Overlooked and Misunderstood

These ingredients are the backup singers of the food world: either omnipresent—as an accompaniment rather than the main attraction—or outcast. We ask you to reconsider.

1. The leek is indispensable as part of a flavoring base, and often used in bouquet garni to add flavor to soups and stews. Leeks, part of the onion family, are great for subtle flavoring, but they also hold their own in a side dish—for example, this simple recipe for Braised Leeks or the rich Bacon and Hazelnut Leeks.
2. Parsley is often an afterthought, corralled into the garnish category. It has a vegetal, slightly bitter flavor, especially the flat-leafed Italian variety. Try substituting parsley leaves for some of the greens in your salad, or try our Fennel, Parsley, and Celery Salad with Bitters Vinaigrette.
3. Garlic is no stranger. But it’s often used either not enough or way too much. It shines in our recipes for Garlicky Roasted Chicken with Garlic Jus on Garlic Toast and creamy Roasted Elephant Garlic Soup with Grilled Japanese Eggplant and Basil Purée.
4. Poor cabbage, deemed bland and smelly, a legacy of overboiled Eastern European slop. True, on its own it’s a bit boring, but this versatile vegetable is great braised or raw.
5. Shallots are popular in Europe and Asia, but aside from appearing in mignonette sauce and as a substitute for onion in some recipes, we don’t see a lot of this complex member of the allium family. In this jam, shallot and tarragon make a savory spread that’s great on roast turkey or chicken sandwiches.
6. Celery is most often used as the basis for mirepoix (a mix of onions, celery, and carrots that is the foundation of most French sauces) or dipped into peanut butter and relegated to a kid’s lunchbox. Try combining it with pears and thyme in our Celery Soup.
7. Peppercorns are so marginalized, forgotten in the peppermill. The humble peppercorn deserves more attention. Give it its due with our Peppercorn Ice Cream. And don’t forget how many different types of pepper you can try out.
8. True, Belgian endive is bitter, but it has a beautiful ivory color because it grows in the dark. We think that fact alone makes it glamorous. If you want a more subtle and slightly sweet expression of endive, try this Endive and Fennel Gratin with Almonds. If you don’t shy away from bitterness, use it raw in Endive with Figs, Blue Cheese, and Pecans.
9. Onions are the workhorses of the kitchen, so ubiquitous that they’ve become invisible. Make onions the centerpiece of your meal with this Cornbread, Pecan, and Salt Pork Stuffed Onions recipe.
10. Olive oil has become a home cook’s staple for its health benefits as well as for its flavor and high smoke point. But it goes well beyond salad dressings and sautés. This Olive Oil Cake is moist and not at all greasy, with elegant, subtle nutty notes. (Make sure you pull out the good oil for this recipe.)