The 5 ingredients I've been loving lately

basket of vegetables
Public Domain MaxPixel

My taste preferences change by the month, but right now these are the foods I can't get enough of.

As I suspect every home cook does, I go through phases of using particular ingredients over and over again. Right now, there are a few that keep showing up on my weekly grocery list. These are the flavors and textures I can't seem to get enough of these days. Some are ordinary ingredients I've had on hand for years, but have recently rediscovered; others are new, the result of culinary experimentation or recommendations from friends. Which of these do you know and love?

1. Tahini

After hearing CBC radio host Gill Deacon call tahini her 'desert island food' -- meaning it's one of those ingredients she can't live without -- I realized it was time to dust off the jar in the back of my pantry. I keep it on hand for making hummus and baba ghanouj, but beyond that, it doesn't see much use. Well, now that's changed. I made tahini-swirl brownies from the recent Bon Appétit issue, and divine garlic tahini sauce for drizzling over grilled veggies, cumin-scented rice, and Greek salad.I think this is just the beginning of a new obsession. After googling ways to use tahini, I've come up with a bunch of ideas to try next: tahini-roasted vegetables, tahini and honey on toast, tahini protein shake. How do you use tahini?

2. Farro

Believe it or not, I'd never bought farro because I thought it was pretty much the same as wheat berries (of which I seem to have an endless supply and do not love). My sister, who visited after Christmas, insisted I buy it, and am I ever happy I did! It's a delicious grain, with the perfect ratio of softness to chewiness. Now I've started cooking a pot on Sundays and eating it throughout the week -- for breakfast with a fried egg, sautéed greens, and kimchi on top, and for lunch with salad veggies, seeds, nuts, and dressing added to it.

3. Chipotles in adobo sauce

One very frustrating thing about living in a small Ontario town is that it's nearly impossible to buy hot fresh peppers, unless they're jalapeños or, if I'm lucky, a rare batch of Thai bird's eye chilis -- in an enormous quantity, of course. All those fancy peppers that I read about in food magazines, like habaneros and serranos and guajillos, are impossible to find. So, I make do with a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, which I find in the Mexican food aisle.

The best tip for using these peppers I learned from a Bonnie Stern cookbook years ago. Dump the entire contents of the can into a blender, puree, and put in a jar in the fridge. The puree is much easier to use than the whole peppers in sauce, which means I reach for the jar nearly every day. Lately, I've been wanting that smoky heat in everything I make -- bean chilis, stews, lentil soups, burrito filling, scrambled eggs. It's addictive stuff. It cheers me up, adding a bit of spice to these gray mid-winter days.

4. Wonton wrappers

I don't leave the grocery store without a package of wonton wrappers because you never know when they'll come in handy. Most commonly I use them for pot stickers, which are Chinese dumplings cooked in a sauté pan. You fill the wrapper with a seasoned filling (I often use soy ground round or crumbled tofu, grated carrots, chopped cooked spinach, minced green onions, and Sriracha), cook the bottoms till they're golden brown, then pour a curried tomato sauce over top to braise them. I also like using wontons for samosas, filled with potato curry. A friend told me he uses them for homemade ravioli, filled with a seasoned ricotta mixture.

5. Asian pears

My grocery store may not stock fancy hot peppers, but it has a never-ending supply of Asian pears. After years of walking past the Asian pears to the Bosc pears, my frugal antennae suddenly noticed that the Asian ones are quite a bit cheaper. Of course I wanted to save money, so I stocked up and discovered a wonderful new fruit. Asian pears are like something between an apple and a pear, with a faint watermelon taste. They're firmer than a regular pear, almost crispy, yet very juicy. They've been in our fruit bowl for the past month and my kids are loving them.

What are your go-to ingredients this month?

The 5 ingredients I've been loving lately
My taste preferences change by the month, but right now these are the foods I can't get enough of.

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