Lots of dinner box subscriptions try to convince you that you’re “creating” your meal. There are food trucks that assure you that if your grandmother were alive and from their exotic origins, she’d make homemade food just like theirs, so don’t bother. Also, have you discovered how food delivery services are like a neutron bomb on your budget?
Even if you try to be self-sufficient, your hometown’s produce probably isn’t as verdant as that from California and Italy. I myself have a Romaine lettuce plant that looks like I stepped on it. I want the fresh and luscious flavors in my recipes that are found on farms, but I can only handle the “from scratch” thing for the holidays. I get so tired and you probably do, too! If you keep a smartly stocked cupboard, you can start treating yourself, your friends and loved ones better.
Sonoma Farm has a line of organic products in a cornucopia of tasty categories, such as balsamic vinegar, oils, olive products, sauces. I was very happy to be hosted to experience it!
Tuscan Vodka Pasta Sauce has a bright tomato flavor, incorporating farm veggies, vodka and heavy whipping cream. It’s not gummy or ketchuppy — like sauces from the grocery store can be. It has some richness, but isn’t fatty. It has a little texture, but isn’t chunky. This is a gourmet product that they recommend with chicken, shellfish or lasagna. I made it into a shakshuka with soft-cooked eggs: outstanding and easy!
Gravy — Marinara Style — is considered “Chicago Style”. I’m Chicago style and I have the birth certificate to prove it! In Chicago, we always liked food that was top quality, but all the flavors were balanced. This is what they say about it: fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh sautéed onions, fresh ground carrots add some extra virgin olive oil with a little just-picked garlic and basil and cook it in small batches. We use local farms for all our produce. It’s bright, well-seasoned, with the perfect amount of salt. The aromatic ingredients give it texture. It’s not sweet.
Northern Italy Asiago has layers of flavor from fresh spinach, Parmesan and Asiago added to their vodka sauce. You can have a box of the simplest pasta and this sauce turns it into a meal.
Sonoma Farms has several oils, including Extra Virgin Olive Oil, infused oils and even samples! Use them in dressings, as bread dip, for basting. White Truffle EVOO is a light, buttery oil — rich in truffle flavor. You’ll find that it elevates the simplest lettuce salads. Lemon Olive Oil has a lemon fruit nose, with a little zest. It’s a light olive oil with lemon zest flavors, spice notes on the swallow. Basil Infused Olive Oil has subtle basil-mint-licorice notes. It’s a rich, green oil — full bodied. Garlic Infused EVOO is a light olive oil, with a garlic salt nose. It’s buttery, with solid, but not bitter, fresh garlic flavor.
If you aren’t familiar with balsamic vinegar, you will be thrilled to learn how versatile it is: use it in dressings, as glazes and deglazes for meats, experiment in cocktails and even as a drizzle on rich desserts or fresh fruit. Their classic Balsamic Vinegar has a dark, thick body. It’s savory like soy and sweet like prune at at the same time! It’s quite versatile. White Balsamic Vinegar has a fresh apple nose, it’s sweet and tangy. Try it on poached fruit or lemony garden sorrel! Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar has a deep floral and fruit nose. Flavor-wise, there’s rich fruit — rich and tangy — flavor. It has medium body. Try it in sophisticated cocktails.
Salsa is good to hand on hand for parties and impromptu gatherings. All by itself on fresh veggies or nacho chips, or blended with cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, salsa is popular! Dill Pickle Jalapeno Salsa hits a lot of party taste spots at once: it’s pickle-y, with a pleasant lick of salt, not overly hot. Try a spoon of this to make your “own” Bloody Mary! Peach Salsa is peachy, but not too sweet. It has some heat and a little savory salt flavor. Carolina Reaper is a very, very hot salsa — but with veggie flavors.
Are you familiar with giardiniera? That’s Italian for garden stuff and it’s a traditional piquant condiment. Serve it with an antipasto dish or as a sandwich topper for the classic New Orleans cold cut masterpiece, muffaletta. Hot Giardiniera is packed in olive oil, instead of vinegar: Chicago style! It’s spicy, but not obnoxiously so, with a nice salty quality. It perks up fatty meats (like a meatball sub) and can be mixed for an easy dip. The local farm sourced veggies remain crisp. Mild Giardiniera is also Chicago style. It’s not overly salty and has two kinds of chopped olives. Try a small barspoon in a martini or with cream cheese!