May 12, 2015

—Q: Are there flavorful convenience products I should keep on hand?

A: Yes. Get some Flavor Bombs: store-bought products that instantly transform soup, sauce, salad, or even a main course into something much more interesting. Here are a few I always keep on hand.

Harissa, a spice paste from Tunisia, is packed with rich chile flavor and a good amount of heat. I like to toss root vegetables like carrots, rutabagas, or parsnips with harissa and olive oil before roasting them in the oven. It's also a fantastic rub for any kind of grilled or roasted meat and makes a good spread for sandwiches the next day.

Everybody is aboard the Huy Fong-brand Sriracha train these days, but I actually prefer their chili garlic sauce, with its fresher flavor and chunkier texture. I serve it with my breakfast hash browns and fried eggs and mix it into noodle soups for a quick blast of heat.

Canned chipotle chiles are also invaluable. I'll puree a couple and throw them into almost every spicy chili or stew I make. A turkey sandwich with a chipotle, mayo, cilantro, and lime juice spread is a bite I'm craving just writing about it.

Rolling with the Mexican theme, Frontera tomatillo salsa is the gateway to a quick enchilada dinner (dip corn tortillas in salsa, stuff with pulled chicken or beans, top with cheese, bake, and serve) or huevos rancheros. Is it cheating? Sure. But is it delicious? You bet.

Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking. 

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