Jan 24, 2014
Don't let a hard-to-find ingredient or an AWOL pantry item stop you from making a recipe. Stefano tells us all the time, "Don't have it at home? Use this instead!" Once you know what substitutions will work, you'll be a freer, more confident cook IN THE KITCHEN with the ability to adapt things to your tastes and to your own ingredient inventory.
Grains. Most grains are fairly interchangeable. If you can't find farro for recipes like Stefano Farro Chickpea Salad, swap in brown rice, quinoa, barley or wheat berries.
Fleur de Sel. Fleur de sel is a delicate white salt from the northern Atlantic coast of France. Stefano uses it to finish dishes like his Fresh Tomato Salad with Basil, but another flaky salt, like Maldon salt, can be used in its place.
Greek Yogurt. Balkan- style yogurt that has a 6% M.F. (milk fat) or higher usually stands in perfectly. Or you can make your own drained yogurt.
Leeks. In many recipes that call for leeks, you can get away with a mild-flavoured onion like red onion or Spanish onion. Except for, you know, leek soup. Cuz then you're making onion soup. You get it.
Shallots. Swap in garlic, leeks, or other mild, sweet onion. If the recipe calls for the shallots to be roasted whole, use pearl onions instead.
Sumac. With a fresh tart and tangy flavour, Stefano uses this in his Baba Ghanouj. If you can't find it, use paprika instead.
Poblano chili peppers. With a mild to medium heat, Anaheim or jalapeno peppers usually make a good substitute, though the heat may vary so taste and add accordingly.
Anchovy paste. This gives recipes like Stefano's Pan-Fried Trout with Anchovy Butter delicious umami flavour. Substitute with finely chopped anchovies if you can't find the paste. Don't have anchovies at all and you're making Stefano's Bacon and Egg Caesar Salad? A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce can be used in a pinch.
Marsala. When you don't have this fortified Italian wine in your liquour cabinet, you can also swap in red wine or good quality stock, although the flavour of either won't be as strong. The place where we'd tell you to avoid doing this for Stefano's Veal Marsala. It's what makes the dish.
Orange liqueur. Haven't made your own yet? You can always use straight-up frozen orange juice concentrate.
White balsamic vinegar. Another pale-coloured vinegar like white wine or champagne vinegar makes a fine replacement.
Wine. While it won't provide the same liveliness, you can sub in a high-quality stock in most dishes when you're in a pinch. Depending on the recipe, you could even replace small amounts of wine with water (for deglazing, for instance).
Pancetta. We use this a lot here IN THE KTICHEN, but if you don't have it or can't find it, use regular bacon instead. Then you can still make Stefano's Roasted Cornish Hens - a must if you haven't yet.