Ingredients to Upgrade Your Kitchen Game

Just a few little tweaks to make your cooking so much better.
  1. Pastured eggs
    Check out your local farmers market or natural foods store for eggs that are not just organic and free range, but actually pasture-raised. Be warned: a dozen of these delicious beauties can cost up to $8 or $9 per dozen, but the difference in their flavor is remarkable. While pastured eggs are perhaps not a good choice for baking, if you whip up an omelet, scramble or breakfast sandwich using one of these and you’ll taste the difference in their rich, dark orange yolk.
  2. Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (Crushed, Diced and Sauce)
    These are, hands down, the best canned tomatoes money can buy. Stir them into the sauce for a rich stew or Indian dish, or cook them with fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, basil, salt and pepper for an impromptu tomato sauce. However you use them, they impart a charred-yet-sweet addition to whatever you’re making, adding layers of flavor in an instant.
  3. Kerrygold Butter
    This rich, deep-yellow, European-style butter is imported from Ireland, made from 100% grass-fed cows and is literally the best butter money can buy, in my opinion. I don’t use it for baking, but I’ll happily cook eggs in a dab of it, serve it with crusty bread for spreading, or melt it over steamed vegetables. It’s an effortless (and relatively cheap) way to kick a dish up several notches in the decadence department.
  4. Good, Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    I use the cheapest available extra virgin olive oil for baking/sautéing, but any time I want the flavor of the oil to shine through (in dressings/sauces, for example), I opt for something with good flavor. Two options that won’t break the bank: Trader Joe’s California Estate Extra Virgin (see my TJ's list), $5.99, or Whole Foods 365 brand Extra Virgin Cold-Pressed Italian Olive Oil (in a cylindrical tin), $8.99.
  5. Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
    We usually think of salt as something that enhances flavors, but it's actually great for texture too. You don't need a salt with grains big enough to adorn a soft pretzel, but something like Maldon or kosher salt are ideal to give food a subtle crunch. Stick with fine salt for baking, though.
  6. Fresh spices.
    If your spices are more than a year or two old, replace them. For the best prices on spices, head to an Indian grocer and buy them from the bulk bins.