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  • Writer's pictureDiana Scalia

My Favorite Ingredients

Alors ... today is a famous day on the calendar of The Dolls, and that is the day before Thanksgiving. We three usually meet at Suz’s house, and we prepare the foods for our Thursday dinner (at Lisa’s home tomorrow), that are best prepared a day in advance. Included of course, is our Nana’s Sicilian Rice Dressing, which I had charge of today!

Suz is making apple pies in Mason Jar lids, not surprisingly because she is one of the finest bakers in all of the land. She knows I love apple pie so I am happy beyond measure that this is on the dessert parade tomorrow night. (Foto right below, courtesy of Suz.)

As she was gathering her ingredients, she asked me if I liked nutmeg? I promised her that I did, beyond measure in fact! That very kind question inspired me to write a story about my favorite ingredients.

My first list of favorite ingredients follows, with brief color commentary, and not necessarily in order of how much I love them. This short, fairly-holiday-inspired list is not the only of its kind! Perhaps this can be an ongoing theme for La Vie en Magenta, since seeing life thru deep-pink rose-colored glasses has so much to do with my passion for food and, my favorite ingredients on the planet.

Nutmeg, freshly grated. Years ago, I had the pure, ultimate joy and privilege of making applesauce for Vin Scully, one of America’s greatest (late) national treasures and voice of the LA Dodgers for over 60 years. Freshly-grated nutmeg was the secret ingredient that he loved; this amazing gentleman personally applauded me for that. Nutmeg makes people happy, so I always must have whole nutmeg on hand; it even travels with me.

Really excellent extra-virgin olive oil. I may run low on olive oil and, I vow to never run out of it because well, that would not be pretty. It is one of the first ingredients I buy for my kitchen when I travel. I use it for so many things - not limited to my very special slow-infused rosemary oil, to finish soft- and hard-boiled eggs, on avocado, as a drizzle over every dish of pasta ...

Really good butter, preferably French. It is said that the French invented cheese, and I wonder if in fact they invented butter as well. Bordier butter is from Bretagne (Brittany), and it is exceptional. Gratefully you can buy it other places in France, and trust me, I definitely seek it out and am overjoyed when I find it. In the US, I seek out fine-quality European style butter, and consider its price tag a gift to myself because ... I deserve it!

Extraordinary brown sugar. In my experience, the use of upgraded brown sugar elevates baked goods to the realm of the divine! In the US, there is excellent Muscovado dark brown sugar (Mauritius) at Whole Foods, and Monsieur Marcel in LA also carries it. Again, pricey and, worth every single cent. In France, at Naturalia Markets, Mascobado brown sugar (Philippines) has notes of vanilla and caramel – extraordinary!!

Citrus zest and juice. Since my culinary signature slants toward Western Europe and the Mediterranean, citrus is a quintessential ingredient. It offers a fresh, clean flavor to dishes both savory and sweet. When I was the Spanish Bar Chef, almost all of my dishes and desserts had a citrus accent, and I believed that my dishes came to their most beautiful life when I used blood oranges! I take my Microplane with me when I travel, it’s indispensable.

OK Loves, that is all for now. Stand by for future posts on this topic and, here is wishing you the Happiest and Most Delicious Thanksgiving!

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