The list of things that I always have in my house is short. I like to buy fresh ingredients when I’m cooking, but I have a few favorites I like to keep stocked so I can make my favorite seasonings and marinades on any given night.
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and various types of salts are my top three, bar none. I make a lot of salads and grill a lot at home, so these three are my go-to’s when it comes to 90% of my home cooking. I like to buy local when I know I am going to eat a lot of something, I figure it is the least I can do when it comes to my health. Buying products with the “organic” label at a huge grocery store is one thing, but picking my ingredients directly from the grower or producer is a much more intimate affair. I like knowing where what I am eating comes from, because it is a reliable, trustworthy and consistent way to shop. Sure, it requires a bit more effort, but spending the day at the Farmer’s Market with the sun on your face ain’t a bad way to spend the day.
I get my oils and vinegars from Temecula Olive Oil Company on Cedros Ave. They are located right here in San Diego, and are the growers, pressers and distributors of their very own olives. There ranch in Aguanga is 26 acres, and full of lush grape and olive trees to produce the fruit for their elegant vinegars, oils, olives, dips, tapenades and sauces.
Although they don’t boast the bright orange “organic” label, they are as sustainable as it gets. The first press of their olive harvest goes into their oils, the second into the various body products they sell, and the third into the tractors and farming equipment as fuel.
They produce about 6 flavors of olive oil year-round, and have 2 additional seasonal flavors every winter, spring, summer and fall. I’ve never met one I didn’t like, but the traditional Late Harvest and Basil are probably my favorites. Their balsamic vinegars are equally as impressive, in flavors such as Vanilla Fig, Pomegranate and Honey in addition to the plain dark, red wine and white varieties. Their summer seasonal 911 Hatch Chili is spectacular and spicy, the perfect addition to scrambled eggs, salsa and latin dishes.
TOOC has a variety of sea salts, spices and herbs, however I get my salts from another local producer I discovered a couple exits north at the Leucadia Farmer’s Market. Vital Salts is based out of Vista, and only uses unprocessed natural salts with the highest mineral content. “It is important to us that our products are made with organic, high quality ingredients,” states owner Jennifer Merritt.
But it is the robust flavor that turned me onto these awesome salts. They are most known for their Black Truffle Sesame Salt, which goes great on most meat and veggie dishes, on eggs, and as a finishing salt on just about every ethnocentric dish. They have a ton of other flavors they showcase at the Farmer’s Market [I like the spicy Jalapeno and Habanero flavors], however that is the only way I have found to get my paws on these amazing salts thus far.
Their operation is small, but the quality is undeniable and the health benefits are endless. Salts help retain water in the body, stimulates muscle contraction, and helps the digestive system run smoothly. And it tastes soooooo good!
Without these three amazing ingredients, cooking would not be possible. Keeping it simple has always paid off for me, let the freshness of your dishes shine!