3 Ingredients a Top Chef Always Keeps on Hand (and What to Make With Them)

Sophie Miura

Though the ingredients in your pantry and fridge likely vary by season or recipe, most home cooks have a couple of staple ingredients they reach for on repeat. They're the items that form the foundation of a delicious dish: perhaps a high-quality olive oil to drizzle on salads or tart block of parmesan to scatter on pasta. For cookbook author and chef Cal Peternell, those staples are surprisingly obscure. 

In his latest cookbook, Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta, the San Francisco–based chef spotlights his three go-to ingredients and explains why the nut, fish, and cured meat are must-haves. "People have cooked this way forever—using cured meats and fishes as a seasoning element—and it's the way I like to (mostly) eat these days," he says. 

All three ingredients are excellent at adding texture and depth of flavour, turning a bland dish into a memorable one. "Anchovies and pancetta bring not just salt but a concentration of time—the time it took to salt or smoke or ferment them is revealed through flavour," he says. While almonds aren't salty, he considers them the meat of the plant world, making them ideal for vegans and vegetarians. "Nuts deliver fat content that is comparable to bacon and pancetta. I chose almonds for this book because they seem most versatile to me. [They] act as a thickener when ground very finely, add crunch when roughly chopped, [and] provide rustic heft when crushed for adding to cooked greens."

Intrigued by Peternell's ingredient choice? Test out his theory with three recipes from his new cookbook to include almonds, anchovies, or pancetta. 

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