When your brothy soup or salad dressing is missing backbone, add miso, which is fermented soybean paste. This particular one— a "mellow white"—is easy to find (no need to schlep to a specialty market) and, because it's sweeter and less assertive than others, easy to experiment with.
You couldn't get the Athens-made yogurt here until 1998. But Fage (FAH-yeh) quickly became an American dairy staple (it's now made in the U.S.). We favor the 2% version, which is pleasantly thick and rich. Its sour tang makes it an excellent substitute for crème fraîche or sour cream, and for the fresh cheese in Greek Yogurt Labneh.
Whisked into vinaigrettes, stirred into braising liquid, or dolloped on a wintry Belgian beef stew, Dijon mustard is a classic culinary go-to (unlike whole grain, yellow, or sweet kinds). We looked for a mustard that could balance richness and brighten flavors. Maille won for its distinct note of white wine, a creamy, almost egg yolk-like feel, and the blast of nose heat that defines a solid Dijon.
This flavor foundation is a great addition to sorbets, soups, and curries, and it's an ideal alternative to dairy (try it in a fruit smoothie). Coconut milk should look like heavy cream and smell like actual coconuts. Some of the brands we tested were clumpy and watery, but Goya's is always smooth, which guarantees silky curries. And, most important, it hits the right flavor balance. As test kitchen director Mary-Frances Heck says, "It tastes like coconut, not a Piña Colada."