Want to kick your home cooking game up a notch with some super simple secret ingredients? We asked two people who know best – our Head Chef & Kitchen Manager Asher Ramras, and our Bar, Beverage and Event Manager Steph Monohan – for some secrets they don’t mind sharing.
My first secret ingredient is Parmesan cheese rinds. After you finished using a wedge of parm, don’t toss the hard rind. Rather keep them, hoard them, until you’ve got a handful or so. I put them in soup stocks and stews to get depth of flavor like no other.
Next, breadcrumbs. Putting breadcrumbs on pasta has always been a thing. Some of us just come to it at different times in life. Breadcrumbs, descendants of the crouton, are key players in The Shop menu. From salads, to spreads, to meatballs, no baguette butts must go to waste.
And finally, vegetable scraps. Keep your vegetable scraps and make delicious homemade vegetable stock. If you have space in your freezer start filling a container with onion trimmings, carrot peels, fennel tops, parsley stems. While you should steer clear of putting things like cabbage, broccoli, kale and other brassicas, it’s fun to get a different blend of vegetable scraps as the seasons change. Once you have filled a container empty out into a stock pot, cover with cold water and bring to boil over high heat. Bubble for a few minutes and strain. You can reduce this strained stock to concentrate the flavor and as a mega bonus save space in your fridge or freezer. Use this stock in soups, to cook rice, to steam vegetable, cook dumplings, you name it.
Lemon zest is my most utilized not-so-secret “secret weapon”. It adds brightness without adding acidity and gives you flexibility in using different flavor profiles of acid (other citrus juices, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, ACV, champagne vinegar, pickle brine, etc. etc.) without committing to the sometimes bracing acidity of fresh lemon juice. I use it in so many different applications- from salad dressings, to tuna/egg/chicken salad, in a quick herby salsa verde, in chilled soups, in smoked fish rillettes, in pancakes, even folded into to a little soft whipped cream for a dessert.
To incorporate lemon zest into your cooking, a microplane is a super low-barrier investment and is worth having in your kitchen arsenal. Just remember to only graze the surface of the lemon that you’re zesting—if you zest into the white pith, you’ll be stuck with a super bitter end result.