Brad Farmerie may be one of the country’s top authorities on what makes a good kitchen. He’s the chef-proprietor of five acclaimed restaurants, including New York City’s Saxon + Parole and Public, has traveled to and worked in restaurants all over the world, and has combined many of his favorite details into his simple and elegant Brooklyn home kitchen. So it’s no surprise that he has quite a few pieces of advice on developing and maintaining an organized, healthy, and inspired pantry.
One theme that Brad takes in his approach to kitchen organization is starting from a blank canvas. He and wife Jocelyn gutted the kitchen of their apartment when they moved in and built around the only details they kept – the French range and farmhouse sink – to focus on simplicity and functionality. Below is Brad’s list of top organization tips, in his words, as well as his own recipe for a delicious pantry-staple appetizer!
- Throw away most/all of your spices and start fresh. Spices don’t have as long of a shelf life as most home cooks think, but with smaller amounts of higher quality spices (such as the incredibly fresh and vibrant spices by La Boite) you will see a big difference in your dishes. Also, write the date on the bottom of the spice when you buy it and endeavor to throw it away a year later regardless of what the expiration date is.
- Pack your pantry full of umami booster blasts that add an immediate depth of flavor to whatever they touch – olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, boquerones (Spanish anchovies), preserved lemon, roasted peppers like piquillo or pickled peppers like guindilla or peppadew peppers. All of these can turn simple salad, pasta, or even egg dishes from ordinary to extraordinary and make a memorable meal in a matter of minutes (in my house, I am famous for making “pantry pasta,” which is basically canned tomatoes with whatever umami bombs we have on the shelves.
- Upgrade your basic essentials: great olive oil like California Olive Ranch, serious finishing salt like Maldon salt, and fresh aromatic and nuanced pepper like Pierre Poive pepper from La Boit will make an immediate difference in your home cooking. And while we’re at it, ask yourself why you put pepper into every dish – it doesn’t make sense! Why add the same one-dimensional spice to everything you cook? Look at alternatives like Aleppo (a sun-dried super mild chili flake from Syria) or sambal (a complex chili paste) to add to dishes to give them the lift that you are looking for with plain old boring pepper.
- Ditch your balsamic and go off piste with vinegar. Acidity is second only to salt in perking up flavors, so make sure you have some interesting options on-hand like drinks varietals (chardonnay, Pedro Ximenez, riesling, beer) or any of the realm of fruits available (fig, quince, etc.). For additional usage, you can also add some sugar, zest, or muddled fruits, and carbonated water for a refreshing “shrub” drink that’s great in the summer, and even better with a bit of vodka or gin added in.
- Keep some texture in your pantry. I love having a whole host of crunchy bits that can be sprinkled onto a dish at the last minute to add a textural contrast and new dimension of flavor to cereals, baked goods, salads, braised meat dishes, and more. Nuts and crunchy bits: smoked almonds, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, puffed rice/quinoa, sesame, pumpkin/hemp seeds, dukkah (an Egyptian nut/seed/spice blend). They are all shelf-stable and take no time to sprinkle on, yet give a dish a professional finished touch and taste.
Sunflower Seed Hummus
- 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill sunflower seeds, soaked in water in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temperature for 4 hours
- 1/3 cup California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
- juice from one lemon, about 3 Tbsp.
- 1 tsp. yuzu juice (this gives a great tangerine/lemony flavor but you can substitute lemon juice)
- 3 Tbsp. tahini
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more to garnish
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried parsley, plus more to garnish
- Salt to taste (about 3/4 tsp.)
- za’atar, to garnish
- Drain the soaked sunflower seeds and place in a pot with the almond milk.
- Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook the seeds until tender, about 30-40 minutes.
- Drain any remaining liquid off of the seeds.
- Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, and process until smooth
- Cool to room temperature and taste once again for salt and acidity, as these often need to be boosted once the mix has cooled down.
- To serve, place in a bowl, drizzle with more California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika, parsley, and za’atar. To serve, surround with raw, lightly cooked, and pickled vegetables and/or flatbread.
Photography by Andrew Kist