Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Salt of the Earth

Seasoned Salts with Citrus, Herb & Spice Infusions

Welcome back fellow Gastronauts!

After a wonderful escape to visit friends in Nashville, I return with a new chapter to my never-ending story of food, life, the universe... and my little part of it! 

I wanted to give a few of my friends out there a little "thank you" for their hospitality and support in my writing of this blog. After raping and pillaging the garden of my best friend Stephen (thanks a gazillion!), I created a little something for them all to remember me by... behold my "Salt of the Earth"!

This is a simple but AMAZING selection of herbs and spices and citrus flavors... but as with everything that I do- it is all in the mix! Have a glass of water at the ready (salt IS pretty salty you know!) and try out your own combinations. If you feel that way inclined- here is a how I went about making it... it is pretty easy and makes for a great all-purpose seasoning for any number of summer dishes. Are you ready? Then let's go!

I started out with 3 basic spices: coriander and fennel seeds and chili flakes. I heated them in a dry pan until
the essential oils begun to do their thing and everything smelled wonderful... be sure not to overheat and burn them as the chili will take your breath away if you do!

Now you need the zest of your favorite citrus fruits. In my case I used lemon, lime AND orange zest. I used a zester and then chopped the thin strips of zest with a knife, but you could grate the zest with a microplane if you have one. The next step is to pound the toasted spices and the zest in a mortar and pestle. You want the spices to soak up the essential oils of the zest and the rough texture to help grind them up.

This is the part when you rape, pillage and generally wreck your own, or your best friends garden. Or go to the market or local grocery! In this case it was Stephen's rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, parsely, mint and lemon verbena... and plenty of it!

I chopped the herbs roughly and then popped them into a blender along with the spices and zest and my sea salt. Before I whizzed everything together, I added the secret ingredient... sugar. That's right! The thing that brings all of these flavors to life, is the crazy sensation they give on your tongue in combination with the sweet and salty base.

Tasting is believing! Whizz everything together and have a taste. Too salty? Add more sugar. Too sweet? Add more salt. It's as easy as that. The basic ratio of salty to sweet for my taste is 2 parts salt to 1 part sugar.

As you can see from my images, the end result is a moist flavored salt, which will taste wonderful on grilled meat, fish or salads. We tried it on potatoes and they were to die for!

If you don't like the fact that the salt is moist, let it rest for a few days and the salt will draw the moisture out of the other ingredients. If you want to do something awesome- put it on an oven tray and dry it out carefully. Keep your heat relatively low- but fear not if it is a little too high. What will happen then, is that the sugar will caramelize and make the whole thing even more delicious. It may clump together a little and need whizzing again in your machine... but what a small price for heaven!

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