To help you make a dent in your collection of this and that, here are some tips and recipes from our archives for getting through that extra harissa, tahini, miso and more.
As my former colleague Kari Sonde wrote a few years ago: “Harissa is a spicy chile paste used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. While the ingredients themselves vary regionally, it usually includes peppers, garlic, olive oil and spices.”
It can add a kick to dressings, whether for greens or chicken salad. Add it to homemade dips or tomato sauce. Whisk into a pancake or waffle batter for a savory breakfast option. Harissa is a great addition to a glaze for roasted meats, fish or vegetables, including Sheet Pan Harissa Turkey Legs With Sumac Sweet Potatoes.
“Chipotles in adobo are smoked and dried jalapeños rehydrated and canned in a sweet and tangy puree of tomato, vinegar, garlic, and some other spices, for a ruddy sauce that packs wicked heat but with plenty of balance and body,” Max Falkowitz wrote on Serious Eats.
Chipotle goes well with the earthy flavor of black beans, especially in Warm Chipotle Black Bean Dip. Chipotles are ideal in barbecue or basting sauces for grilled meats. They add zip to salad dressings and soups. Amp up your sandwich by stirring minced peppers into the mayo.
Miso is a fermented paste often made with rice and soybeans, my colleague Aaron Hutcherson says in his post on the topic.
When you’re looking to add an umami punch, especially in vegan recipes, consider miso. Just keep in mind it’s very salty. Miso brings complex flavor to soups, gravies, dressings and pasta, including Miso-Parmesan Pasta With Chili Crisp. It is a great coating for roasted vegetables. If you’re a fan of desserts with a savory or salty edge, miso can help, whether in cakes or ice cream.
Add fish sauce as another option in your arsenal of umami boosters. A staple of Vietnamese and Thai cuisines, it’s made with liquid extracted from fermented small fish. The flavor is savory, salty and, when tasted straight up, fishy. In a supporting role, you may not taste the fish at all.
Try it in soups, such as Restorative Chicken and Rice Soup. It blends into dressings, salads and curries. Use it in stir-fries and noodle salads. It stars in the Vietnamese dipping sauce known as nuoc cham.
These small, silvery fish are typically sold filleted and canned in oil or packed in salt, and can be used in a lot of the same ways as fish sauce.
Anchovies can be minced and cooked into tomato sauce for a hit of complexity and depth. They can star in a salad dressing, most notably Retro Caesar Salad. Try in sauces for roasted vegetables. Use as the foundation for a quick pasta dish.
This sesame paste, a staple in Middle Eastern fare, is nutty with a pleasingly bitter undertone that makes it work in savory and sweet dishes.
Tahini is a foundational ingredient of hummus. Its thick texture makes it ideal for drizzling in sauces over grain bowls, meat and vegetables. Incorporate into dressings for greens, chicken or chickpea salads, or chilled noodles. I love it as a stand-in for peanut butter in Sesame Blossoms, and you can stir it into cakes, too.
“This thick, reddish-brown sauce is sweet and spicy, and widely used in Chinese cooking,” Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst explain in “The New Food Lover’s Companion.”
A spoon or two of hoisin is ideal if you like to whip up your own stir-fry sauces, such as in Sticky Hoisin Broccoli With Almonds. Try it as part of a glaze on roasted vegetables or meat, or in a marinade. It can be used in salad dressings, too.
As I’ve said before, tomato paste — made from cooked tomato mash that is spun and then placed in evaporation tanks to remove water — is a pantry powerhouse.
Like some of the other ingredients here, it’s loaded with compounds that contribute to a dish’s savory umami flavor. I always drop some into any batch of vegetable broth. Try sauteing some along with your aromatics when making a soup or stew. This step also shows up in Tomato-Balsamic Chicken. Enhance your tomato sauce with a spoon or two.