Ingredients form the basis of any dish. It's important not only to know where the ingredients come from, but also how to choose them, how to buy them fresh and how they are best used or prepared. Always try to use the best ingredients you can afford. This can be as easy — and economical — as buying produce that is in season. Or it can be as extravagant as drizzling a 40-year-old balsamic vinegar.
Go for Quality Ingredients
High quality products have more flavor and impact. Therefore, a little bit goes a long way. Excellent quality Parmesan cheese can cost around $15 a pound, but it has so much more flavor than the powder in a can that much less is needed to flavor pasta dishes. The same intensity of flavor is found in fine chocolate, home-grown tomatoes and prime-grade beef.
Simple Ingredients are Often Better
High quality ingredients are especially important in recipes that are simple and direct. In such cases, the individual elements of the dish are highlighted, and defects in any one ingredient readily standout.
Insalata Caprese is a very basic salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper. This salad is best eaten in late summer when the ripest tomatoes are available and basil is abundant. The freshest mozzarella should be chosen. And an olive oil with strong, assertive flavors should be poured over the top. Place this dish next to one made with winter tomatoes, dried basil, low-moisture, partial-skim mozzarella, and a low grade olive oil. You'll never go back.