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Archive for Salts-Seasonings-Herbs-Spices

TIP OF THE DAY: Herb & Spice Grinders

Some recipes instruct you to grind herbs or spices. In our grandmother’s day, that meant using a mortar and pestle. In our mother’s day, it meant using the coffee grinder for herbs and spices.

Mom, a purist, had a second grinder for that purpose. Other folks had to first grind uncooked rice in their coffee grinder to remove minute particles of coffee, or else suffer coffee-accented spices.

Today, manufacturers are doing more to meet the needs of home cooks. McCormick, for example, sells four popular herbs—basil, Italian blend, oregano and parsley—in non-refillable glass grinder bottles (center photo).

On the spice end, McCormick has grinders for peppercorns and peppercorn-herb blends, seasoned salt blends and plain salt grinders.

There are herb mills and spice grinders, a.k.a. mills, but we especially like the new Kyocera “Everything Grinder” (bottom photo—more about the mill below). Technically, “mill” refers to the entire device and “grinder” to the grinding mechanism inside the mill.

FOOD 101: HERBS, MINERALS & SPICES—THE DIFFERENCE

Herbs, minerals and spices are three options to flavor foods.

  • Herbs are parts of leafy green plants, such as leaves and stems.
  • Spices are bark, berries, fruits, roots or seeds of plants. Peppercorns are the berries of a vine.
  • Minerals are solid inorganic substances. Salt is a mineral. Other minerals used in cooking include baking powder, baking soda, citric acid, MSG and tartaric acid. Sugar is not a mineral since it is derived from the sap of a plant.
  • Herbs and spices lose their flavor over time, but salt retains its flavoring.
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    THE KYOCERA EVERYTHING MILL

    Now, one mill grinds everything: dried herbs, pepper, salt, seeds and spices: the Kyocera Everything Mill With Adjustable Advanced Ceramic Grinder.

    The company states that its advanced ceramic burr mill mechanism, close in hardness to a diamond, will outlast any metal-based grinding mill. Is adjusts from fine to coarse grinds.

     

    Marble Mortar & Pestle

    McCormick Oregano Spice Grinder

    Kyocera Everything Mill

    Top: Marble mortar and pestle from RSVP. Center: McCormick Spice Grinder. Bottom: Kyocera Everything Mill.

     
    The mill features a glass body, ceramic grinding mechanism and acrylic top. The glass base is dishwasher safe, and all components are rustproof.
     

    In addition to salt and peppercorns, you can grind celery, cumin, dill, flax, mustard and sesame seeds; any spices including red pepper flakes; and any dried herbs.

    To grind pliant fresh herbs you’ll still need a mortar and pestle (preferably) or a spice mill/coffee grinder with a metal blade. We’ve tried both and strongly recommend hand-grinding with a mortar and pestle for the finest flavor. Metal blades tear the leaves in a way that releases the oil in a different way. You’ll also need the mortar or metal blades stop grind nuts.

    But for most grinding, you can count on the Kyocera Everything Mill. There’s a color for every kitchen: Apple Green, Bright Black, Brilliant White, Candy Apple Red, Translucent Blue and Translucent Maroon.

    At $19.95, they make good gifts for your favorite cooks. All colors are available on Amazon.com.
     
    FUN: The History Of Coffee Grinders.


      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Flavored Salt

    Gourmet Flavored Salts

    Flavored Salts

    Szechuan Peppercorn Flavored Salt

    TOP: Flavored salts from Saltopia. Center: Trio of homemade flavored salts from Chef Eric LeVine | Steamy Kitchen. Bottom: Close-up of Szechuan Pepper Salt.

     

    Do you use flavored salt? Is your spice cabinet as packed with different flavors as ours is?

    We have 10 jars of artisan* flavored salts, of which we often use just our three favorites (rosemary, saffron and truffle). The other seven take up a lot of space. It’s not that we don’t like them; it’s similar to shoes and clothing. We own a lot but wear the same three most of the time.

    It’s tempting to reach for yet another exciting artisan salt. Here’s some of what we see when we visit a specialty salt website like Saltopia or US Saltworks:

  • Fruit-flavored salt: caper, coconut, habanero, jalapeño, lemon, lime, orange, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, tomato
  • Herb-flavored salt: basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemongrass, mint, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, thyme, wasabi
  • Spice-flavored salt: Aleppo pepper, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, curry, ginger, mustard, sumac, vanilla
  • Smoked salt: applewood, alderwood
  • Sweet-flavored salt: brown sugar, honey, maple
  • Vegetable-flavored salt: mushroom, onion, truffle
  • And beyond: balsamic vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate, rose
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    WHAT DO YOU DO WITH FLAVORED SALTS?

    Says Chef Eric LeVine: “One of the easiest ways to elevate your cooking to another level is to use flavored salts, or finishing salts. I call these ‘finishing salts’ because most of the time, its exactly what I use them for. No recipe is needed, really: Flavor + Salt = Flavored Salt.

    “I like to use these salts in place of regular salt. The flavor I use is dependent on either the type of dish I’m cooking, the ethnic cuisine or a flavor I would like to infuse into the dish.

    “Sometimes a dish just needs a little color after plating. A finishing salt is the perfect complement, flavor-wise and eye-candy-deliciousness-wise.

    Learn from professional cooks—who often serve food on white dinnerware—and sprinkle a bit of finishing salt directly on the food and the plate. The vibrant colors are shown off against the white and your dinner guests can dab as much as or as little of the salt [on their food] as they wish. You can make a batch for less than $1….or you could go to a gourmet shop and spend $12 for an itty bitty jar.”

    Spring and summer grilling are another reason to bring out the flavored salt instead of reaching for Morton’s Little Salt Girl or Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

    “You can also use it as a finishing salt. And you can use it to add a bit of color to all those beige and brown foods.”

    At THE NIBBLE, we use them as in ingredient or a garnish:

  • Baking, especially with lemon salt (lemon muffins, shortbread, garnish a lemon tart)
  • Bread dipper with olive oil and herbs
  • Confections: salted caramels and salted chocolate
  • Cottage cheese, soft cheeses, yogurt
  • Dessert: cobblers, puddings
  • Finishing salt: beef lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, smoked fish
  • Food garnish
  • Fruit salad or grilled fruit (a bit of salt brings out the sweetness)
  • Glass rimmer for sweet or savory salts: Blueberry Mojito, lemonade, Margarita, Bloody Mary, etc.
  • Ice cream or sorbet
  • Pasta, rice and other grains
  • Plate garnish (sprinkle bits on the plate for splashes of color)
  • Popcorn seasoning
  • Potatoes: baked, boiled, fried, mashed
  • Salted nuts
  • Salads and cooked vegetables
  • Any pale-colored food
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    ___________________________
    *Artisan salts are flavored sea salts; as opposed to supermarket garlic salt, onion salt, etc., which are flavored table salts.

     
    SOLUTION: SAVE SPACE & MONEY—BLEND YOUR OWN

    It takes just five minutes to blend salt, herbs and spices in a spice grinder. You can make them on an as-needed basis, or make larger batches for your spice rack.

    At $13 and up retail for a 3.5-ounce jar, you can make your own for perhaps $1 a batch.

    Pick A Base Salt

    If you don’t have sea salt on hand, start with kosher salt or table salt. After you get the hang of blending, you can try more exotic salts, such as:

  • Fleur de sel or sel gris from France
  • Black lava or red alaea salts from Hawaii
  • Pink Himalayan or kala namak salts from India
  • Smoked salt
  •  
    FLAVORED SALT RECIPES

    Here are four recipes, two savory and two sweet. The first three are from Chef Eric; the Blueberry Salt is from THE NIBBLE archives.
     
    Recipe: Szechuan (Sichuan) Peppercorn Salt

    Dry-roasted Szechuan or Sichuan Peppercorn + food processor to grind the peppercorn + sea salt. Chef Eric roasted peppercorns in a hot, dry skillet until they were smoking but not burnt. Let it cool and add to a food processor or piece mill to grind to your preferred granule size. Then add the salt and pulse a couple of times to fully blend the flavors.

    Says Chef Eric: “I like my Szechuan pepper salt a little chunky and not like a fine powder, so I use equal amts of peppercorns and sea salt. You can adjust the proportions based on your tastes. If you are using a very fine sea salt or just regular table salt, decrease the amount of salt.

    “In addition to Asian-accent dishes or for a touch of heat, I also love seasoning my steaks with this salt prior to grilling, instead of the standard salt and pepper. It can also be served as a dipping salt for fried shrimp.”

     

    Recipe: Matcha Salt

    Matcha is Japanese green tea powder made from the highest quality of green tea leaves. It’s very different from simply grinding green tea leaves. It’s a stunning mossy green color, which makes such a pretty finishing salt. Matcha powder + sea salt + couple pulses in food processor if you are using coarse sea salt.

    Chef Eric likes to use it on a chocolate truffle or mousse; you can dip a plain chocolate bar dip in Matcha Salt. Use it with eggs and tofu, and with dishes that are light in texture and flavor, since this salt’s flavor is more delicate and subtle. “Don’t get the super-premium stuff,” says Chef Eric, “It would be a waste to use the expensive powder for the salts.”
     
    Recipe: Citrus Salt

    Peel any citrus and let the peels dry a little bit on a paper towel. Citrus salt is bright, cheery and light, says Chef Eric.

    “Finish your shrimp skewers, any vegetables, grilled chicken breasts or grilled salmon with Citrus Salt. Lighten your risotto or steamed rice.”

     
    Recipe: Blueberry Salt

    For summer, make Blueberry Salt. Start with a small batch (this recipe makes one cup). This recipe takes longer, because you’re drying fresh fruit. Prep time is 35 minutes, cook time is 1 hour to 1 day, depending on whether you choose to oven dry (1 hour) or let dry naturally (24 hours or more).

    After you make this recipe, you can customize it with other ingredients: balsamic vinegar, citrus peel, thyme, rosemary or any of the ideas above. The recipe is courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
     
    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  •  

    Blueberry Salt

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/blueberry salt saltopia 230sq

    Blueberry salt: You can buy a jar or make your own. Photos courtesy Saltopia.

  • 1 cup coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt, or for a beautiful flake salt, use Maldon salt, with unique, pyramid-shaped crystals)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. SIMMER the berries and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    3. PRESS the blueberries with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, reserving the juice. Further strain the berries with a fine wire sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Line the sieve with cheesecloth and strain out the finer particles.

    4. RETURN the juice to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer (watching closely so the juice doesn’t burn) until the juice is reduced to a syrup thick enough to coat a spoon. You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

    5. REMOVE from the heat. Stir in the salt until the crystals are evenly coated, then spread the salt onto baking sheets. Let it air dry, stirring occasionally, until dry. This will take 4-24 hours, depending on the humidity. Alternatively, bake the salt in a 150° convection oven, stirring frequently until dry, about 1 hour.

    TIP: For a deeper purple salt, add food color to the blueberry juice in Step 4.

     
    HOW MANY TYPES OF SALT HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the different types of salt in our Salt Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Harvest Topping, A Fall Garnish

    What’s Harvest Topping, you ask?

    As created by Country Crock, it’s a universal topping that can garnish anything from a baked Brie to a sundae to a crumble.

    Not to mention oatmeal, French toast, pancakes, waffles and yogurt. It’s also a salad topping. And we even mixed it into rice!

    Country Crock recommends it with mascarpone cheese on sliced multigrain baguette (toast the slices), garnished with Harvest Topping over top for a delicious snack. It works with cream cheese and ricotta, too.

    Sweet and spicy, it can be your go-to garnish for the rest of the season. The allspice is a nice change of pace from the ubiquitous seasonal cinnamon.

    Harvest Topping is easy to make, and it will keep in an airtight container for a month or more. You can turn it into a house gift with a mason jar and a ribbon.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    RECIPE: HARVEST TOPPING

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons Country Crock Spread, unsalted butter or oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
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    crop Country Crock_Harvest Topping_dailymeal-230

    One garnish has many uses, from a Brie appetizer to dessert. Photo courtesy Country Crock.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing well. Arrange in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are golden brown.

    3. USE immediately, or let cool before storing in an airtight container.
     
    Find more holiday recipes at CountryCrock.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Blueberry Salt

    Sea salt is produced by simple evaporation of sea water. Depending on the body of water, the salt will have different qualities: not just in flavor, based on the minerals in the local water, but also in the size and shape of the crystals. See our Salt Glossary for more on the different types of salt.

    A subset of sea salt is artisan salt, which is created with added flavor is added. With the growing enthusiasm of chefs and home cooks, the flavor options have exploded. Saltopia, an online seller, offers dozens of flavored salts, including:

  • Fruit flavored salt: caper, coconut, habanero, jalapeño, lemon, lime, orange, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, tomato
  • Herb flavored salt: basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemongrass, mint, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, thyme, wasabi
  • Spice flavored salt: Aleppo pepper, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, curry, ginger, mustard, sumac, vanilla
  • Smoked salt: applewood, alderwood
  • Sweet flavored salt: brown sugar, honey, maple
  • Vegetable flavored salt: mushroom, onion, truffle
  •    

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/blueberry salt saltopia 230

    Blueberry salt: You can buy a jar or make your own. Photo courtesy Saltopia.

  • And beyond: balsamic vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate, rose
  •  
    Today, how about making a batch of blueberry sea salt? All you need are blueberries and salt!

    There isn’t extensive blueberry flavor because the salt overwhelms it; but the color is gorgeous—a glorious garnish or finishing salt.
     
    HOW TO USE BLUEBERRY SALT

    Sprinkle it as in ingredient or a garnish:

  • Baking, especially with lemon (lemon muffins, shortbread, garnish a lemon tart)
  • Bread dipper with olive oil and herbs
  • Confections: salted caramels and salted chocolate
  • Cottage cheese, soft cheeses, yogurt
  • Dessert: cobblers, puddings
  • Finishing salt: beef lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, smoked fish
  • Food garnish
  • Fruit salad or grilled fruit (a bit of salt brings out the sweetness)
  • Glass rimmer: Blueberry Mojito, lemonade, Margarita, etc.)
  • Ice cream
  • Pasta
  • Plate garnish (sprinkle bits on the plate for splashes of color)
  • Popcorn seasoning
  • Potatoes: baked, mashed, any pale recipe
  • Rice and other pale grains
  • Salted nuts
  • Sorbet
  • Salads and cooked vegetables
  •  

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/blueberry salt saltopia 230

    Are you inspired to make your own? Photo courtesy Saltopia.

     

    RECIPE: BLUEBERRY SALT

    You can buy the blueberry sea salt or make your own. You can make batches as gifts, too.

    Start with a small batch (this recipe makes one cup of blueberry salt). Prep time is 35 minutes, cook time: is 1 hour to 1 day, depending on whether you choose to oven dry (1 hour) or let dry naturally (24 hours or more).

    After you make this recipe, you can customize it with other ingredients: balsamic vinegar, citrus peel, thyme, rosemary or any of the ideas above.

    The recipe is courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, which has lots of delicious blueberry recipes

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt, or for a beautiful flake salt, use Maldon salt, with unique, pyramid-shaped crystals)
  • Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. SIMMER the berries and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    3. PRESS the blueberries with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, reserving the juice. Further strain the berries with a fine wire sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Line the sieve with cheesecloth and strain out the finer particles.

    4. RETURN the juice to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer (watching closely so the juice doesn’t burn) until the juice is reduced to a syrup thick enough to coat a spoon. You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

    5. REMOVE from the heat. Stir in the salt until the crystals are evenly coated, then spread the salt onto baking sheets. Let it air dry, stirring occasionally, until dry. This will take 4-24 hours, depending on the humidity. Alternatively, bake the salt in a 150° convection oven, stirring frequently until dry, about 1 hour.

    TIP: For a deeper purple salt, add food color to the blueberry juice in Step 4.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Israeli Salad

    Israeli salad (salat yerakot, vegetable salad*, in Hebrew) is a chopped salad of diced tomato and cucumber. It can also include bell pepper, onion, and parsley (that’s the way we like it). Other ingredients, such as carrot and ethnic-specific ingredients (more about that in a few paragraphs) can be added. The dressing is fresh lemon juice, olive oil or both. A dash of sumac or za’atar (see below) is optional.

    In Israel, the ingredients are diced very fine, and it is a badge of honor among cooks to dice as finely and perfectly as possible. Chunkier versions appear in the U.S.

    As a kibbutz tradition in Israel (and now ubiquitous at restaurants and cafés), Israeli salad is typically eaten for breakfast, along with a host of other options†. It is also served as a side dish at lunch and dinner, and added to pita along with falafel or shawarma.

    ISRAELI SALAD HISTORY

    Israeli salad is actually an Arab salad, adapted from a Palestinian country salad and popularized in the kibbutzes of Israel. Variations include ancestral seasonings: chopped ginger and green chili peppers show India influences, preserved lemon peel and cayenne pepper are popular with North African Jews. Bukharan Jews, who immigrated from Central Asia, dress the salad with vinegar only. A Persian variation substitutes mint for parsley.

       

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/israeli salad ist4623202 pushlama c 230

    Israeli salad: refreshing, low in calories and good for you. Photo © Pushiama | IST.

     
    RECIPE: ISRAELI SALAD

    Truth be told, although an ideal Israeli salad is known for its fine, even dice, dicing is our least favorite kitchen task. So we make a medium dice, imperfect in every way, and it works just fine.

    You can serve Israeli salad plain or with greens underneath; as a side dish; in a pita with hummus, falafel or both; and on a mezze plate with hummus, babaganoush, grape leaves, tabbouleh and tzatziki or labneh. Add feta and Kalamata olives for a Greek salad, and on top of that, add chickpeas for a Middle Eastern salad.

  • 6 Persian‡ cucumbers or 3 peeled Kirbys, finely chopped (no need to peel the Persian cukes)
  • 4 plum, San Marzano or other roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced, or equivalent red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional seasoning: sumac or za’atar (see below)
  •  
    Plus

  • Pita triangles, warmed or toasted
  •  
    *Israeli salad is also called salat katzutz (Hebrew for chopped salad) and salat aravi (Hebrew for Arab salad).

    †The Israeli breakfast is a dairy meal (meatless), starting with eggs in different styles, including shakshouka (recipe), eggs poached in a spicy tomato. In addition to Israeli salad, other Middle Eastern dishes may be served, such as baba ghanoush (eggplant spread), hummus and labaneh, a thick-strained yogurt. The options continue with breads, cheeses and fish, such as pickled herring, sardines and smoked salmon; olives and fresh vegetables (cucumbers, green bell peppers, onions, radishes, shredded carrots, tomatoes).

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/persian cucumbers johnvenaproduce 230

    Persian cucumbers. Photo courtesy John Vena Produce.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, along with the optional sumac and za’atar.
     
    MEET THE INGREDIENTS

    Persian Cucumbers

    Persian cucumbers don’t require peeling. They were developed in 1939 on a kibbutz in northern Israeli; the local cucumbers were small and tasty but susceptible to rot and disease. The breeders hybridized them with cucumbers from China, India, Japan, Surinam and the U.S. to improve disease resistance; and crossed them with English and Dutch varieties to be seedless.

    The result was a small, very flavorful cucumber with crisp, sweet, succulent flesh, a smooth, thin, edible skin and without developed seeds. [Source]

     
    They range from four to six inches in length. In Israel, the variety was called Beit Alpha, after its birthplace. Some American growers called it a Persian cucumber or Lebanese cucumber. You can find them at farmers markets, higher-end supermarkets (we found them at Trader Joe’s). Or, buy Persian cucumber seeds,also called baby cucumbers, and grow your own.

    Sumac

    Sumac is ground from a red berry-like drupe that grows in clusters on bushes in subtropical and temperate regions. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice. (One of the species not used is the poison sumac shrub.)

    The word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red. In Middle Eastern cuisine, the spice is used to add a tangy, lemony taste to meats and salads; and to garnish hummus and rice. The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar, below.
     
    Za’atar

    Also spelled zahtar, za’atar is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. It 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, which impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

    Traditional ingredients include marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac. Za’atar is used to season meat and vegetables, mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread, added to hummus, and for a modern touch, sprinkled on pizza, especially ones with feta cheese.

      

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