Here, 10 tasty pantry staples to jump-start a shift toward healthier living, regardless of whether you eschew meat.
It’s great news that snack food has become so seasonal: It’s practically farm to pantry. Now that summer is behind us, so is the time to feast on Watermelon Oreos. Likewise, it’s not quite the season for limited-time-only Candy Corn M&M’s.
It is, however, prime time for back-to-school snacks. And here are some terrific new options.
The Healthy Lunchable Option: Revolution Foods Meal Kits
This healthy, high-quality alternative to Lunchables is rolling out across the country from the Oakland, California–based Revolution Foods, which offers four different meal kits. There’s no high fructose corn syrup in the peanut butter and jelly kit, no antibiotics in the meat in the ham and cheddar kit, 16 grams of whole grains in the cheese pizza kit, and that’s a 100 percent real fruit strawberry snack in the turkey and cheddar kit, thank goodness. revolutionfoods.com
The Salty and Crunchy Option: José Andrés Potato Chips
These deeply flavored, golden-colored chips from superstar Spanish chef José Andrés are made with only three ingredients: Spanish potatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and Himalayan pink salt. If eating plain potato chips bores you, Andrés says that they’re spectacular in omelets. joseandresfoods.com
The Protein-Packed Option: Smári (Icelandic thykk yogurt, or skyr)
Smári claims that this new-to-the-US product is “what kept the Vikings strong through long, dark winters,” which is a funny kind of testimonial. What is confirmed is that this yogurt is remarkably high in protein: Smári’s Pure flavor has 20 grams of it; vanilla has 18, strawberry and blueberry each have 17 grams. Moreover, each serving is made from four cups of organic milk, versus only two or three cups for Greek yogurts. No surprise, Smári’s also high in calcium and low in sugar. smariorganics.com
The New Juice Option: Suja Cold-Pressed Juices
These excellent juices come in flavors like Fiji (apple, cucumber, celery, spinach, collard greens, kale, lemon and ginger); Spark (strawberries, lemon, raspberries, honey, tart cherries and cayenne); and Fuel, (carrots, orange, apple, pineapple, lemon and turmeric). They can be purchased individually or as a package, if you’re starting the school year with a juice cleanse. sujajuice.com
The Gluten-Free Option: Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery
Not that it’s hard to find decent gluten-free desserts right now, but if you happen to live in New York City or Dallas, or know how to mail order, Tu-Lu’s has some very good options that you might not know are GF. Standouts include the oatmeal, cranberry, white and semisweet chocolate cookies; chocolate chip cookies; dark chocolate brownies; and cinnamon coffee cakes. tu-lusbakery.com
The After-School Snack: JonnyPops
The flavors for these creamy, small-batch, all-natural frozen fruit pops are inspired: Summer Strawberry; Choco-latte; Coconut Pineapple Paradise; and Merry Mountain Berry. Their only drawback is that right now you can only get them in Minnesota, where they’re made, and a handful of other states. jonnypops.com
The essentials you'll need to create the strong, super-savory flavors of Korean cuisine.
With a medium heat and a slightly sweet finish, these red chile flakes are what make kimchi red and spicy. At Korean barbecue spots, they're often passed around the table to sprinkle on grilled foods. "Most spice in Korean cooking comes from gochugaru," says chef Hooni Kim.
"Every Asian culture has its own soy sauce," says chef Sang Yoon of Father's Office in Los Angeles. The Korean variety is less salty and more earthy than Japanese soy sauce.
Essential for kimchi, salted baby shrimp also lend seafood flavor to stews. Use them like you would anchovies—to add an intense burst of umami.
This chile paste is fermented, so it has a deep flavor. It's great mixed into condiments or as a thickener for stews.
"This bean paste is like a Korean version of miso," says Yoon. "It has a deep funk that you know as soon as you smell it. It makes a great base for casseroles. Doenjang is stinky, like the Epoisses of the bean-paste world."
Read more from F&W's September travel issue.
Tuna Salad with Chickpea Puree; © Johnny Miller
In F&W's April Handbook feature, I tackle one of the healthiest and most common ingredients around—canned fish. For the magazine, I mixed canned tuna with hummus to create a light yet satisfying salad that couldn’t be any simpler to put together. To further transform canned tuna, it can be whipped into a fantastic tonnato sauce.
Combine the tuna and the oil it’s packed in (if it’s in water, drain first), lemon juice, capers, anchovy fillets, olive oil and a touch of mayo (or plain yogurt) in a blender and puree until smooth. Traditionally served on cold sliced veal (vitello tonnato), the sauce is great as a crudité dip, salad dressing on escarole or arugula, or drizzled on grilled chicken breast. Use it as a sandwich spread for turkey sandwiches or as the base for potato salad.
Sardines are particularly rich in omega-3s and minerals like calcium and potassium. Roasted or broiled with lemon and fresh herbs, they’re delicious to top rice or grains. I like stuffing them straight from the container into sandwiches with Dijon mustard, sliced radishes and watercress. Side note: I’ve been known to travel with these fish when camping…nothing beats an open tin of sardines bubbling over a fire.
As grilling season approaches, canned octopus becomes an unexpected pantry essential. Charred, the tentacles take on a fantastic texture and slightly smokey flavor. Toss pieces of the grilled octopus in a simple shallot vinaigrette with some chopped parsley for a fun starter, or use it as a crostini topper. For a full-on seafood salad, add some canned smoked oysters and mussels. And since the grill is already on, make some salmon burgers: simply drain the canned salmon and mix it with eggs, chopped scallions and breadcrumbs to bind the mixture together.
Roasted Cauliflower with Miso Romesco; © Line Klein
Miso, best known as the base of miso soup, is a rich, salty condiment made from fermented soybeans. In a Korean American kitchen, miso sits on the refrigerator shelf alongside mustard, ketchup and mayo. When I was growing up, we used it in all sorts of things, from soups and sauces to pickling vegetables. Most miso is made with soybeans, but it also can be made with barley or rice; I recently discovered one company that makes miso with chickpeas. How cool! I couldn’t wait to try it, and soon discovered that it hit all of the same notes of salty, sweet, earthy and fruity.
For the Sticky Miso Chicken Wings I developed for our recent recipe “Handbook,” I was craving a spicy glaze with enough sweetness to balance the heat. I used a shiro miso—a milder miso that is pale yellow or white in color and sweeter than it is salty—and combined it with lime juice, fresh ginger and dried red chile. As the mixture simmered and reduced, the sauce thickened and caramelized into a beautiful glaze that really stuck to the wings and was sweet and spicy all at once. But miso has tons of other uses.
One of my favorites is miso butter. It’s so easy to make—simply mix together equal parts of miso and room temperature unsalted butter—and use it to finish dishes with a wallop of umami. Add a dollop to roasted carrots, steamed broccoli and grilled steak, or swirl some into a mixed mushroom risotto. I love pan-roasting spring radishes and their beautiful greens in the miso butter. The radishes mellow out, and the edges start to caramelize and soak in all of the sweet-salty flavors.
Miso can add complexity to dressings. Try whisking some into a simple lemon or mustard vinaigrette to use with coleslaw or salad greens. Toss warm green beans in the vinaigrette for a quick weeknight side dish. The dressing is especially tasty drizzled on sautéed collard greens or brushed onto barbecued chicken and ribs.
A huge bonus of this multitasker is that it keeps pretty much indefinitely in the fridge. You’ll see many different types of miso in the market, ranging in color from white to yellow to red to brown (and every shade in between), so here’s a good rule of thumb: The darker the miso, the more intense, earthy and funky it will be.
The health benefits of almonds are myriad and well documented. Here, ingenious ways to use almond milk in recipes.
Biscuits! Courtesy of Nine Sons Rising.
F&W executive food editor and Supermarket Sleuth Tina Ujlaki names the year's best products for home cooks and last-minute gift givers.
1. PASTA: Molino e Pastificio Poschiavo
This is my favorite pasta at the moment, and everyone I’ve introduced it to has been equally smitten. Both the high price tag and the pretty, modern packaging kept me away until earlier this year, when I was looking for vermicelli and couldn’t find another brand. It definitely takes longer to cook than other pastas, but the wait (and the cost) are well worth it. The flavor is amazing and it's very easy to cook it just right. pastificio.ch
2. BREAD MIX: Dumbo Delicious from Baked Better
I love hearty, rustic super-grainy/-seedy bread, but a lot of the loaves I buy are too sweet for me. What I love about this organic mix, aside from the fact that it produces a hefty, grainy loaf with just a 5-minute time investment, is that I can sweeten it—or not—to suit my taste. bakedbetter.com
3. CHEESE: Challerhocker
Stocked by Murray’s, Challerhocker translates to “sitting in the cellar,” and this rich, wine-washed wonder is one of the most delicious Swiss cheeses I’ve ever had. It’s nutty and caramelly, with incredible depth and the most luscious texture you’ll find in a firm cheese. murrayscheese.com
4. CHOCOLATE: Dandelion Bars & Askinosie’s Black Licorice CollaBARation
Nothing tricked out about the bean-to-bar chocolate made by Dandelion in San Francisco, just deep, dark, pure chocolate flavor and a luscious mouthfeel. As for bars with add-ins, a week in Iceland convinced me that chocolate and licorice are actually great partners. The collaboration between Missouri’s Askinosie Chocolate and a licorice artisan in Ramlösa, Sweden, led to the incredibly balanced Dark Milk Chocolate + Black Licorice CollaBARation. The licorice is made with rice instead of the more typical wheat, so it’s also gluten-free! dandelionchocolate.com; askinosie.com
5. FROZEN BISCUITS: Nine Sons Rising
One of my favorite finds at the Natural Foods Expo last summer was the frozen biscuits from Nine Sons Rising company. Available in plain, buttermilk and cheese varieties, the small, square biscuits bake up super-tender, flaky and moist all at once, with a wonderful buttery flavor. 9sonsrising.com
6. POPCORN: Halfpops
Popcorn is certainly having a moment right now—we’ve had popcorn in every size and flavor it seems. My favorites of all have been Halfpops from Seattle, and they taste (and crunch) like a cross between a piece of popcorn and a CornNut, without the Styrofoam-like white portions. halfpops.com
7. FLAVORED SYRUPS: Morris Kitchen
Syrup is easy enough to make, for sure, but I just don’t do it. That’s why I love having the fantastically pure-flavored syrups from Morris Kitchen in my pantry. Made by a brother-and-sister team in Brooklyn, in flavors including rhubarb, ginger and spiced apple, the syrups are great in cocktails or sparkling water, in/on desserts, and I’ve used them in sauces for pork. morriskitchen.com
8. FISH SAUCE: Red Boat
The small batch, bourbon-barrel-aged fish sauce from Red Boat is amazing. I first tried it in Aspen this year at the F&W Classic, and I’ve been using it ever since in dishes that traditionally call for fish sauce, as well as in many Western dishes that don’t. It’s like my own personal secret ingredient! redboatfishsauce.com
9. CARAMEL SAUCE: Spoonable
I love the chewy sesame caramel sauce from this company—it has a deep roasty sesame flavor that is so nice with the rich caramel—I’ve even used it to make Bananas Foster. The peppered orange caramel sauce is great as well, especially with fresh strawberries and butter pecan ice cream. spoonablellc.com
10. PANFORTE: Marabissi Italian Panforte
Perfect for the holidays, and excellent on its own with coffee or Cognac or even paired with some cheeses, this particular panforte has it all in balance—it’s super-fresh tasting, not too dry or too moist and the nut-to-fruit ratio is just right. It’s best enjoyed in thin slices, so a good, sharp knife is key, whether you’re snacking or serving. marxfoods.com
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.