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Tim On Ingredients - Thoughts and Ideas

Tim On Ingredients - Thoughts and Ideas

       Updated Oct. 23, 2020



My hope is to provide you with suggestions about ingredients and techniques that we use in our kitchen on a daily basis.  I assume my experience may give you a new perception or inspiration.


I also assume that you have knowledge on many of these subjects.  I really would appreciate your insights based on your experiences.




Toasted Sugar:  Easy to make at home and perfect for baking.


Maple Sugar:  Wonderful flavor.  You can make it at home.


Honey:  Raw honey offers a range of flavors selected by the honey bee from clover to buckwheat.  Creamed honey opens up different textures and flavors worth exploring.  Get to know your local bee keepers and get to know their honey selections.


Mexican Piloncillo or Panela:  Dark, rich and lightly processed.


Gula Jawa:  Artisanal Coconut Palm Sugar from Indonesia.  Grind the most complex dark sugar ever.




Black Sarawak:  Real Malaysian Pepper Board peppercorns are from Borneo and are mild, winey and complex.  Do not buy black Sarawak described as hot.  Buy from SaltTraders.com.

Aleppo Pepper:  The Halaby or Aleppo chili pepper has an ancho-like flavor with a little more heat and tartness. Use this anywhere you want to add a flavorful mild heat.  We use it instead of crushed red chili flakes.

White Peppercorns:  These are peppercorns that have not been fully ripened, hence the white color.  Popular varieties include Malabar and Sarawak.  They tend to be hotter than black peppercorns.  In Europe white peppercorns are used more than black peppercorns.    

SALTS:  We have about 20 kinds


Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt has one ingredient and is flaked.

Fleur de Sel ranges from mineral to floral.

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt ranges from real to unreal. Iffy quality?

Smoked salt has a huge range based on the production method.


Pimenton: Spanish smoked paprika


Spice Sources: Penzey’s, Saffron Vanilla Imports, Salt Traders, Kalustyan’s




"Manufacturer's" Heavy Cream has one ingredient, called cream.


Pasteurized Heavy Cream with a minimum of stabilizers is good.


Ultra-Pasteurized is hard to whip but very easy to culture. 


Crème Fraiche:  Make with lemon juice (1 TBSP / Pint) for best flavor.  Culture at room temp for a whole day.  Think of it as a rich sour cream to finish a pan sauce; it may be boiled and will not curdle.  It is also a wonderful spread for toast or toasted banana bread.  Use for crème Chantilly by adding sugars or other flavors.   


Butter:  Buy unsalted butter.  Read the label carefully.


American Sweet Cream Butter:  Around 81% butterfat content and 13-14% water.  In Europe butterfat is around 83% with 11-12% water.  No recipe adjustments are needed.


European Cultured Butter:  Cultured butter from fermented cream has a tangy flavor.  Whip crème fraiche to make at home.


European style butter should allow super-tasters to pick out butters from different seasons or cattle varieties.  Flavor counts!


Brown Butter:  Wonderful tasting and underused.  Rather than spread butter, use brown butter.  You will love the results.


Whipped Butter/Oil:  You only want three ingredients.  For higher quality, better flavor and lower cost, make it at home with a hand held mixer with a single blade.  Mix 2 parts soft butter with kosher salt to taste.  Slowly mix and add up to 1-part EVOO tasting as you mix to desired texture and flavor.



Homemade Mayonnaise with home pasteurized eggs (145°F for 10 minutes), blended garlic/lemon juice (or microwaved garlic cloves), Dijon, lemon peel, Gochujang, S & P.  Adjust the recipe to suit your dish.  Innovate!


Mayonnaise produces a golden-brown crust that’s superior to the one you get with butter.  Homemade Mayonnaise even makes it better!  It also protects herbs/spices from burning. Smear a thin coat thin coat on any meat, poultry or fish and refrigerate for a day.  Then sauté, roast or grill.


Immersion Blender Mayo is fast and easy.  SeriousEats.com


Hollandaise/Bearnaise: Immersion Blender is fast and easy.  SeriousEats.com the Food Lab



A vintage product; shelf life is only two-years from harvest and maybe 6 months after opening.  Look for a “best by date” of three years out.  If you find EVOO with a harvest date, you can actually select your flavor profile. Early picked olive oils have bright, spicy, fresh flavors with good throat burn.  Later picked oils will be softer, rounder.  Costco is an excellent source.  Watch out for the gourmet olive oil stores and Williams-Sonoma; no harvest information and old EVOO is extremely low quality.


Use a small trigger fine mist sprayer with EVOO.  It will do an excellent job in spraying the oil on a salad, meats and vegetables.  Don’t waste your money, just buy any inexpensive fine mist sprayer.  If it clogs, clean in very hot water with dishwasher detergent.


Smoked olive oil from Spain is unusual and compelling.




Fresh or Dried: While you may assume that fresh is best, in some cases dried herb are preferred.  Fresh herbs can easily burn or fall off if applied to a roast.  Dried herbs are also preferred for spice or herb rubs.


Delicate leafy herbs (basil, parsley, chervil, cilantro) dictate fresh.  They lose flavor when they are cooked.


Most herbs hold their flavor when cooked especially in a sauce, stew or soup.  Home dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, fennel, leek and onion greens are all worth the effort.


Bay Laurel Leaf Plant:  Grow you own plant for fresh bay and dried bay leaves.  Note the flavor differences.  The same leaves are useful to eliminate sterling silver tarnish and as a moth repellent.


Dried or granulated garlic is better in a rub than fresh.  (NOTE:  Fresh garlic paste or infusion can spoil if held for any period of time.)

Garlic Oil that is safe: Cover clean whole garlic cloves with extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan.  Place in a 275°F oven or two and one-half hours.  (This kills botulism pathogens.)  Taste.


Seasoning blends can be made at home by reading a seasoning label and experimenting.  We make salt-free no-heat Creole andsalt-free Adobe copied from Penzey's and The Spice House.



Artisan refers to hand shaped, unpackaged bread with no preservatives and a short shelf-life.  Any bread packaged in plastic is not artisanal!  If the bread is labeled as artisanal, ask the baker about the shelf life and the details that make the bread artisanal.  The information should include the length of fermentation, shaping of the loaves and baking.


To find artisanal bread look for loaves devoid of plastic packaging.  The crust will have fairly deep slashes on the top surface from a bread lame. This is a slashing razor that opens the top to permit the bread to rise while baking.  You will also find a brown exterior that is crisp and firm.  The interior should have lots of irregular holes


These properties come from a very wet dough, fermented for up to five days at low temperature, hand shaped and baked in a hot oven to an internal temperature of 200°F to brown and fully cook the interior.


Artisanal bread has a very short shelf life.  A baguette may have a one-day shelf life.  You may want to freeze portions to be reheated in a moderate oven. 




Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio:    This is a significant bargain at Costco.  Stravecchio has been aged three years.


Improve and enhance store-bought Fresh Mozzarella:

1 cup half & half with two tsps. fine sea salt. Heat to 110°F and add slices or pearls of fresh mozzarella.  Soak for an hour.  Do not refrigerate.


Consider improving fresh Burrata in heavy cream.


Outstanding soft rind and blue cheese is now widely available.  Tellegio, Gorgonzola, Epoisses, Cabrales, Reblochon are among the best.  Note: Imported soft cheeses may be affected by mishandling during storage causing high pungency and acidity.




Tomatoes:  Whole tomatoes have the best flavor.  You can easily puree, dice, or chop them as needed.  The best tasting whole tomatoes include San Marzano D.O.P., Muir Glen and Cento.


Serious Eats Food Lab tomato sauce is extremely good and easy to adjust to your preferred flavor profile.


Tomato Paste:  Supermarket brands included Red Gold and Hunt’s as acceptable options.  You can easily hold tomato paste in a freezer rolled into a large tube, frozen and wrapped carefully in wrap and tucked into a freeze bag.





Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegre de Jerez Riserva

Champagne vinegar


Madeira:   Opici Vineyards, Washingtonville, NY for cooking.

                  Not Rainwater or Sercial but inexpensive.


Pastis:      French Anise flavored infusion of dozens of herbs.  Wonderful in a seafood stew or chowder.  Prado Pastis de Marseille is excellent.


Gochujang Korean Chili Sauce:     Less heat and more flavor.


Sadaf Pomegranate Concentrate:      Wonderful fruit for pan sauce or salad dressings with heat and sour




A great source for a large selection of dried chiles. (New Mexico red, guajillo, morita, chipotle, cascobel and ancho)


Piloncillo:  The unrefined brown sugar gets its name from its cone shape and comes in light or dark brown.  It is made from cane that is hand cut, crushed, and heated to a syrup.  It is dried in cone-shaped molds.  It has no molasses or chemicals.  It the same as turbinado only much less expensive and tastes better.  Buy from MexGrocer.com  (Do not buy Goya)


Also, the place for Mexican sugars including dark cones of Piloncillo, pure unrefined cane sugar.  That dark color means flavor!  You can grind a cone in a blender and dehydrate the ground sugar in a convection oven.


Mole Poblano: This type of mole is sold in plastic tubs or bags.  “Coloradito - Juquilita Mole Oaxaqueno Paste” is an excellent brand.  MexGrocer.com is a source.  See cooking tips below.




St. Louis, MO has excellent stores on The Hill including DiGregorio’s, Viviano’s and Volpe’s.  Look for salt packed whole anchovies, Italian cheeses, San Marzano DOP canned tomatoes and tomato paste, cured meats and sausage, extra-virgin olive oil and basic balsamic vinegars. 


Eataly in Chicago is a treasure trove:  A remarkable and expensive resource for Piemontese beef, Robiola Bosina cheese, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, Vincotto and more.




Chicago: Mitsua Marketplace in Arlington Heights is the place to find a large selection of everything Asian.  This includes staples and fresh foods.  Always worthy of a visit.


Chicago: Seoul Supermarket in Buffalo Grove has all of the Korean condiments and a nice selection of fresh ingredients.


St. Louis:  Global Market in Kirkwood is a huge market arranged by countries covered.  A large fresh food area, huge sausage selection, fresh meats and frozen foods along with ingredients from around the world.  Absolutely worth a trip at any time.




Cajun: Baileys Andouille LaPlace, La, Ph. 985-652-9090

As good as Jacobs with cheap shipping.


Hungarian: Bende’s Hungarian Gyulai Kolbasz.  What Polish sausage should taste like.


Portuguese: Gaspar’s.com. The only place for Chourico


German Bratwurst: Trader Joe’s German Uncured Brats



Rancho Gordo.com: Inexpensive French Tarbais Beans for cassoulet


ThermoWorks: Thermapen Mk4 or Chef Alarm


Weber Kettle Ideas (Tim):

Cold Smoking at Ambient Temp on a Weber Kettle with three briquettes for wonderful Salmon/Trout fillets.  How about a large roast (Lamb, Pork, Beef) cold smoked for 45 minutes adds an incredible flavor.  Finish roasting in a hot oven later.


Natural Charcoal Briquettes by Weber - better flavor/less ash.




Rancho Gordo.com:  French Tarbais Beans for cassoulet


ThermoWorks:  Thermapen Mk4 or Chef Alarm


Weber Kettle Ideas:   Cold Smoking at Ambient Temp on a Weber Kettle with three briquettes for wonderful Salmon/Trout fillets.  How about a large roast (Lamb, Pork, Beef) cold smoked for 45 minutes adds an incredible flavor.  Finish roasting in a hot oven later.


Natural Charcoal Briquettes by Weber - better flavor/less ash.


SeriousEats.com, Cooking.NYTimes.com, Cook’s Illustrated


Maple Sugar:  Contact me is you want to make maple sugar.  You need real cooking skills to deal with very hot syrup in a tall stock pot.  The effort is worthwhile.  A quart of maple syrup (the only ingredient) becomes a quart of wonderful maple sugar in about two hours.


Black Sarawak from Borneo:  Most Sarawak’s are mislabeled and described as hot; All are excessively hot with no complexity.  The Malaysian Pepper Board had been closed for about 10 years and is now exporting again.  There are only two trusted sources in the USA.  Buy from SaltTraders.com.


Mole paste may dissolve in chicken broth but it makes sense to sauté paste in oil over low heat.  Stir with a wooden spatula while adding hot broth.  One-part mole to three parts broth is about right.  Cover the heated mix and let it rest.  Adjust the flavor profile with onion, tomato, chocolate or piloncillo.