Here you'll find information on my favorite spices, flours, fridge staples, and other ingredients that I like to keep on hand.
There are two kinds of salt that I use daily: kosher salt, and Maldon salt.
KOSHER SALT - kosher salt has larger grains than fine table salt, which makes it easier to control the amount of salt you add to food. I'm used to the feel of kosher salt grains to the point that I don't measure them most of the time. For recipes that call for fine table salt, double the quantities for kosher salt (e.g. if a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of table salt, add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt). Whenever I refer to "salt" in a recipe on F+F, I mean kosher salt unless otherwise specified.
MALDON SALT - Maldon is a brand-name for flaky sea salt. It is a pyramid-shaped, dry salt (meaning the grains sit loosely rather than clumping together). The way in which we experience the flavor of salt has much to do with the shape of the salt crystals we are eating. When we eat something flavored with kosher or table salt, for example, the seasoning is ubiquitous throughout the food since the crystals are small and dissolve easily and quickly. Kosher and table salts are often used throughout the cooking process to flavor the food before it is finished being made. Maldon salt, however, is used as a finishing salt and sprinkled over the food after it is cooked (and often, plated). We then eat these large, pyramidal crystals that crunch and dissolve in our mouths intermittently, giving us a burst of salinity that spreads over our tongues. If eating a dish flavored with kosher salt is akin to taking a dip in the ocean, Maldon salt is on par with being hit by a water balloon.
I love Maldon salt on lots of things, but one of my favorite snacks is to heat up a really good, lardy tortilla, and drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle it with Maldon salt before rolling it up and going to town.
OTHER SALTS - there are so many salts available these days! You only really need the above two to cook well, but it can be fun to have salt on hand flavored with truffles, fines herbs, chiles, etc. Maldon even makes smoked salt flakes. I have a black sea salt and a citron-flavored salt for when I want to have a little color or flavor fun in finishing a dish.
PEPPERS AND CHILES (whole, flakes, powder, and paste)
Peppers and chiles get their own category outside of spices because there are SO many kinds! There are a few that I use frequently, and some intermittently. If you have one kind of chile or pepper flakes that you really, really love, use that whenever I call for chile flakes in a recipe.
The peppers/chiles that I use most frequently are: Aleppo pepper flakes, Turkish pepper flakes, Piment d'Espelette, and aji amarillo paste.
ALEPPO PEPPER FLAKES - these pepper flakes are bright, citrusy, and warming. They make my mouth feel like its wearing a cozy sweater knitted by my grandma. Well not really, but there is something very pleasant and comforting about their heat. It's not too little, not too much, but just right. The flakes are also a very pretty color and add a nice, bright red pop to your food. We're going through these guys much faster than our other pepper flakes! I pretty much put them on everything these days.
MARASH TURKISH PEPPER FLAKES - these pepper flakes have a deep, almost chocolatey flavor, and a powerful heat that comes on all at once. We use them when we want more heat than the Aleppo pepper flakes. I tend to use them more during cooking, rather than sprinkling them over a finished dish. I find their heat a little overwhelming when used to finish food, but others love their punch and sprinkle them liberally on everything. Try them and decide for yourself.
URFA BIBER - again a Turkish chile, but deeper purple to purplish black in color, and not as hot as the Marash flakes. The heat builds slowly and lingers longer than both the Marash and Aleppo pepper flakes.
GOCHUGARU or KIMCHI CHILE - these are the chile flakes you see in kimchi. Gochugaru is a Korean red chile with minimal heat. It is used for its rich and fruity flavor, which comes through even when just smelling the chile flakes.
PIMENT D'ESPELETTE -
CHILES DE ARBOL - if you read any cookbook by Suzanne Goin, you'll notice her affection for chiles de Arbol. These are available in the ethnic food aisle in most grocery stores, but you can get enormous bags of them for cheap at Mexican and South American markets (SLC folks, go to a Rancho Market to get yours). You can add them whole to dishes for a background note of warmth, but they are great crushed up with your fingers into coarse pepper flakes. They add a nice crescendo of heat to your food. When I make tomato sauce, I often crush one and add it to the onions as they're sautéing.
SUGARS AND NATURAL SWEETENERS
I don't use artificial sweeteners or even Stevia when I cook or bake. I find their flavors to be metallic and chemical, and I feel a little funny after I eat them. There is a lot of research for avoiding artificial sweeteners unless you are working to manage your blood sugar. I don't offer substitutions for natural sweeteners in all of my recipes, but I will often rely on the flavors and sweetness of fresh fruit if I am looking to create a low-sugar dessert.