Our favorite ingredients.

I cook with quinoa occasionally, and every time think, “Why don’t I use this more often?” Quinoa is a grain, a complex protein, so it’s a satisfying component in a lunch-appropriate salad and a refreshing alternative to meat in a dinner dish. Use quinoa as you might use rice. Recipes:
Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini
Big Delicious Quinoa Bowl

Panna da Cucina
If you’re ever in an Italian market and find a box with this label, buy immediately. Buy several. Panna da Cucina is a super-thick cooking cream, thicker than sour cream but not as heavy or tangy as Mascarpone. We stockpile Panna to make creamy sauces for pasta: It makes a killer Alfredo sauce (use in place of heavy cream), and it’s essential in one my favorite Bill-inspired recipes (a tomato-porcini-cream sauce).

Dried Beans
I don’t often cook with shell beans, and tend to use canned when I do. But I grabbed a 1-pound bag of cannellini beans from Rancho Gordo at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, and was amazed at the taste. They’re fresh, herbal, bean-y in the best of ways. Rancho Gordo has simple cooking instructions here (dried beans are pretty idiot-proof). My rather accidental method was easier (though RG’s tip of sauteeing the aromatics would result in more flavorful beans). I soaked the beans overnight (they swelled and absorbed all the water, so be sure to cover amply), then rinsed and threw them in a dutch oven with a carrot and celery stalk (both halved) the end of an onion I had in the fridge, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Once the pot boiled, I reduced the heat, covered the pot and cooked the beans gently for about 40 minutes, tasting them occasionally to make sure they were al dente and not mushy.

Fregola Sarda
This Sardinian pasta has a rough, slightly round shape. It varies in size. What’s brilliant about Fregola Sarda is that it’s lightly toasted, so it gives a wonderful depth of flavor to whatever you add it to. Fregola Sarda with zucchini and pine nuts is one of our go-to recipes; we make it regularly. The pasta would also be terrific in soup, or used instead of (or with) rice in a pilaf.

Pimenton is Spanish paprika; it’s available in sweet or hot variations. Pimenton de la Vera has a distinctive smoky taste, and that’s what we’ve come to prefer in our kitchen. We love it in dishes with red bell pepper, and it adds a fantastic flavor note to corn (like this recipe for corn with cream.) It’s pretty commonly available, often labeled as Smoked Spanish Paprika; find it at The Spice House or Penzey’s.