Essential ingredients you shouldn't cook without



Organic Valley Butter ($5.69/1 lb.)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)

Since unsalted butter is often the No. 1 or No. 2 most prominent ingredient when baking—meaning you could go through a pound at a time—use the best you can afford. It significantly enhances the flavor of everything from pound cake to pie crust. We like Organic Valley’s list of ingredients, or lack thereof: sweet cultured milk, and a culture to help ripen the cream. For pure butter (with no artificial “butter flavor”) and good value, this is it.


(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt ($3.79/17.6 oz.)

You couldn’t get the Athens-made yogurt here until 1998. But Fage (FAH-yeh) quickly became an American dairy staple (it’s now made in the U.S.). We favor the 2% version, which is pleasantly thick and rich. Its sour tang makes it an excellent substitute for crème fraîche or sour cream.





(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)Maldon Salt  ($10.95/8.5 oz.)

Maldon is in a class of its own. These elegant, pyramid-like crystals are harvested around Essex, England, where low rainfall makes for extra-salty seawater. Sprinkle a few crunchy flakes on steak, eggs, salads, or fish crudo. Try some on a dish of chocolate sorbet. It’s a revelation on caramels.













Rancho Gordo Dried Beans ($5.50/1 lb.) (Photo by Tom Schierlitz)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)

One of the main reasons that BA is obsessed with these heirloom beans is because of the Napa-based company’s high turnover rate: In other words, they’re some of the freshest dried legumes on the market, so they cook in less time. And also because, well, if Rancho Gordo is good enough for the French Laundry and Per Se ... turn it into dinner: A pot of beans is the start of bean salads, hearty soups, burritos, quick hummus, rice and beans, or, if you really want to go for it, a big, beautiful winter-is-officially-here cassoulet.





(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)King Arthur Flour ($4.99/5 lb.)

The flour from this employee-owned company is the foundation—structurally sound and bromate-free— for all the baked-goods recipes we publish in our pages. We favor all-purpose for everything from chewy cookies to the brownies pictured above. In general, we stick with unbleached because, well, why add bleach to your baking when it’s completely unnecessary? Bonus: With this flour in the house, you’ve got what you need to make a roux or bread a cutlet.









Red Boat Fish Sauce ($10/500mL)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)(Photo by Tom Schierlitz)

Thai cooking guru Andy Ricker says he couldn’t run his restaurants without fish sauce, a salty, pungent blend of fermented fish. We love how a few drops add depth to dipping sauces, marinades, stir-fries, curries, noodles, and rice dishes.

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