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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

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

    TIP OF THE DAY: Freeze-Dried Herbs In Everything

    The trick to adding more flavor to everything you eat, with negligible calories—and the ability to cut back on salt—are spices and herbs.

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERBS & SPICES

  • Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark or roots of plants. They are usually of tropical origin.
  • Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean.
  • Aromatics: In culinary terms, both herbs and spices fall into the category of aromatics. (Now you know what those Top Chef contestants were referring to!)
     
    Today we’re focusing on herbs.

    A few months ago we received a shipment of Instantly Fresh freeze-dried herbs from Litehouse, and have been happily adding them to just about everything.

  •  

    litehouse-herbs-chive-basil-230

    Two of the numerous freeze-dried, “Instantly Fresh” herbs from Litehouse.

     
    Litehouse freeze-dries every herb you could need for daily cooking: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, Italian herb blend, jalapeños, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, poultry herb blend, red onion, sage, salad herb blend, spring onion and thyme.

    What does all this choice mean? That you have some “herbing” to do!

    Whether you’re cooking breakfast eggs, making soup, mashing potatoes, broiling, roasting, sautéing or simply reheating or microwaving—think of what herb would brighten the dish.

    You don’t have to go exotic. A basic complement of basil, chives, garlic, oregano and parsley will do.

     

    slaw-cheesecake-factory-230sq

    Cole slaw, potato salad and protein salads
    (chicken, egg, tuna, etc.) all benefit from
    added dill, plus parsley. Photo courtesy
    Cheesecake Factory.

     

    WHAT ARE FREEZE-DRIED HERBS

    Freeze-drying is a dehydration process used to preserve perishables. The food is quickly frozen and the surrounding air pressure is then reduced. This allows the frozen water in the product to go directly from the solid phase to the gas phase, avoiding the liquid phase.

    The process delivers more of the taste, aroma and nutrition of fresh herbs, compared to conventional drying.

    And the unopened food can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration for years. The greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would otherwise spoil or degrade the substance.

    When freeze-dried herbs are rehydrated by contact with moisture (the liquid in the recipe itself or other ingredients in the recipe), they reconstitute into a close approximation of their former fresh selves.

     

    So your task this week is to look at everything you serve and match at least one herb to it (don’t hesitate to use two or more):

  • Bread: create your own bread dippers by adding herbs to olive oil and add a green herb to garlic bread
  • Main Dish: anything goes
  • Pasta: beyond the Italian basics—basil, oregano and parsley—try other herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme and sage
  • Pizza: ditto!
  • Sandwich/Wrap have fun with it!
  • Sauce/Condiment ditto!
  • Side Dish: once you sprinkle herbs onto potatoes, rice and vegetables, you’ll be hooked
  • Soup: what looks like a nice garnish really adds a flavor boost
  •  
    When you come across dynamite pairings, share them with us!
     
    FOOD TRIVIA

    Some plants yield both an herb and a spice.

  • Cilantro is the leafy herb of the same plant that gives us the popular spice coriander seed.
  • Dill weed (an herb) and dill seed (a spice) also come from the same plant.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Salt

    black_truffle-salt-fusion-230sq

    The more flecks of truffle, the tastier the
    salt. Black truffle salt from Fusion.

     

    The winter truffle season is nearing its end. But if you didn’t get enough (or couldn’t afford any), there’s a way to enjoy truffle flavor all year round: truffle salt.

    BLACK & WHITE TRUFFLE SALT

    To make truffle salt, small chips and bits that break off from whole truffles during handling are mixed with sea salt. Truffle salt is sea salt that has been laced with fragrant pieces of black or white truffle.

    Black truffles have earthier aroma and flavor; white truffles are lighter. Depending on the origin of the white truffles, they can have garlicky notes. Most people have a personal preference for one or the other where fresh truffles are concerned; but once salt is produced, the variations become more subtle.

    Unlike truffle oil, the flavor of which is usually synthesized*, truffle salt typically has pieces of real truffle—although the flavor may be enhanced with truffle oil.

     
    *Given the high cost of good truffles, most truffle oils are not made by infusing actual truffles but from synthetic flavors that approximate the flavors and aromas of natural truffles. Some of these truffle oils are excellent, and provide truffle flavor and aroma at an accessible price. There is nothing wrong with using synthetics; without them, there would be no truffle oil, truffle fries, most truffle risotto, etc. As a comparison, most perfumes these days are not made with distilled flower petals, but from synthetic aromas.
     

    USES FOR TRUFFLE SALT

  • Butter: sprinkle atop of a bar of butter or a ramekin of butter for the table (you can also buy ready-made truffle butter, a terrific product [read our review]
  • Cheese: on a grilled cheese sandwich, goat cheese, queso asado
  • Dessert: with anything chocolate (brownies, cookies, candies, ice cream), crème brûlée—sprinkle on top instead of sea salt
  • Eggs: in scrambled, omelet or deviled eggs, or a sprinkle on simple hard-boiled eggs
  • Fish: atop grilled fish, seared scallops
  • Meat & Tofu: atop steaks, chops or deluxe burgers
  • Olive Oil: in a dip for bread and crudités; use a pinch in a Champagne or wine vinaigrette
  • Pasta: use with any white sauce, butter or oil dressing; with mushroom ravioli
  • Pâté & Foie Gras: a natural pairing, even with chicken liver mousse
  • Potatoes & Rice: baked, fries, mashed and roasted potatoes; risotto
  • Vegetables: roasted, sautéed, steamed
  • Snacks: homemade pretzels (including cheese pretzels—recipe), hummus, popcorn
  •  

    HOW TO BUY TRUFFLE SALT

    First: truffle salt is pricey, but you only need a pinch. A jar may cost $20 or $25 but will last a long time. Don’t let the sticker shock discourage you.

    Different brands use different truffles, with varying intensities of truffle salt. Your retailer may only have one brand. A good brand of truffle salt will state the percentage of truffles on the label. Look for 5% or more.

    One brand of black truffle salt you can rely on is Cassina Rossa, imported from Italy. Urbani sells a quality white truffle salt, also imported from Italy.

    We typically bring jars as host/hostess gifts. They are much appreciated.

     

    white-black-truffle-salt-ddl-230

    Truffle salt is a great gift for a gourmet cook or foodie. Photo courtesy Dean & Deluca.

     

    EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRUFFLES

      

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    TIP: Add Turmeric To Foods

    Turmeric is a rhizome with edible roots that grow underground horizontally. It’s related to ginger, which it somewhat resembles in external appearance.

    Most Americans know turmeric as a deep gold spice that gives its intense color to curry powder. It’s been used for millennia to impart its color to foods. In the last century, it was used to give ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.

    Turmeric has a peppery, bitter flavor and a mild aroma with a hint of its cousin, ginger, a note of orange.

    More recently, turmeric has been discovered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancinogen. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is extracted and used in clinical studies for arthritis and cancer. (More on turmeric’s health benefits.)

    HOWEVER: Turmeric can stain! It is also used as a dye. Don’t get it on your clothes, and scrub pots and pans immediately after cooking with a large does of turmeric.

     

    Turmeric root. Photo courtesy Malaysian Kitchen.

    WAYS TO USE TURMERIC

  • Beans: Add to bean and legume dishes.
  • Butter: Add to compound butter, drawn butter or other melted butter, to use on corn, lobster, etc.
  • Dips: Add to mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt based dips.
  • Eggs: Add a dash to deviled eggs, omelets and scrambles.
  • Marinade: Combine with lemon in a chicken marinade.
  • Meat: Add to burgers, chili, meat balls, meatloaf, Sloppy Joes.
  • Rice: Add turmeric when cooking rice, or afterwards as a seasoning.
  • Salads: Mix into tuna, egg and other protein salads; into macaroni salad and potato salad; and add a pinch to salad dressing for green salads. Try a brown rice salad with raisins and cashews; season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
  • Soups & Stews: Add to stews, lentil soup, pea soup and other hearty soups.
  • Vegetables: Delicious with sautéed kale, spinach and other greens, sautéed onions and roasted cauliflower or potatoes and mashed potatoes.
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    Ground turmeric. Add it to salad dressings
    and dips for crudités. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.

     

    Turmeric Tea

    Dr. Weil made a terrific ready-to-drink turmeric tea that unfortunately didn’t catch on. But you can buy turmeric tea bags or make your own tea by simmering a teaspoon of the powder in four cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain through a very fine strainer and drink it hot or iced.

    Add some ginger root for even more flavor and health benefits. You can also buy turmeric-ginger tea bags.

    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKEN SALAD

    Try this creative roasted chicken salad recipe from Woodhouse Chocolate.

    Ingredients

    For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can substitute
    regular paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  •  
    For The Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 6 cups mixed baby greens
  • 8 Medjool dates, each cut into 8 slivers
  • 12-16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, cut into 6 smaller pieces each
  • 16 sprigs of cilantro
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE dressing: Whisk together the ingredients. Heat the oven to 400°F.

    2. DRAIN the chickpeas and dry them on a paper towel. Discard any stray skins. In a small mixing bowl, toss the chickpeas with the olive oil until evenly coated. Lay them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until a nice dark golden brown. While the chickpeas are roasting…

    3. COMBINE the salt, cocoa powder and paprika. When the chickpeas are done, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of this mixture evenly over the chickpeas, moving them around to coat evenly. Save the rest of the salt for the next time you roast chickpeas.

    4. REMOVE the meat from the chicken. Slice the breasts and shred the leg/thigh meat.

    5. TOSS the greens with dressing in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste. On 4 dinner plates, fan out the chicken breast slices. Drizzle a little extra dressing over the chicken. Divide the greens evenly on the plates. Artistically place the dates, bacon, tomatoes and red onion over the salad. (Add some more of the shredded chicken if you like). Sprinkle some roasted chickpeas over and around the salad and top with a few leaves of cilantro.
      

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    RECIPE: Moroccan Turkey Rub

    Moroccan spices add zing to a turkey or
    chicken. Photo courtesy Spice Islands.

     

    Perhaps you’re not up for brining a turkey.

    Instead of garlic powder and pepper, expand your seasoning palette. This recipe from Spice Islands dishes up a Moroccan flair.

    The recipe is given for a 5-6 pound turkey breast; for a whole turkey, multiply the proportions accordingly.

    You can also use the recipe on a chicken or duck.

    RECIPE: MOROCCAN TURKEY RUB

    Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 (5 to 6-pound) turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE garlic, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, turmeric and sea salt in a small bowl. Mix well and reserve 1 teaspoon of seasoning.

    2. RUB remaining seasoning over turkey breast. Roast according to turkey breast package directions.

    3. COMBINE reserved seasoning with honey and butter; mix well. Brush over turkey last 30 minutes of baking time.

      

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