Is your pantry ready for the new year?

Spice and oil on a countertop by the California Heat blend
(Rebecca Peloquin / For The Times)

I like to spend a few hours at the beginning of a new year updating my pantry items, particularly herbs, spices and condiments.

Dried herbs and spices (especially ground ones) lose their potency over time and replacing them every year or so helps ensure that you get the most flavor from them. Many condiments need to be refreshed every few months rather than annually, though some like vinegar and many hot sauces can last indefinitely. I like to do a full inspection of my fridge and toss any budding (or full-grown — please don’t judge) science experiments to make room for fresh replacements. And when it comes to condiments, making your own can be very satisfying, tastier than store-bought and often much more cost-effective.

When it comes to store-bought mayonnaise, Best Foods (Hellman’s east of the Rockies and in Latin America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Canada, India and Pakistan) is my go-to. Even better, though, is homemade mayo. In culinary school, I learned to make it “manually” — with a whisk and elbow grease, however modern appliances have allowed for much easier preparation. Ben Mims’ Blender Mayonnaise is made using a small food processor or blender and once you taste it you may never again buy it pre-made.

Pickles are also simple to prepare at home, particularly if you use quick pickling methods rather than a full-blown canning and sterilization process. Jeremy Fox’s Sliced Kirby Pickles make a great snack or side dish for burgers and sandwiches. Genevieve Ko’s hot and tangy Pickled Jalapeños typically used as a taco topping also taste great on grilled meat or fish.

If you scored a jar of California Heat, Burlap & Barrel’s dry chili crisp made in collaboration with L.A. Times Food, use it to make California Heat Chile Oil. It will keep for several months in the fridge and is terrific drizzled on eggs, over yogurt to make a dip, on your pizza, in soups, stews and noodles and many savory dishes.


Chimichurri meets Sichuan flavors in Jing Gao’s punchy Sichuan Chimichurri that pairs extremely well with roast meats such as turkey and prime rib. Inspired by the traditional Argentine and Uruguayan condiment, this version mixes cilantro with Chinese black vinegar, light soy sauce, garlic, ginger and Sichuan pepper-infused oil.

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Jeremy Fox’s Sliced Kirby Pickles

This is Birdie G‘s chef Jeremy Fox’s recipe for pickled cucumbers from his cookbook “On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen.” They are great to have around to add zip to sandwiches and burgers or simply on their own as a snack.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour plus chilling

A jar of Jeremy Fox's kosher pickles
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Pickled Jalapeños

These hot and tangy taqueria-style pickled jalapeños with onion, garlic and carrot are easy to make at home. For a mild version, discard the seeds and ribs from the jalapeño slices.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes

Pickled jalapenos with carrots and onions in a small bowl.
(Genevieve Ko / Los Angeles Times)

California Heat Chile Oil

California Heat is a versatile spice blend developed by Burlap & Barrel in collaboration with L.A. Times Food. Make a chile oil with it by gently warming the spices in a neutral oil (we like avocado or grapeseed oil), just until it starts to sizzle; this will take less than a minute. Drizzle it over almost anything savory from eggs to pasta to stews and roasted meats. It will keep in a covered container in the fridge for several weeks.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 10 minutes

A small dish of California Heat chile oil and a jar of the California Heat spice blend
(Rebecca Peloquin / For The Times)

Blender Mayonnaise

Extra egg yolks and spices like black pepper and cayenne give this homemade mayo its rich color and smooth texture. And making it in a blender doesn’t wear out your arm! Note that the oil you use will be the most dominant flavor in your mayonnaise, so make sure it is fresh.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 10 minutes plus one hour chilling

A small dish of homemade mayonnaise
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Sichuan Chimichurri

Fly by Jing founder Jing Gao’s Sichuan flavors meet chimichurri in this punchy sauce, and like the original, it complements grilled and roast meats well. If you are making the Sichuan-pepper-infused oil, It does require a bit of advance planning.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes plus resting time.

Sichuan Chimichurri in a small bowl
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

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