While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.
Loryn Nalic co-owns Balkan Treat Box with her husband, Edo. The acclaimed Webster Groves restaurant cooks up street food inspired by the Balkan region from Bosnia to Turkey and is currently offering online ordering with no-contact curbside pickup. For the full menu, visit the Balkan Treat Box website.
What are some pantry staples commonly used in Balkan cuisine that home cooks can use to take their cooking to the next level? Sumac, sumac, sumac – it is a common ingredient in Balkan cuisine. It is this delicious, lemony flavored spice that can be used in anything from dry rubs and marinades to sprinkled on top of salads. It's very versatile, we use it daily and it can be found at any international grocery store. I use sumac when you want citrus but not acid – it's the best of both worlds.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with and why? Do you have a secret weapon spice or ingredient? My favorite ingredient is brown butter. It offers a depth of flavor unlike anything else and adds richness to almost any dish. The most efficient way to brown butter is on the stove. Swirl it around until it starts to feel nutty, and it can be used for anything from desserts to a garnishment to being brushed on bread before eating.
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For a secret weapon, fresh herbs – it enhances almost everything, offers a freshness and it looks beautiful! Fresh herbs on anything and everything. My favorite herbs are mint, dill and parsley. That’s what we use in the restaurant regularly, but really I love all herbs.
What advice can you offer beginners hoping to make their own breads? Patience and a lot of research will take you far. Dough is so unpredictable – it has a mind of its own. There are so many variants such as room temperature, water temperature, types of ingredients, different mixing and baking techniques. It definitely is challenging but very rewarding when you finally nail the right ratio.
Can you share a recipe for a quick and easy drink, snack or meal idea? A light refreshing side dish year round would be a sopska salad. Take equal parts diced red pepper, cucumber, tomato and half as much diced onion. Toss with a tablespoon of vinegar and crumbled Feta to your liking. Top with grated Feta (or leave it out to make it vegan) and enjoy!