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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Salts/Seasonings

RECIPE: Baked Potato Nachos

Today is National Nachos Day. Here’s a twist on nachos from the United States Potato Board, which uses potatoes instead of tortilla chips.

Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 35 minutes.

RECIPE: BAKED POTATO NACHOS

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican seasoning blend (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Toppings

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, Mexican-flavored cheese (jalapeño, habanero) or pepper jack
  • 1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons canned diced green chiles
  •  

    SHORTEN-01

    Nachos with a twist: baked potatoes replace tortilla chips. Photo courtesy PotatoGoodness.com.

     
    Garnishes

  • Chopped avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Guacamole
  • Enchilada sauce for drizzling
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 425°F.

    2. WASH the potatoes, peel and slice into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss and coat with olive oil, garlic salt and Mexican seasoning.

    3. PLACE potato wedges in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, stirring several times, until crisp and golden brown.

    4. REMOVE sheet from oven. Top potatoes with cheese, beans, tomatoes, olives, onions and chiles. Bake for 5 minutes more, until the cheese melts.

    5. SERVE with optional guacamole, salsa, sour cream, etc.
     
    MEXICAN SEASONING BLEND

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND all of the ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vadouvan

    vadouvan-spice-blend-ingredientfinder-230

    This simple blend, from IngredientFinder.com,
    contains only four ingredients: cumin, garlic,
    fenugreek and onion.

     

    We must admit, this was a new one for us. We received a recipe for deviled eggs for our consideration. One of the ingredients: vadouvan.

    Vadou-what? We had to look it up.

    Vadouvan, also called French curry, is a French interpretation of an Indian masala that mixes cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry, curry leaves, fenugreek, garlic, marash chiles, mustard seeds and roasted onion, among other ingredients. Its flavor is more familiar to Western palates than many Indian spice mixtures.

    A key difference is in dried onions or shallots. The spice is thought to have originated due to French colonial influence in the Puducherry region of India. [Source: Wikipedia]

    Use it in place of curry powder on fish, lamb, chicken, pork, sauces, stews, soups and vegetables. It’s a delicious pairing with dairy, potatoes, starchy grains and anything grilled.

    Give a tin or jar as a holiday gift to your favorite cooks. There’s an attractive tin for $8.32 on Amazon, with free shipping on orders over $35. (Tins are preferable to jars, since light is one of the factors that reduces the potency of the spice, along with proximity to heat and moisture.)

     

    MASALA VS. GARAM MASALA: THE DIFFERENCE

    Masala or massala is a South Asian term for a spice mix or a seasoning of any sort. It is used extensively in the cuisines of Bangladesh, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

    The word is of Arabic origin (maslahah), originally meaning “a thing which is good and right.”

    • Masala refers to any fragrant spice blend. It can be wet (a paste) or dry (a blend of dried—and usually dry-roasted—often toasted and ground spices). The pastes frequently include fresh ingredients like chiles, cilantro, garlic, ginger, mint, onion and tomato, along with dried spices and oil. Dishes made with such pastes sometimes have “masala” in their names, such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Vindaloo Masala.
    • Garam masala refers to dry spice blends. There are many variations, from region to region and cook to cook (examples: Tandoori masala, chatt masala and even panch phoron, the Bengali five-spice blend). Popular ingredients include bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, nigella and nutmeg/mace and pepper.
     

    masala-cauliflower-paperchef-230

    Masala cauliflower. Photo courtesy The Paper Chef.

     
    It’s time to spice things up!

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Scorpion Chile, The World’s Hottest?

    How hot do you like it?

    Chile heads—people who can’t get enough heat in their foods—are always looking for hotter and hotter varieties, so breeders keep creating hotter breeds.

    What’s the world’s hottest chile? Whatever it is today, it can change tomorrow.

    In 2007, the Bhut Jolokia also known as the ghost pepper, was rated the hottest. In 2013, the Guinness Book Of World Records rated the Carolina Reaper the world’s hottest pepper, moving the Bhut Jolokia to third place.

    The Carolina Reaper scored 1,569,300 on the Scoville Scale, which measures the heat level. A habanero, by contrast, measures up to 350,000 Scoville units.

     

    jamaican-scorpion-230-melissas

    Scorpion chiles are available from Melissas.com.

     
    Is there a new contender? According to fine produce purveyor Melissas.com, the hottest chile pepper in the world now cited bythe Guinness Book of Records is the Trinidad Scorpion. Melissa’s has them in stock right now.

    Buy them for yourself or as a gift for your favorite chile head at Melissas.com.

    They’ll stay fresh in the vegetable crisper for about 2 weeks.

    PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Handle all hot chiles with gloved hands and discard the gloves without getting any capsaicin on your hands. Because accidentally touching your eyes with the minutest amount of capsaicin will be an experience you’ll never forget.

    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHILES.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Ways To Add More Flavor To Food

    caperberries-2-elvirakalviste-230

    Caperberries or capers (capers are the flower
    bud of the plant, caperberries are the fruit
    with seeds inside) are brined and thus
    contribute saltiness as well as flavor to
    dishes. They and other ingredients (olives, soy
    sauce, etc.) reduce the need to add table
    salt. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Today’s tip comes from Flavor & The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs of fine dining restaurants.

    They “employ every trick in the flavor toolbox to get explosive taste and texture,” according to author Pam Smith, co-chair of The Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative. “Creating flavor is no magic trick,” she says, “but certain ingredients and techniques can magically make reduced-calorie dishes satisfying—even indulgent.”

    The advice:

  • Acids. High-acid ingredients lend sharp, bright flavor to replace salt or fat. Reduce wines and vinegars to concentrate their flavor; add a squeeze of citrus to finished dishes.
  • Cooking meats. Spices added to rubs and marinades brings out surface flavor, as does caramelization from grilling or searing meats.
  • Healthful fats. Beneficial fats and oils—nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocados—enhance mouthfeel and flavor.
  • Herbs. Savory* herbs (basil, dill, oregano, thyme, sage, cilantro) enable the reduction of salt. Finishing a dish with fresh herbs punches up the flavor.
  • High-sodium ingredients. Replace the salt in a recipe with more flavorful sodium: capers, feta, olives, olives or soy sauce, for example.
  • Onions. Members of the onion family, which also includes chives, garlic, scallions (green onions) and shallots, lend a sharp taste and aroma to dishes, whether raw, caramelized, roasted or grilled (how to caramelize onions).
  •  

  • Spices. Use spice and heat to distract the palate. Make use of strong flavors like cayenne, cumin, curry, ginger, horseradish/wasabi, mustard seed, and peppercorn. Toast whole spices before grinding to heighten the flavor and aroma.
  • Umami. Go for “exponential umami” by combining two nucleotide compounds, such as a burger made with beef and roasted mushrooms or tuna with a dash of soy sauce (more about umami).
  •  
    What are you cooking this weekend? Employ as many of these tricks as you can and see how they improve your recipes.

     
    *As opposed to savory herbs, sweet herbs are typically used to flavor beverages and desserts. Examples include apple mint, lavender, peppermint, pineapple mint, pineapple sage and rose geranium. Savory herbs used in sweet applications include anise, basil, licorice and rosemary. Stevia is a sweet herb that is largely a sugar substitute, adding sweetness without additional flavor.
     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Outer Spice No Salt & Low Salt Spice Blends

    Outer Spice aims to be the gourmet’s version of Mrs. Dash.

    Low Salt and No Salt seasoning blends are made from the finest, quality ingredients. The blends are made from whole, freshly ground herbs and spices.

    The line debuts with two no-salt blends, original and spicy, and two low-salt blends, ditto. The blends are all-natural, gluten-free, free of MSG and rich in antioxidants.

    These well-balanced spice mixes can transform and improve the taste of any dish, without adding any—or much—sodium.

    LOW SALT SPICE BLENDS

    Both low salt versions use pink Himalayan sea salt. They contain 95mg of sodium per serving, 4% Daily Value of sodium.

  • Outer Spice Original Low-Salt is a blend of Himala pink sea salt, garlic, black pepper, onion, allspice, nutmeg, thyme, scallions, red pepper, onion powder, peppers, cinnamon, dill, caraway and spices.
  • Outer Spice Spicy Low-Salt, for those who like a bit of heat, is a blend of Himala pink sea salt, garlic, black pepper, onion, allspice, nutmeg, thyme, scallions, red pepper, onion powder, peppers, cinnamon, dill, caraway, cayenne pepper and spices.
  •  

    outer-spice-no-salt-outerspice-230

    Season your foods with a choice of two blends, regular and spicy, with no salt or low salt. Photo courtesy Outer Spice.

     
    NO SALT SPICE BLENDS

  • Outer Spice Original No Salt is a blend of garlic, black pepper, onion, allspice, thyme, lemon thyme, basil, scallions, red pepper, peppers, dill, caraway, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and other spices.
  • Outer Spice Spicy No Salt kicks it up a notch with chile. It combines garlic, black pepper, onion, allspice, thyme, lemon thyme, basil, scallions, red pepper, peppers, dill, caraway, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and other spices.
  •  
    WAYS TO ENJOY OUTER SPICE

  • Sprinkle on eggs, grains, pastas, salads and vegetables.
  • Rub on beef, chicken, fish and pork.
  • Mix into dips, dressings and marinades.
  • Pick up instead of the salt shaker.
  •  
    A 3.75-ounce jar is $6.99. Gift a bottle to anyone who should be cutting back on salt.
     
    Get yours at OuterSpiceIt.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Use Lemon, Not Salt

    Sunkist has a recommendation for people who should cut down on their salt intake—and that’s just about all of us.

    They call it the S’alternative Choice. It’s lemon juice, an excellent substitute for salt.

    The average American consumes twice the amount of recommended sodium daily. Uh oh.

    Even if you’re in great shape now, as you hit middle age, the excess sodium can create serious problems.

    While much of the salt we consume is in prepared and processed foods, you can reduce the salt in recipes—including proteins, grains, soups, salads, rubs and seasoning mixes—up to 75% without compromising flavor.

    Sunkist commissioned a study at Johnson & Wales University to explore how to reduce salt with citrus. Global Master Chef Karl Guggenmos worked with Sunkist to develop what they call the “optimal blend”:

    In everyday cooking, use 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon zest before/during cooking. Finish cooked food with 2-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice.

    Here are other ways to substitute for salt:

       

    lemons-salt-cookingsf-230

    Use more lemon juice, less salt. Photo courtesy Cooking San Francisco. Chart image courtesy Sunkist.

     

    lemon-salt-chart-sunkist-520

     

    510937_salt_shaker-230

    Salt is not necessarily your friend. Develop
    good salt habits. Photo by Ramon Gonzalez |
    SXC.

     

    YOUR DAILY SODIUM LIMITS

    The 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the USDA Center For Nutrition Policy And Promotion recommend that Americans consume less than:

  • 2,300 mg of sodium per day for adults in good health.
  • 1,500 mg of sodium per day for children or for adults who are 51 and older or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
  •  
    How much sodium is in your daily diet? You’d be shocked. For just one day, write down everything you eat. Packaged foods will have the sodium on the nutrition label; you can look up other foods online.

    Excessive sodium intake has been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, cancer and osteoporosis. According to a 2010 study by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, director of the University of California Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital:

    If every American reduced his or her daily sodium intake by 400 milligrams, 32,000 heart attacks, 20,000 strokes and 28,000 deaths could be prevented each year.

     

    This is not just a warning for adults: The habits kids develop for stay with them for life.

    Get the facts on sodium, learn helpful tips and discover healthy the alternatives. Visit SunkistSalternative.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 2

    Yesterday we presented the first five of the world’s 10 spice blends you should know: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

    Even if you won’t be cooking with them anytime soon, you should know them: They’re popular global, popping up in fusion dishes outside their native cuisines.

    The second half of the Top 10 include nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

    NORI SHAKE

    Nori shake is made from sheets of nori seaweed (the type used to wrap sushi rolls), ground with with salt and sesame seeds. Nori is the seaweed, furi means shake. Beyond its traditional use as a rice seasoning, shake it on other grains, cooked vegetables, plain yogurt and dips.

  • Traditional uses: Cooked rice seasoning.
  •  

    Quatre_Epices-silkroadspices.ca-230

    Quatre epices, a bend of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices | Canada.

  • Traditional ingredients: Seaweed, sesame seeds, salt. Some recipes include sugar or shiso leaves
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast 4 nori sheets (one at a time) in a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side; coarsely grind them. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden; combine in a bowl with 2 teaspoons coarse salt, the ground nori and cayenne to taste. Note that unlike other blends, this keeps for only a week or so.
  •  

    PIMENTÓN MIX

    Pimentón is the Spanish word for what is better known as paprika, a spice ground from dried New World chiles (Capsicum annuum). Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, in Europe it was first used in Spanish recipes. The story has it that Christopher Columbus brought the ground chiles back to Spain at the end of his second voyage. It was served to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who found it too hot and spicy; but local monks shared it with other monasteries. It spread throughout Spain, and subsequently to Hungary and elsewhere.

  • Traditional uses: A universal seasoning for casseroles/stews, eggs, meats, salads, soups, tapas and vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: Pimentón is usually sold as pure ground chile, not blended, in sweet, medium and hot levels.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Combine ¼ cup pimentón, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Before using, add some freshly grated lemon zest.
  •  

    ras-el-Hanout-spiceandtea.com-230

    Ras el hanout can be a blend of 30 or more
    spices. Photo courtesy SpiceAndTea.com.

     

    QUATRE ÉPICES

    Quatre épices (kahtr-ay-PEECE) is a French spice mix that is also used in some Middle Eastern cuisines. The name literally means “four spices,” and they are cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.

  • Traditional uses: A universal spice, used for everything from soup and salad to broiled chicken and fish to vegetables.
  • Traditional ingredients: The traditional version uses white pepper; black pepper can be substituted.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons each black and white peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries and 1 teaspoon cloves. Combine with 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
  •  
    RAS EL HANOUT

    There is no one recipe for ras el hanout: Every Moroccan spice merchant has a proprietary recipe, and the cooks who buy the spices debate who has the best version. The name translates as “top of the shop” and the mixture often includes 30 or more of a spice merchant’s best ingredients: whole spices, dried roots and leaves, ground together.

     
    Some of the 30 can be exotics as cubeb berries, grains of paradise, and rose petals; or more the more familiar ingredients listed below. The complex blend delivers many subtle undercurrents of floral, peppery and sweet.

  • Traditional uses: As a dry rub for grilled meats, in starches (couscous, potatoes, rice) and traditional Moroccan dishes like b’stilla and tagines.
  • Traditional ingredients: A “secret” recipe that can include anise, cardamom, cayenne and other chiles, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, mace, pepper, saffron and turmeric.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons each coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Combine with 2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and salt; add 2 tablespoons ground pepper. It’s a stripped-down version, but feel free to add what you like—you have 22 more slots available.
  •  
    ZA’ATAR

    Za’atar (also spelled zahtar) is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including Israeli. Za’atar is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries. The latter grow in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. They impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

  • Traditional uses: As a seasoning for meat and vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread. Add to hummus or for a modern touch, sprinkle on pizza (especially with feta cheese).
  • Traditional ingredients: Marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 2 tablespoons each cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Combine with 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons sumac, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
  •  
    Your homework: Plan to use at least one of these blends for the first time this week.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Spice Blends You Should Know, Part 1

    Today we present spice blends you should know, even if you aren’t about to use them immediately. Seasonings are the easiest ways to add different flavors to foods. If you’re looking at dieting with a month of broiled chicken or fish, for example, each of these blends will make each plate taste different.

    While the blends originated in specific countries, they are cross-cultural. You can change the perspective of a classic French dish by adding Indian spices, for example. The basic ingredients and technique are still French, but with a nice touch of fusion flavor.

    You can also use spice blends in non-traditional ways: to flavor mayonnaise or yogurt or on fruit, for example. Our tip is: Be adventurous with spices, and conquer the world. (At least, the culinary world.)*

    Several months ago in the New York Times, Mark Bittman recommended making your own spice blends. He recommends whole spices, which are typically of better quality than ground spices, and stay fresh longer in their whole state.

    If you buy them in bulk, they can be surprisingly inexpensive. You can give what you don’t need as gifts to friends and neighbors, and you may still be ahead. Check at local international markets, on Amazon.com or the websites of specialists like Penzeys. Their website has plenty of options, but is surprisingly bare-bones, with no photos of the spices. For beautiful spice photos, check out SilkRoadSpices.ca, a Canadian e-tailer.

       

    chinese-five-spice-230b

    Chinese Five Spice, used to cure artisan pork. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    *Mark Bittman advises: “…don’t feel as if you have to relegate these mixtures solely to their original uses, like jerk spice on chicken or garam masala in curry. Rub them on meat, poultry, seafood, tofu or vegetables before grilling, broiling or roasting; cook them in oil or butter to begin braises or stir-fries; or just sprinkle them on almost anything. My recently regenerated enthusiasm for these came about when I sampled a couple of blends on raw apple slices with ice cream, which was transformational.”
     
    HOW TO START

    You can blend and then grind your spices as needed. This is traditionally done with a mortar and pestle, but you can repurpose an old coffee grinder just for spices. First, clean it and then fill it with raw white rice; grind and then toss the rice. If you still find residual coffee aroma, do it again.

    You’ll get more flavor from your spices if you toast them first. Place them whole in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally until the fragrance rises, 2 to 5 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then grind.

    Store all ground spices in tightly sealed jars in a dark, cool place. While some will keep well for months, for the most potency make only what you need for a few weeks.

    Here are the first five spice blends: adobo from Mexico, chili powder from Mexico, five spice from China, garam masala from India and jerk from Jamaica.

     

    kashmiri_masala_spice_blend_mccormick-230r

    Garam masala, an Indian spice blend that
    varies by region and individual cook. Photo
    courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca.

      ADOBO

    Adobo is a popular Mexican spice mix: spicy and rich in flavor, but not hot. Traditional blends have no added salt. People on low-salt diets can use it in place of salt (but check the label).

  • Traditional uses: Rub on chicken, fish or pork with a bit of lime juice and salt to taste, then grill or broil. Add to chili or taco fixings, or perk up guacamole.
  • Traditional ingredients: garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, cumin and cayenne red pepper.
  • Bittman’s recipe: 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 4 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons onion powder and 2 teaspoons ground ancho.
  •  

    CHILI POWDER

    There are different strengths of chili powder, depending on the heat of the chiles used. Some are labeled medium or hot.

  • Traditional uses: Chili powder is the backbone of traditional Mexican dishes such as red chili and tamales. It is added to mole sauce, stews, beans and rice.
  • Traditional ingredients: ancho chili pepper, red pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic and Mexican oregano.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons coriander seeds; stir in 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, 4 tablespoons ground ancho chiles and 1 teaspoon cayenne.
  •  
    CHINESE FIVE SPICE

    Five spice powder is a versatile Chinese seasoning. The five spices vary by region and individual preference.

  • Traditional uses: stir-frys. The spice has traveled far beyond that with innovative chefs. You’ll find it in artisan chocolate bars, for example.
  • Traditional ingredients: cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds are also commonly included.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons , 12 star anise, 3 teaspoons whole cloves, two 3-inch cinnamon sticks and ¼ cup fennel seeds.
  •  

    GARAM MASALA

    As with other all-purpose spice blends, including curry and five spice, the ingredients in this Indian spice vary by region and individual cook.

  • Traditional uses: very popular on cauliflower, fish, lamb, pork, poultry and potatoes.
  • Traditional ingredients: coriander, black peppercorns, cardamom, cassia cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Toast and grind the seeds of 20 cardamom pods, 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds.
  •  

    JERK

    Jerk seasoning is a hot Jamaican spice blend. There are different blends for chicken, fish and pork.

  • Traditional uses: grilled chicken, fish, pork chops, pork tenderloin, whole roast pig; also.
  • Traditional ingredients: paprika, allspice, ginger, red pepper, sugar, ground Grenadian nutmeg, black pepper, garlic, thyme, lemon grass, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and mace.
  • Bittman’s recipe: Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons allspice berries, ½ teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons dried thyme. Combine with 2 teaspoons cayenne, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup salt. Before using, add some minced fresh garlic and ginger.
  •  
    Continue to Part 2 the next five blends: nori shake from Japan, pimentón from Spain, quatre épices from France, ras el hanout from Morocco and za’atar from the Middle East.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Summer With Edible Flowers

    For a special touch, garnish your
    dishes with edible flowers. Photo by
    Kelly Cline | IST.

     

    Flowers have been eaten since the earliest times, when anything that could be eaten, was. The first recorded mention of edible flowers dates to 140 B.C.E. In modern times, Asian, East Indian, European and Middle Eastern cuisines remain flower-friendly.

    If eating flowers sounds strange concept, remember that lavender—used in everything from ice cream and syrup to scones and herbal teas—and candied violets are popular accents in our own cuisine. Many liqueurs are based on flowers.

    Rose petals, very popular in Middle East cuisines for millennia, can be found in the U.S. in preserves, confections and beverages, and of course, to decorate wedding cakes, cupcakes and other desserts.

    In addition to eating sunflower seeds, try the petals. They were eaten by the early settlers in America.

    The violet was eaten in Roman times and was the rage during the Victorian era. You can still buy Choward’s Violet Candy and candied violets.

    When squash was cultivated, the long blossoms were stuffed and cooked before the vegetable matured. Stuffed and fried in light batter or cornmeal, they are a seasonal delicacy served in fine restaurants.

     
    USING EDIBLE FLOWERS

    Summer is an ideal time to add edible flowers to your recipes. They speak of the season, and provide color and beauty.

    If you see edible flowers in your specialty produce market or farmers market, pick up a container and have fun with them, in everything from salads and pastas to desserts. Use them fresh, before they wilt; but if you need to store them for a day in the fridge, place them between moist paper towels and then wrap in plastic.

    When ready to use, rinse each flower gently with water, and carefully blot it dry.

     

    Two caveats: Not all flowers are edible—or tasty. Like mushrooms, some are poisonous (including, but not limited to, daffodil, daphne, foxglove and hyacinth).

    And the edible varieties must be grown without pesticides. Assume that any flower from a florist, nursery or garden center has been treated with pesticides, as well as those in public grounds and roadsides. You can only use organically grown flowers (without chemical pesticides/herbicides).

    Not all flowers are edible (or tasty), but there’s quite a variety to choose from. Food-friendly flowers include:

  • Carnations, which have a clove-like flavor.
  • Dandelions, bright yellow sweet with notes of honey.
  • Hibiscus, vivid red and cranberry-like in flavor with citrus overtones.
  • Marigolds are known as “poor man’s saffron.”
  • Nasturtiums, multicolored and slightly sweet with peppery notes.
  • Pansies also multicolored but with a mild, tart wintergreen taste.
  • All blossoms from the allium family—chives, garlic, garlic chives, leeks) are edible and delightful.
  •  

    flatbread-caramelized-onions-asparagus-artisanbreadinfive-230

    Caramelized onion flatbread with chive blossoms. Photo courtesy ArtisanBreadInFive.com.

     

    As with most plants, flowers are rich in nutrients. Dandelions are rich in flavonoids (powerful antioxidants), and have times the beta carotene of broccoli, along with cryptoxanthin, folic acid, lutein, niacin, pyroxidine, riboflavin, vitamins E and C and zeaxanthin.

    See our article on edible flowers for more ideas.

    Two books, The Edible Flower Garden and Edible Flowers, are helpful guides to growing your own and include recipes).

      

    Comments

    TIP: It’s Time To Consider Less Salt

    red-mound-230

    Anglesey salt, sold here under the brand
    name Halen Mon, is evaporated from Welsh
    sea water. Note that the crystals are square,
    not round. Photo by River Soma | THE
    NIBBLE

     

    What’s the deal with salt, and why is the government trying to limit it in prepared foods?

    Everyone needs to eat a certain amount of salt. The body doesn’t produce sodium (salt), but it requires it in order to perform a variety of essential functions.

    Salt helps to maintain the fluid in blood cells and is used to transmit information in nerves and muscles, among other functions.

    HOW MUCH SALT IS TOO MUCH?

    The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium (salt) per day. That’s one single teaspoon.

    But the average American’s salt intake is more than twice that: 3,436 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. Here’s more information from the USDA.
     
    It’s not from the salt shaker, typically, but from the large amounts of salt hidden in prepared foods—packaged foods, take out and restaurant meals.

    Whatever the source, nine out of 10 Americans eat too much salt, according to The Centers for Disease Control.

     
    Starting today, the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) is sponsoring its sixth annual Salt Awareness Week to gain worldwide recognition of the health risks associated with consuming too much salt. So today’s tip involves awareness and action.

    A diet that contains more than that one teaspoon of salt per day is associated with high blood pressure, a potentially fatal condition that affects one in four Americans. While other factors, such as age, family history and race, play a role in your risk of high blood pressure, lowering your sodium intake can help significantly reduce the risk.

     
    SALT IS “THE SILENT KILLER”

    The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be, leading to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

    According to Consensus Action for Salt and Health, high blood pressure is the leading global risk factor for mortality, resulting in seven million deaths per year.

     

    WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

    Thanks to LoSalt, a leading reduced sodium salt, for these tips.

  • Get checkups for adults and kids. Think you’re too young to worry about high blood pressure? Our 22-year-old intern has it; fortunately, it was discovered at age 10 in an annual checkup and she learned to watch her salt intake at a young age. According to the American Heart Association, 97% of children eat too much salt, resulting in a predisposition to high blood pressure.
  • Find alternatives to salty snacks. If you wait until you’re 40, your habits will be very hard to break. Children learn from what their parents eat, and this creates a cycle that that is hard to stop.
  • Cut back on processed foods. More than 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods—canned, frozen and otherwise prepared; condiments, mixes, pickles, soups, tomato sauce and any prepared meals. Check the labels of products and look for low-sodium versions. Better yet, cook from scratch—dried beans vs. canned beans (which have added sodium), for example, and fresh herbs to add flavor usually filled by the far cheaper salt.
  •  

    seared-yellowfin-tuna-maldon-davidburkefromagerie-230

    It’s not the salt you can see, it’s the salt you can’t see, hidden in purchased foods (prepared foods, packaged foods, restaurant meals). Photo courtesy David Burke Fromagerie.

  • Cut back on salt in your own cooking. Use half as much as recipes require, and see how you feel. Augment with a product like LoSalt (more information below).
  • Cut back on restaurant meals. You’ll never know how much hidden salt is in each dish. Single items sold by fast food restaurants can typically have 2,000 mg of sodium. If you need to eat out for convenience, ask for your protein to be grilled without salt, or head for a plate of sashimi with low-sodium soy sauce or a squeeze of fresh lemon.
  •  

    TIP: WHEN USING LOTS OF SALT IN THE KITCHEN IS A GOOD IDEA

    Salt can be used to extinguish a grease fire. Pour salt on the flames; never use water. We keep a large salt server with kosher salt on our stove to add pinches in cooking, but also to help in a crisis. (Yes, we also have a fire extinguisher.)

    ABOUT LOSALT

    LoSalt, a tasty alternative in the reduced-sodium category, has 66% less sodium than regular salt. This is achieved by using a ratio of 33% sodium chloride and 66% potassium chloride.

    As long as you don’t need to avoid extra high levels of potassium (e.g. endocrine or kidney disorders), this natural ingredient is a good filler. Consult with your healthcare advisor to be sure it’s O.K. for you.

    Comments

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