The unfamiliar ingredient philosophy

by Claire Matlock

It’s easy to buy the same ten food staples at the grocery store every week. We know how to cook them and their predictability is reassuring when we find ourselves rushing around mid-week. Speaking for southern Ontarian students, apples, bananas, pasta, juice, frozen pizza and some version of pre-made cookies seem to be in every young person’s grocery basket. And, I’ll avoid mentioning the even more predictable LCBO “grocery baskets”.

The unfamiliar ingredient philosophy (2)
Bananas…again? Boooring!

Exploration into uncharted food territory—perhaps the foreign food isle—need not induce stress or consume your precious cooking hours. Take for example red lentils. You throw them in a pot of boiling water (like pasta) and they’re ready in fifteen minutes. They are delicious in soups, stews, and salads. Farro is an exciting alternative to regular pasta and can be served hot or tossed cold into summer-y vegetable dishes. Below is a list of five ingredients that are unfamiliar to many, but inexpensive and easily prepared. I urge you take one or two for a spin in your kitchen and enjoy the new flavors.

  1. Roasted red peppers (approximately $4/jar). Toss into pasta, salads, or add to sandwiches. They’re also really easy and fun to make yourself.
  2. Hemp seeds (approximately $7/500g). While you’ll generally only use a tablespoon at a time, add to smoothies, salads, cereal, or even blend into hot drinks to up the creaminess without using dairy.
  3. Buckwheat groats (approximately $6/500g). Cook like morning porridge, or sprout into an extremely nutritious addition to cereals and salads.
  4. Dulse seaweed (approximately $6/2oz). A salty addition to rice noodles, stir-fries, salads and anything else that can use a chewy dose of salt.
  5. Chipotle Peppers in adobo sauce (approximately $2.50/can). Stir one or two peppers into your next pot of chili, blend into a sauce for tacos, add to any bean dish or use as a spicy marinade.