salt into mashed potatoes or a seared steak in replace of regular salt for a memorable dinner.

Ghirardelli chocolate chips are great to have around for a number of reasons—the first of course, that they are a delicious snack. I’m always craving chocolate but I know I’ll feel guilty if I dive into a bar everyday. Even getting a bar and making it last for a few days is disastrous because I always end up breaking off more than I want and then eating it anyway. With the chip version, it’s effortless to portion out your chocolate hankerings.

Chocolate chips are always great to have on hand for last minute guests. If the party winds up at your apartment, simply melt the chips (either in the microwave with a little milk or over the stove in a double boiler) until they become fondue. Use whatever you have in your fridge as the accompaniments—fruit, marshmallows, even a left over muffin can be cubed and dunked to make little chocolate pound cake bites. I prefer the 60% chocolate version as opposed to the semi sweet. All three of my essentials can be bought at almost any upscale super market in Manhattan. Dean and DeLuca, Whole Foods Market, and Citarella all have the truffle sea salt. Gourmet Garage has Ghirardelli brand chips (and so do the aforementioned spots). Pine nuts are widely available.

– Jill Donenfeld

"When not scooping the latest for NYSD, Jill Donenfeld heads up The Dish's Dishes, a personal chef and catering company founded for those who crave delicious food without the hassle of making reservations, ordering in, or turning on the oven. For more information on how to get your first DISH, check out
*Dining Bonus: Last weekend, JH, his brother, and a couple friends went down to Chinatown to experience the "Taste of Chinatown," where dozens of restaurants, tea houses, bakeries and specialty food shops (including Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Japanese, and Asian Fusion) offered $1 and $2 tasting plates. Here's a little vid of their take on the taste ...