January 04, 2019
Caravan By Snuk
Pantry Guide

The New Essential Ingredients of 2019

Resolve to fall in love with these fermented flavors, fresher spices, and fiery condiments.

Written By Max Falkowitz

If you feel like you’ve been making the same New Year’s resolutions year after year, take comfort in the knowledge that history is on your side. Almost every culture that celebrates the new year includes some form of resolutions in the groggy morning after.

The earliest records of New Year’s resolutions date back four millennia to ancient Babylonia. That’s one of the first societies to develop a written calendar, though back then, the resolutions hit during the spring growing season, not the middle of winter, and had more to do with forming religious and social bonds than spending time at the gym.

Persian, Greek, Muslim, and Roman societies continued the trend of New Year’s resolutions. Jews have long marked the new year by atoning for past sins to start anew. And Mayan calendars attach great and terrible turns of fortune to the beginnings and endings of significant months and years.

Whatever your stance on New Year’s resolutions, consider this one: Embrace something delicious that’s new to you. Maybe it’s a zero-proof drink if you’re cutting back on alcohol, a standout spice to kickstart your Whole30, or just a really fantastic bottle of olive oil from a region you’ve never considered. After consulting with our expert buyers and food-industry forecasters, we’ve assembled 11 great ingredients worth keeping on your radar all year long.

And they taste so much better than a meal kit

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An awesome African grain

Fonio is a true ancient grain, a staple of the African diet for thousands of years thanks to its high protein count, low glycemic index, long list of nutrients, and great taste. Imagine couscous crossed with quinoa, with a mildly earthy, nutty flavor perfect for pilafs, tagines, and breakfast porridge. Star Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam launched Yolélé Foods to bring this delicious superfood to the West while supporting African small farmers through fair trade partnerships. Try this gluten-free grain in any recipe that calls for quinoa, couscous, or rice. Shop Yolélé Foods fonio.

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A stellar sour sipper

Verjus is a super-acidic juice made from underripe sour grapes. It has zero alcohol and is too tart to drink straight, but it works brilliantly in place of citrus juice in salad dressings and marinades. Then there’s its cocktail potential: Whether you mix it with spirits or keep it simple with soda water and a touch of cane syrup, this is one bottle you’ll want to add to your bar. Shop Wolffer verjus.

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A spice cabinet reset

Quick: Think of your three favorite spices that you cook with all the time. Now try to remember when you last bought the jars sitting in your pantry. Can’t? Chuck ‘em; spring cleaning is coming early. Freshly dried and ground herbs and spices will transform your cooking like nothing else, all without a lick of carbs or fat. If you’re not sure where to start, add this cured sumac to your list right now. These Turkish sumac berries are roughly ground and cured with salt, which preserves some of their natural moisture for a fresh-tasting burst of berry tartness to roast chicken, puréed soups, and any fish recipe. Shop Burlap & Barrel cured sumac.

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A dreamy dried bean

Canned beans are convenient for last-minute meals, but they can’t compare to the flavor and texture of dried beans that you cook yourself. Make a Sunday habit of cooking a pound or two of dried beans, then portion them into half-pound containers for easy dishes throughout the week. And add this bean your collection: black chickpeas, also called kala chana or kadala. They have a chewier texture than garbanzo beans, almost meaty, and an earthy flavor that stands out among rich spices. Black chickpeas also retain their shape when fully cooked, so they’re ideal for high-protein meatless meals like salads and stews. Shop black chickpeas.

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A fancier fruit leather

Forget the joyless health-food store fruit leathers of your youth; this is lavashak, the Iranian candy made of fresh juices slowly simmered until they coalesce into pliant sheets full of concentrated fruity flavor. Wrap the barberry or pomegranate flavors around nuggets of blue cheese for a quick snack; apricot and wedges of pear is another smart choice. Shop Sadaf fruit leather.

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A key to DIY culture

Last month, our friends at TASTE made a modest proposal: that everyone should have a winter cooking goal. We like that idea, especially when it comes to homemade yogurt, which is dead-simple to make, easier than keeping a plant happy, and tastes lightyears better than anything you can buy in a store. Use this starter set to get your culture club going. Shop Cultures for Health Greek yogurt starter.

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A singular citrus

In 2018, yuzu, a bumpily handsome citrus from Japan with the enticing fragrance of Meyer lemons perfumed for their first cotillion, was the darling of the American restaurant world. It adds a floral twist to cocktails, a subtle elegance to ceviche, and an unexpected brightness to vinaigrettes. But fresh yuzu fruits are hard to come by; instead, try this potent potion of natural yuzu essence. Add by the teaspoon for instant sophistication. Shop Musu yuzu essence.

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An olive oil to remember

We don’t think of it like one, but olive oil is a perishable ingredient. From the moment the olive is crushed, enzymatic and oxidative reactions begin eating away at the fruit’s flavor and nutrients. Once opened, even the best extra virgin olive oil will degrade with time into something rancid and flat. So: Toss your stale bottle and buy a small one to use quickly, before it has a chance to go bad. And restock with our current favorite, made from organically cultivated Palestinian Nabali olives from the West Bank. The single-variety oil is distinctly fruity with a peppery finish, and most importantly, it’s fresh. Shop Canaan Nabali olive oil.

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A hiss of harissa heat

In Ottolenghi Simple, the Israeli chef calls out rose harissa as one of his 10 singularly “Ottolenghi” ingredients. He rubs the rose-scented chile paste over potato skins before roasting them, spreads it into an omelet with some Manchego, and adds dabs to caramelized onions. We stand in support of these maneuvers; rose petals add a distinct elegance and floral uplift to the brooding heat of this North African specialty. We especially love it when cooking with New York Shuk’s rosey harissa powder; mix with a dab of olive oil for a thick paste, or add a few glugs for a sauce or salad dressing. Shop New York Shuk rosey harissa.

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A crock of fermented hot sauces

Sriracha is the new Tabasco, and it’s paved the way for other fiery, fermented chile sauces to widen their reach on the market. Take gochujang, a thick, sweet chile-bean paste, which was once confined to Korean groceries, but now comes in all kinds of artisan formats. We’re forecasting more sauces to follow, and for good reason: just a dab brings an Emeril BAM to just about everything. Brooklyn Delhi’s tomato achaar adds a lovely warmth to your morning avocado toast. And this Guyanese achar, made with pickled peppers, lime, and mustard oil, delivers a blast of heat and funk. It’s ideal for curry goat, but also delightful on a deviled egg. Shop Guyanese Pride pepper achar.

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A terrific turmeric spread

You may already love turmeric for its mellow earthy flavor and renowned anti-inflammatory benefits; here’s a way to mainline the fresh root and appreciate its full potency. Atina Foods’ “herbal jam” is a sweet-savory spread made with raw Indian sugar, crushed ginger, tamarind paste, mustard oil, and black pepper. Treat it like chutney to spoon into yogurt, dollop over rice, and even add to vegetable stir fries. It’s a world away from those underpowered, overpriced golden milk lattes. Shop Atina Foods turmeric herbal jam.