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Recently I contacted some of the top food bloggers on the Internet to ask them a simple question:

You’re going on a TV Cooking Show.  What 3 fresh ingredients do you bring on the show to make sure your recipe wins against the other cooks?

It forces you to stop and think when you can take just 3 ingredients into a highly competitive cooking contest you know nothing about.  Do I focus on a specific dish?  Do I pick ingredients that give me the widest flexibility?  How will I do something differnet than the other contestants?

The answers and the responses from these talented cooks were delightful and fun, and many of them told me they really enjoyed the idea.

Here are the ingredients they picked:

Our answer is easy, obviously fresh basil as good herbs completely transform a dish, garden fresh tomatoes as they are so completely different than any you buy at the store and finally a little fresh baked bread because no one can resist warm carbs. 🙂

Carrian and Cade’s OhSweetBasil blog has been a long-time favorite of mine.

Erica, Karen, and Todd are the team that make HonestlyYum go.

I’d probably bring a lime, some chili peppers like jalapeño or serrano, and some type of herb…maybe cilantro. They’d provide some good flavor, and some nice heat + acid, which is the type of cooking I love.

Also, these ingredients are all pretty versatile, and are commonly found in several different types of cuisines, so I’d be prepared for whatever I needed to cook!

I’m also a pepper lover, and I love combining flavors like hot and sweet or the acid of citrus.

Here’s what Sandy, the ReluctantEntertainer had to say:

Fresh salmon, lemon, and fresh dill.

My go-to recipe, I have an INSPO video that I just posted, here.

Grilled Lemon Dill Salmon Recipe – Reluctant Entertainer

Let me tell you, after visiting web sites like Sandy’s and reading so many of their recipes, I was hungry!

Melissa has a genuine talent for making gorgeous desserts.

Totally! =).

Butter, Raspberry Preserves and Powdered Sugar- because you can NEVER go wrong with those 3! 😉

I agree Melissa, hard to go wrong there!

Jen is from Carlsbad, California (north San Diego), and it’s no wonder there are cravings there after looking over her site and recipes.

I would bring fresh limes because most everything benefits from a punch of acidity, fresh basil because it enlivens everything from Asian to Italian dishes and and fresh cilantro because it’s earthy, citrus/parsley flavor adds a depth of undeniable flavor.

I love her thoughtful answer.  It paints just the picture you’d expect from an A-List Food Blogger.

Jessie runs Cakespy, a Detective Agency dedicated to seeking sweetness (literally) in everyday life.  She’s an illustrator as well as a talented cook, which makes the site even more fun.

If I were going on a TV cooking show and could choose 3 ingredients, I would choose high quality butter, sugar, and salt. Each of these ingredients is magical in their own way, and if nothing else I could make a killer buttercream.

Who doesn’t love buttercream?

Excuse me, I’m going to take a break from writing more while I whip up a quick batch of buttercream!.

Faith gives us this thoughtful and enthusiastic answer from An Edible Mosaic:

Here’s what I would bring:

1) Fresh herbs! They brighten and elevate just about anything. Some of my favorites are mint, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, sage, and oregano, but if I had to choose just one fresh herb it would be mint because it can easily integrate well into a sweet or savory dish.

2) The best butter I can get my hands on, I mean something so fresh it tastes like it’s straight off a farm. I can use it in baking or cooking. I can brown it if I want to give a recipe a slightly nutty flavor with caramel undertones. Or I can clarify it if I want to use it for roasting vegetables or cooking at higher temperatures. Butter is not only delicious, but incredibly versatile.

3) For my last choice I’m torn between onion, garlic, and cauliflower! Onion and garlic because I’m hard-pressed to think of a recipe that doesn’t start off with onion and garlic (maybe sauteed in a little of that butter that I was talking about!). Cauliflower because it’s magic in the vegetable world; from mashes, to hashes, stir-fries, soups, casseroles, and even pizza crust, there isn’t much this wonder veggie can’t do. But I think I’ll forgo all of these in favor of ginger, which is an integral ingredient in many Indian and Thai curries I make, and also something I frequently use to add that je ne sais quoi to a dish! “


Yes, my name is Bob, and I am a Ginger-holic for sure.

And Mint!

Another of my favorites.  Both off the beaten path from the other participants.  I love it!

Brandie is The Country Cook:

Lemons: The juice and the zest of lemons is extremely versatile and can be used in sweet or savory dishes. I can make a quick and tangy vinaigrette, use it to flavor chicken or whip up a lemon glaze for a sweet dessert. I can squeeze the juice on foods that quickly oxidize like avocadoes or apples. Plus, they make for a beautiful final presentation!

Garlic: Freshly minced garlic can add so much flavor to pasta dishes, vinaigrettes, sauces and are delicious in marinades and of course, on chicken! Garlic can take a meal from boring to booming!

Eggs: One of the most versatile fresh ingredients! I can use them to make a French toast batter, as a binder in meatballs or meatloaf, or to add a beautiful golden glossiness to the tops of baked pastries. We eat with our eyes first, right?

Yes, Brandi, we do indeed eat with our eyes first, and your site is certainly a delight for the visual appetite.

David runs Spiced Blog and here are his three ingredients:

That’s certainly a fun question. Here are my thoughts:

1) Lemon. The acidity from a bit of lemon juice or lemon zest can really upgrade so many recipes!

2) Basil. I wanted to include a fresh herb, and basil is one of the most versatile fresh herbs out there…especially when combined with tomatoes.

3) Garlic. Another versatile ingredient that can upgrade anything from a salad dressing to a steak marinade to sauces.”

David has so many wonderful recipes on his site it’s hard to choose.  But I notice he has a timely post for Easter: Cadbury Creme Egg Cheesecake which looks intriguing!

Lizzy’s passion is baking rich, irresistable desserts and garnishing them to perfection, but her idea for the 3 ingredients really made my day:

I’m a Caprese lover so I’d make certain to bring fresh garden tomatoes, basil and juicy ripe peaches.

The unexpected mixing of peaches with tomatoes works beautifully and makes a stunning presentation whether in a salad, pasta dish or appetizer!


I’m a Caprese lover too and I just can’t wait for Peach season so I can try this combination.

Say “Hello” to Kat & Melinda who picked these ingredients:

What a fun idea!

If I had to pick three of my favorite fresh ingredients they would have to be perfectly ripe tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and fresh limes.

I use those three ingredients in so many of my favorite recipes and they can brighten up any dish!

I came across this site because I was poking around one day researching sliders.  They have a wonderful recipe eBook called “Simply Sliders”.

Barbara suggests these ingredients:

“that’s a fun question.

Limes – you can use the juice and the zest for flavor and color. Most recipes need a little acid to make the recipe pop and I love using fresh limes.

Grape tomatoes – they’re always sweet and flavorful and available year round. They’re super versatile – perfect for Mexican, Italian, or just good old American recipes.

Avocado – a perfectly ripe avocado adds flavor to any dish, but also richness and creaminess without much effort. “

Avacado.  Of course!  I can taste that creamy smooth richness now just thinking about them.

Maureen says here blog is all about, “Food that’s better than, well, you know”  LOL, I don’t know about that, but I do love her recipes and she recommends these three fresh ingredients:

> Roasted Garlic

> Parsley

> Butter

One of the things I love about the OrgasmicChef is Maureen publishes a recipe “Bucket List” of all the things she liked to make someday soon.

I totally sympathize.  Not only do I not have the time to cook every recipe I’d like to time, I don’t even have time to properly photograph and write up all the great recipes I do make!

Every now and then I go on a healthier food binge.  I can’t stick to it, I love rich food way too much.  But when I do, I love Aysegul’s FoolProofLiving recipes.

She always manages a flavorful and satisfying dish that’s healthier too.  Here’s what she recommends for hree fresh ingredients:

It really depends on what I am cooking, but perhaps those 3 ingredients for me would be olive oil, onion and garlic.

I almost always start making my dishes with those 3 and find that the combination of the three is always good starting point for a great dish.

Who needs a cape, indeed.  Heather and Lori recommend these three fresh ingredients:

So I don’t mind having frozen chicken or frozen veggies (well some of them at least are just fine frozen) but I think it’s super important to have fresh herbs instead of dried.

It adds so much flavor to whatever you are making!

I think having some fresh basil can make about anything AMAZING! it’s my favorite. If I had fresh, ripe Jersey
Tomatoes, Fresh Basil and fresh mozzarella I could win just about anything!

Not just for a caprese salad, but you can use those ingredients in pasta, chicken, steak just about anything that you can cook!

Those are my choices – Fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella and I’ll go up against anyone! :)”

Great choices, and I agree–you can make good use of them in a wide variety of dishes, not just Caprese Salads.

Carrie runs the Experimental Kitchen and good things come from it. Here are her three ingredients:

That’s a tough question, but I would probably go with rosemary, tomatoes and Pecorino Romano cheese.

With those three ingredients, I could make anything taste good.

I confess that the more I think about it, the more I think Cheese would have to be one of my three ingredients.  It’s not something that comes to mind that easily as a “fresh ingredient”, but it is definitely artisanal in nature and bursting with flavor.

I simply adore all things Chipotle, so it shuold come as no surprise that I follow Marye’s blog.  Here’s what she suggests:

My three fresh ingredients would be pineapple, jalapeno, and lime.

Pineapple adds sweetness, plus it tenderizes protein, and it can be used with savory or sweet.

Jalapeno adds a little kick and can also be used with savory or sweet.

Finally lime – which balances flavors, adds a pop of flavor AND can be used with either savory or sweet.

No matter what I was asked to make I’d have it in the bag!


You know how sometimes you’ll be at some competition, and everything is awesome, but it’s all exactly what you’d expect.

Then all of a sudden, someone does the unexpected and they really stand out for it.

That’s how I feel about Pineapple, Jalapeno, and Lime.  I don’t know what Marye’s cooking with those ingredients, but I want to try it!

Ashley brings us her Local Haven from Portland, Oregon.  Here’s what she suggests:

> Lemons

> Olive Oil

> Flaky Salt


Not just any salt, it has to be Flaky Salt.  Salt might just be the most important ingredient in any recipe, but we often take it for granted.  How many of you have experimented with some extra by way of salt?

Pink Himalayan, for example.  Or at least do you use Kosher Salt sometimes and Sea Salt others?  It makes a difference.

Jennifer was one of the first to respond to my note:

I’d bring really good meat – like choice cut Kobe beef, herbs from my garden and some perfectly ripe tomatoes (my favorite veggie!) 🙂

I loved her thought to bring really good meat.  It was another one of those DUH! moments for me.

My mind was on fresh herbs, vegetables, or fruits.  All those who suggested meat, seafood, or cheese, Bravo!

Denise is a dear friend who is a wedding planner.  She’s a Leo, which helps her to manage the Bride-Zillas and Mom-Zillas that are common in that business.  She’s also the better half of my food blogging partner and pal, Chef Michael Clark, as well as being a fabulous cook.

Denise would bring:

> Avocado

> Arugula

> Salmon

Having eaten her cooking many times, I’ve no doubt the dish would be spectacular!

Chef Michael Clark is my food blogging partner and pal.  I’ve learned so much about cooking from him, I was dying to know what his answer would be:

Basil, Heirloom Tomatoes, Asparagus, and Cheese.

Yes, I know, that’s 4, I’ve always had a hard time playing by the rules!


If you know Michael, you’ll know that’s a classic Michael response.

Cheers M8!

Bonus bloggers who joined in after initial publication:

Sandi owns the Fearless Dining blog which embraces gluten-free dining.  Here are her choices:

My top three would have to be lemons (our tree is overflowing with giant lemons right now so we are using and giving away a ton!), lemon curd (it makes the most awesome flavor when added to desserts!), and coconut sugar. (We are trying to eliminate refined sugar so coconut sugar has become my new low-glycemic sugar for sweetening.)


I will have to give Coconut Sugar a try.

Katie offers these choices:

My cooking show must haves?

1)       Garam Masala.  It’s the perfect “secret” ingredient to add to roasted veggies, meats, and casseroles for in-depth flavor.

2)       Italian Parsley.  A fresh green finish makes every dish pop.  And I think flavor-wise, it’s the most underrated herb!

3)       Wine.  Drink while you cook.  Add it to a sauce.  A glass o’ wine makes everything better.

Love Indian Food and have made my own Garam Masala, but I never thought of trying it in non-Indian dishes.

And wine.  Of course, it adds so much!

Krista suggests:

My 3 ingredients would be lime, poblano peppers and fresh herbs. Lime because it can brighten up any dish, allows you to reduce the use of salt or sodium and can tenderize proteins. Poblano peppers because I’m all about that spicy latin cuisine life … I truly think I’m Bobby Flays adopted daughter, he just doesn’t know it yet.  And fresh herbs because fresh bright herbs can make a huge different in a dish and totally change the end outcome. A dash of fresh basil, cilantro or parsley right before serving can take your dish over the top!

Another pepper lover–I’m always down for some heat!

Katie suggests:

I would say apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and salt. These three ingredients cover three of the 5 tastes, and are an easy way to add balance to a variety of dishes. Here’s how:  I think adding a splash of acidity to something as simple as sautéed swiss chard can help balance the natural bitterness of the greens. I choose maple syrup because we make our own syrup (I live in Vermont) and I use it in everything! Even beef stew! It adds sweetness, but also rich and complex caramel flavor. And salt because our bodies are made of mostly salt water. Without it, our pallets are unable to perceive and appreciate the other flavors.

Covers three of the 5 tastes, I like that a lot.  The one thing I personally wonder is whether nailing Umami would be a bigger advantage than the salt.  It’s a bet that they will have to give all the contestants salt and that whatever better quality salt you may bring is less helpful than adding Umami.

I’ve personally seen huge benefits from experimenting with Umami in everything from Bloody Mary’s to BBQ Sauce to Caesar Salads!

Thank You All So Much!

We call this blog the “Wine and Recipe Party,” and I have to confess that’s just what it felt like researching and writing this article.

I love the idea of a party where Food Bloggers and enthusiasts come together, cook their favorite dishes, and swap stories.

I also started the blog with Michael under the premise, “What would it be like if you could cook with a world-class Chef at your side helping?”

That’s what Chef Michael’s been for me, a true mentor.  And now I feel as if all the rest of you have taught me a thing or two as well.

Thanks you all so much for participating!

Gentle readers, feel free to add your 3 ingredients in the comments so the party can continue.