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What Is Your Favorite Pantry Staple?

Real Simple readers share the go-to ingredients and products that help them put something tasty together.

SmoresAaron Dyer 


Hoisin sauce. When I use it in a salad dressing or a marinade, I feel as if I’m eating top-quality Chinese or Vietnamese food. It can make any basic dish, like roast chicken, feel special and different.
Michelle Lathrop
Lafayette, California

I like to sprinkle Casina Rossa Truffle & Salt on my popcorn to class it up a little. I don’t use too much, though—it’s powerful stuff!
Jennifer Dunham Luby
Chicago, Illinois

Homemade canned peaches, which we preserve each summer, in the form of jam or halves, and eat throughout the winter. My 81-year-old father picks the peaches from a wisp of a tree in his yard. He climbs a rickety wooden ladder and balances on the top rung with a small wire basket and then bats at the branches. I am always convinced he is going to fall, so I stand spotting him at the base.
Lori B. Horbas
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Black mango tea, which has such a sweet flavor that it doesn’t need sugar. I find the process of making tea meditative and the aroma it produces evocative. Tea is also an elegant and comforting thing to serve friends who drop by for a chat.
Melisa Kjellander
Weston, Massachusetts

Before I married a southerner, I didn’t think much of instant grits, but I’ve come to realize that they complement any meal. Many people make them with Velveeta, but I’ll throw in white Cheddar or whatever is left over from our most recent party.
Katie Hardin
Washington, D.C.

A small vial of saffron strands. They have a woodsy flavor and give a rich orange yellow to vegetables and rice. When I add saffron to steamed cauliflower, I feel like a painter who also happens to cook.
Susan Hankla
Richmond, Virginia

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta. It’s high in protein, so I just toss it with some vegetables, like peas, and I’m done. That’s a blessing on nights when deciding what’s for dinner is the equivalent of Chinese water torture.
Lys Fulda
Chicago, Illinois

 
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