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Our Favorite Ingredients for Quick Dinners

Keep these items on hand to make any weeknight dinner more exciting.
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Fine Cooking recently turned to five creative chefs and asked, what’s your favorite pantry staple for quick home cooking? But we FC editors also have a few ingredients we love to keep in stock, so a delicious dinner is always close at hand. Read on for our favorites and how we like to use them.

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    Senior food editor Shelley Wiseman's pick are anchovies, for their ability to "melt" into a pasta sauce (or, of course, Caesar salad) and give it a real depth of flavor, beyond mere brininesss.
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    The Japanese fermented soybean paste is editor Jennifer Armentrout's pick. "I love it for the salty, savory edge it lends to everything from dressings and glazes to desserts (think miso peanut butter cookies), not to mention the ultimate quickie dish: miso soup. And it lasts for ages in the fridge."
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    Marcona Almonds

    Senior editor Joanne Smart swears by these fried and salted Spanish almonds for her weeknight meals. "I love how they add crunch to salads, and they're great in desserts where you want a hit of something salty."
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    Black Beans

    "I put canned black beans in almost everything," says assistant food editor Julissa Roberts. "They make any meal feel heartier. Throw them on top of salads, into ground beef picadillo, even with fried eggs and rice for a fun breakfast-for-dinner."
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    Says assistant editor Layla Schlack: "I eat a lot of pasta...probably more than I should! Adding capers makes this weeknight staple feel a little more special, and I love that little burst of saltiness when you bite into one."
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    Golden Raisins

    Senior editor Denise Mickelsen always keeps golden raisins on hand for morning oatmeal, but she ends up using them for so much more: to add a spot of sweetness to sautéed greens, chicken salads, couscous and rice dishes, and relishes, like the chutney served with these pork chops.
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    Garlic Paste

    Food stylist Ronne Day swears by garlic paste that comes in a crimp tube. "It lasts a really long time and really tastes like fresh garlic. I use it for an almost-instant garlic bread and Caesar salad."
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