Essential Seasonings You Need to Stock Your Kitchen

Cooking pasta tips for home improvementStock your pantry with these fundamentals, and you’ll be able to turn out flavorful, healthy meals any day of the week. From Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together, by Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione.

Turning out tasty, well-seasoned food takes a little more than that starter spice rack you got for your first apartment. This is a fantastic list of fundamentals that’ll get you through every recipe in this book. Buy whole spices when possible and grind them (with an inexpensive coffee bean grinder) as needed. If that’s not an option, buy them in ground form and be sure to store in a cool, dark area (directly above the stove is not the best place to store spices). Vinegars and oils are also best kept in a cool, dark place.

  • kosher salt
  • whole black peppercorns, for your pepper mill
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • cayenne
  • dried basil
  • dried marjoram
  • dried oregano
  • fennel seed
  • mustard seed
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground ginger
  • nutmeg, buy whole and grate on a Microplane as needed
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder

Non-Spice Essentials

  • vanilla extract
  • almond extract
  • honey
  • sriracha hot sauce
  • vinegar-based hot sauce — Tabasco or Cholula
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • sesame oil
  • vegetable oil
  • olive oil
  • vinegars: balsamic, red wine, white wine, cider

How to Buy the Perfect Steak

‘Tis the season to fire up the grill and enjoy a tender piece of goodness. Let Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together help you choose a steak that’s a cut above the rest.

You only need two things for a great steak: quality meat and a hot grill. (While you’re at it, throw in some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for enhanced flavor.) That means the onus of turning out a great steak rests squarely on the shoulders of the hunk of meat that you select. Here’s what to look for:

Color
The color of the meat is a great indicator of how much it’s been aged. Good or bad. Proper aging of steak yields a slightly darker, more brown color. It might not be the prettiest steak in the butcher’s case, but it’s the tastiest, with the richest, deepest flavor. Improper aging — aka steaks that have been sitting in the butcher’s case too long — will look dull, slightly grayish. To recap: good aging – color deepens; bad aging — color fades.

Marbling
Those white flecks in the meat are fat, and fat is flavor! Look for a good quantity and an even distribution of the white stuff to ensure that every bite will be a flavorful one.

Size
When it comes to steak, size definitely matters. If the cut is too thin, it will be difficult to develop a good char on the outside without overcooking the interior. If it’s too thick, you might burn the exterior before the interior reaches a level beyond that of steak tartare. Go for a steak that’s atleast 1/2 inch thick and up to 2 inches thick.

LEARN MORE

Great grilling and barbecue tips

Easy-to-Grow Essential Herbs

There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with aromatic herbs grown in your own garden. Get started with this guide from Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together.

Whether you’re an urban dweller with a window box, you’ve cultivated an acre of countryside, or you find yourself somewhere in between, planting your own herbs is the perfect way to brighten up your surroundings and your cooking. It’s a great money saver too. A few young plants from your local farmers’ market or garden center will produce fresh herbs all season long and cost the same as one dinky bunch of herbs from the grocery store.

Essentials: If you only have room to grow a few herbs, try these. They grow very well in most environments and are the most commonly used in our kitchen.

  • basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • thyme
  • rosemary

If you have the space, add these to your garden:

  • dill
  • tarragon
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • chives
  • sage

LEARN MORE

Italian herbs

Easy-to-Grow Essential Herbs

There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with aromatic herbs grown in your own garden. Get started with this guide from Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together.

Whether you’re an urban dweller with a window box, you’ve cultivated an acre of countryside, or you find yourself somewhere in between, planting your own herbs is the perfect way to brighten up your surroundings and your cooking. It’s a great money saver too. A few young plants from your local farmers’ market or garden center will produce fresh herbs all season long and cost the same as one dinky bunch of herbs from the grocery store.

Essentials: If you only have room to grow a few herbs, try these. They grow very well in most environments and are the most commonly used in our kitchen.

  • basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • thyme
  • rosemary

If you have the space, add these to your garden:

  • dill
  • tarragon
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • chives
  • sage

LEARN MORE

Italian herbs