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Archive for Salts-Seasonings-Herbs-Spices

TIP OF THE DAY: Blend Your Own Seasoned Salt

If you shake salt on your food, one of the easiest ways to add more flavor is to use a seasoned salt. Why not add other seasonings at the same time?

Perhaps that’s why Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, created in 1938 to season the prime rib served at Lawry’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, has remained a prominent fixture on the spice rack in many households.

The blend of salt, herbs and spices (garlic, onion, paprika and turmeric, plus sugar—here’s the copycat Lawry’s Seasoned Salt Recipe) adds more flavor than salt alone.

Home cooks found that it worked on everything, from breakfast eggs to any grain, protein, starch or vegetable.
 
BUYING FLAVORED SALTS

Over the last decade, numerous specialty food artisans—Urban Accents, Saltworks and quite a few other—have created collections of seasoned salts, with a base of sea salt. Even McCormick has joined in, with 11 McCormick sea salt grinders from Chipotle to Sweet Onion.

   

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Casina Rossa seasoned sea salts from
Italy—Porcini, Saffron, Edible Flowers,
and others, are available from Seasoned
Sea Salts
. Photo by Naheed Choudhry |
THE NIBBLE.

 
The Urban Accents blends tend to mirror popular cuisines: Caribbean, Indian (curry and mango), Mediterranean, Provençal (herbes de Provence), Spanish (smoked paprika).

The Fusion line of sea salts from Saltworks goes farther, with gourmet salts such as Black Truffle, Espresso, Ginger, Lemon, Lime, Maple, Matcha, Merlot, Sriracha, Sundried Tomato, Vanilla and White Truffle.

But at $15 or so per 3.5-ounce jar (more for pricier items like porcini and truffle), you might want to try blending your own with what you have on hand.

We’re addicted to truffle salts, and to Casa Rossa’s saffron salt. A pinch of salt lets us enjoy these two favorite flavors in everything from scrambled eggs to mashed potatoes and vinaigrette.

Unfortunately for us, it’s so costly to purchase dried saffron or truffles—two of the priciest ingredients in the world—that there’s no money to be saved by blending our own.

But there’s much more to blend than saffron and truffles.

 

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Coarse sea salt as a base for your seasoned
salts. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel | THE NIBBLE.

 

START BLENDING!

It takes just five minutes to blend salt, herbs and spices in a spice grinder. You can make them on an ad hoc basis, or make larger batches to store and use as needed.

Pick A 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
  •  
    See our Salt Glossary for the different types of salts.
     
    Pick Your Seasonings

     
    Start with flavors you use in daily cooking: basil, chipotle, oregano, paprika, parsely, whatever. Pick as many as you like, although when starting out, limit your blends to salt plus four or five herbs/spices.
     
    You can also add ground pepper, although if you’re making enough to store, you may want to add it freshly ground. You can also add a pinch of white or brown sugar.
     
    Some basic blends to try:

  • Basic Seasoned Salt: salt plus garlic powder, onion powder and paprika
  • Lemon Pepper Salt: salt plus dried lemon peel and ground pepper
  • Rosemary Salt: salt plus garlic and rosemary
  • Celery Salt: salt plus dried celery leaves and celery Seeds (so much better than off-the-shelf celery salt!)
  • Hot & Smoky Salt: smoked sea salt plus ancho chiles and smoked paprika
  • Wild Mushroom Salt: salt plus dried chanterelles, dried porcinis, tarragon and white pepper
  •  
    Then, decide on ratios: which flavors do you want to be dominant, which flavors should be background hints.

    Start with twice as much salt as other flavors, and even less of hot flavors. You may find, after making different blends, that you’re using less salt and more herbs/spices.
     
    RECIPE: SAMPLE FLAVORED SALT BLEND

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup salt
  • ¼ cup each garlic and onion powders
  • ¼ cup ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder, chipotle, red pepper flakes, etc.
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well-combined. Working in batches, add the blend to a spice grinder and process into a fine powder. If you don’t have a spice blender, you can try a regular blender.

    2. STORE the salt in an airtight container. Store away from heat and light (as all herbs and spices should be stored!).
     
    If you want to make other blends but already have too much of homemade seasoned salt on hand, give it as gifts!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cedar Paper Grilling Wraps

    Cedar-Wrapped-Halibut-Fire&Flavor-230r

    Halibut wrapped in cedar grilling paper, for
    cooking on the stove top. It’s served with
    citrus pesto. Here’s the recipe. Photo
    courtesy Fire & Flavor.

     

    No grill? If you want an infusion of cedar flavor in your food, that’s no problem. Instead of a grill with cedar chips, get some cedar grilling papers.

    Made from a very thin, pliable slice of cedar, cedar grilling papers infuse a subtle but clear flavor while keeping food moist and tender.

    Wrap your favorite seafood, meats, vegetables, and fruits in Fire & Flavor’s All Natural Western Red Cedar Papers. One hundred percent all-natural western red cedar was chosen because it provides the best flavor and compliments the widest variety of foods.

    You can use the grilling papers indoors, in the oven, stove-top skillet or pannini press; or outdoors on the grill without the need for wood chips.

    A package of eight single-use grilling papers, 6″ x 7.25″, and 8 cotton strings for tying is $8.99 at FireAndFlavor.com.

    Cedar papers are easy to use and can be prepared in four easy steps: soak, heat, smoke, eat.

     
    FOUR EASY STEPS

    1. Soak
    Soak the grilling papers in a shallow dish for 10 minutes. Use a small bottle to weight down the papers to keep them fully submerged. Cedar grill papers only need to be soaked long enough to become pliable, but it’s fine to soak for several hours before use. You can also soak in tequila, wine and other liquids—details below.
     
    2. Heat
    Heat a grill, oven or skillet to 400°F or medium-high heat. Place the food face down in the center of a soaked cedar paper, parallel to the grain of the wood. Fold the paper’s edges toward each other until they overlap. Tie the paper together with cotton string (included with the papers) or butcher’s twine; or place them seam side down on the grill grate, skillet or pan.

  • Place citrus slices or other flavor infusions below the fillets before wrapping. This will push more of their flavor into the food above them.
  •  
    3. Smoke
    Smoke the wrapped food directly on the grill grates or in the grill pan. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes per side until food is done to your liking (close the lid if using a grill). During cooking, the cedar papers will blacken. This makes for great presentation.

  • Cedar paper can withstand high heat because the cooking times are usually short: 6-8 ounce chicken fillets can be cooked in less than 10 minutes.
  • Food will continue to conce removed from grill, so remove it from the heat a minute or two early. If unsure about the cook time, use recipe-suggested cook times.
  •  
    4. Eat
    Place the packets on plates or a platter, bring to the table and enjoy. Cedar wrapped foods will stay warm and moist for long periods of time.

  • Drizzle flavored oils, vinegars, or citrus juice on the foods right after unwrapping.
  •  

    PILING ON THE FLAVOR

    You can soak the papers in any liquid you like. Experiment with these soaking ideas from the Fire & Flavor Test Kitchen, and dream up your own.

  • Soak the papers in tequila. Then wrap shrimp, crab or lobster with some mango salsa. The acid of tequila and sweetness of the salsa pair perfectly.
  • Soak the papers in white wine. The subtle flavor of the fish will be enhanced with cedar notes. Wrap any white fish with asparagus or your favorite green veggie.
  • Soak the papers in red wine. Then wrap more flavorful fish like salmon, sea bass or red snapper with sliced lemon and thyme. The bold flavor of these fish withstands the influence of lemon and red wine.
  • Soak the papers in saké. Think beyond fish and meat to your favorite vegetables. Wrap mushrooms with goat cheese and your favorite spices.
  • Soak the papers in juice. Citrus juices like orange or lime add refreshing flavors. Wrap a spiced salmon fillet with salsa in “juiced” papers.
  •  

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    Give cedar grilling paper as gifts to friends who cook. Photo courtesy Fire & Flavor.

     

    MORE COOKING TIPS

  • Nonstick Spray. Spray cedar papers with non stick spray before wrapping to prevent foods from sticking to the papers as they dry.
  • Indoor Grilling. Grill pans and panini presses with deep grill grooves allow for the best air circulation.
  • Best Flavor. Before closing the wrap, top fish with julienned vegetables and a spiced butter or rub. As the fish cooks, the flavors meld together with the smokey cedar.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sumac With Spiced Roasted Carrots

    This recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen was so breathtaking, we traipsed through three different farmers markets to hunt down the beautiful heirloom carrots (and finally found them at Trader Joe’s).

    The recipe gave us an excuse to purchase sumac, a slightly tart and fruity spice popular in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. We’d never worked with it, and we like lemony tartness. (More ways to use it are below.)

    RECIPE: SPICED ROASTED CARROTS

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 bunches rainbow carrots, peeled and trimmed, larger carrots halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •    

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    Who could refuse to eat their vegetables? Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

  • Flaky sea salt for finishing (check out Maldon sea salt, beautiful pyramid-shaped flakes)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F (220°C).

    2. STIR together the sumac, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes and salt in a small bowl.

    3. TOSS the carrots with the olive oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice blend on top of the carrots and toss until the spices are evenly distributed.

    4. HEAT a frying pan over medium heat until warm. Add the carrots and toss two or three times. Transfer to the oven and roast until the carrots are just tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

    5. TRANSFER to a serving dish and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately.

    Find more terrific recipes at Blog.Williams-Sonoma.com.

     

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    Sumac, a popular spice in the Middle East. Photo courtesy The Silk Road Spice Merchant.

     

    WHAT IS SUMAC?

    Sumac comprises some 35 species of flowering plants that grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world. If you were a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you likely learned to spot one of the varieties, the poison sumac shrub, in the woods. (Like poison ivy and poison oak, skin contact generates a nasty rash.)

    The fruits of the bush form in dense clusters of what we might call little round red berries—like holly berries—but are actually drupes. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice; the word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red.

    The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar.

    In Middle Eastern cuisine, sumac is used to add a lemony taste to meats and salads. It is used to garnish meze like hummus, and rice.

     
    Try it with recipes where you’d like lemony tartness as well as some bright red color.

    You can find sumac online or at Middle Eastern markets. If you can’t get hold of any, add some lemon juice. Its tart flavor is an alternative to the tart-sour sumac profile.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Add More Flavor To Everything You Grill

    Ready, set, grill! While you may have had the grill on for a while, Memorial Day is considered the launch of grilling season in the Northeast, where we live.

    McCormick & Company, a leader in what’s hot in flavor, has released a grilling edition of its 2015 Flavor Forecast, with links to yummy recipes.

    Of course, they have all the hot flavors you need to perk up your food, from burger mix-ins to marinades to seasoned grilling salts.

    The the hottest trends to enhance your grilled flavors all season are:

  • Backyard Brunch: Bacon, eggs and even donuts are grilled to add smoky flavor and and served outside.
  • Boss Burgers: Forget plain ketchup and sliced onions. Now, it’s all about the build. Add mix-ins to burgers, then build flavor with toppers and condiments like grilled avocado, mango slaw or lime mayo. Check out this Southwestern Smoky Ranchero Burger with Grilled Avocado and this Vietnamese Banh Mi Burger with Sriracha Mayo.
  •    

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    Grill your bacon and eggs, with spinach and Gruyère cheese. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • Grilling Salts: Shake up classic salt and pepper by adding other flavors to the shaker. McCormick makes it easy with pre-filled sea ssalt grinders. See more about them below, and use them to add texture and flavor.
  • Reverse Sear: There’ll be no more dry chicken coming off your grates with this technique. Check out this recipe for Sweet Soy Bourbon Chicken infused with bourbon, brown sugar and soy sauce.
  •  

    Chipotle-Sea-Salt-Blend-230

    Chipotle Sea Salt, one of four trending flavored sea salts available in grinders.
    Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
  • Smokin’ Veggie Starters: Most people love grilled veggies, but don’t wait for the main course and sides to serve them. For starters, try this Grilled Vegetable Antipasto Bruschetta, a fusion of Italian bruschetta on top of Middle Eastern hummus.
     
    GRILLING SALTS

    One of the easiest ways to add flavor, during and after cooking, is with seasoned salts.

    McCormick’s easy-to-use sea salt grinders are favorites of ours. Flavors include:

  • Chipotle Sea Salt Blend
  • Lemon Zest Sea Salt Blend
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Sweet Onion Sea Salt Blend
  •  
    As gifts for grilling hosts, we like to package all four inside a related gift like this Weber grilling basket that keeps mushrooms, chiles and other small vegetables from falling onto the coals

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Tahitian Vanilla

    The United States is the largest consumer of vanilla beans, using around 1,200 tons per year. Most of them are made into vanilla extract.

    Most of the real vanilla extract* used in the U.S. is Bourbon† vanilla, also called Madagascar vanilla.

    As a Mother’s Day gift for someone who loves to make desserts, how about one of the world’s finest vanillas?

    Everyone knows about Bourbon vanilla. It’s become standard in the U.S., available in bulk as well as quality brands.

    It comes from Madagascar and although vanilla extract contains some alcohol, Bourbon vanilla has nothing to do with the alcohol Bourbon.

    Rather, it’s named after the Bourbon rulers of France.
     
     
    *An astonishing 97% of all vanilla products are synthetic, made of paper by-products! Artificial vanilla has been around since the late 19th century. But, tempting as it is to save money, there’s nothing like the real thing
     
    †The term Bourbon applies to beans Madagascar and the neighboring Comoro, Réunion and Seychelles. There is no connection with the liquor produced in Kentucky in the United States. It is called Bourbon after the French House of Bourbon that ruled France from 1272 to 1830, ending with the French Revolution. The island now known as Réunion was named Île Bourbon in 1649 and renamed Réunion in 1793.

       

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    The most trusted name in vanilla. Nielsen-Massey sells beans and produces extract for Bourbon/Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian vanillas. Photo courtesy Nielsen-Massey.

     

    aust-tahiti-beans-230

    Tahitian vanilla beans. Got beans? Make your
    own vanilla extract
    . Photo by Claire Freierman
    | THE NIBBLE.

     

    THE FLAVOR OF DIFFERENT VANILLA BEANS

    Here are the differences from Nielsen-Massey, a family business that has been devoted to vanilla for three generations:

    Bourbon Or Madagascar Vanilla

    Character: sweet, creamy and mellow with velvety after-tones. The vanilla of choice with chocolate and cream.

    Use in: anything requiring vanilla. It’s the benchmark.
     
    Mexican Vanilla

    Character: sweet and creamy with a deep, spicy character. Often selected by chefs for an added level of finesse to chili, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, salsa and other spicy foods.

    Use in: cakes, frozen desserts, ginger snaps and other spiced cookies, hot chocolate.
     
    Tahitian Vanilla

    Character: fruity, anise-like flavor with floral notes. Use in cold or quickly-heated dishes; Tahitian vanilla’s delicate flavors don’t hold up well under extensive heating like baking.

     

    Use in: frozen and refrigerated desserts, fruit sauce, pastry creams, puddings and custards, shakes, smoothies.

     
    MORE ABOUT VANILLA

    Vanilla beans are also grown in Guatemala, Hawaii and the West Indies. Vanilla is a tropical plant, and can only grow 10 to 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

    Here’s everything you need to know about vanilla, including types of vanilla products, how to buy vanilla and the best vanilla extracts and beans.

      

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