ROSA’S MUSINGS: SPICE UP YOUR DISHES WITH HOMEMADE FLAVORED SALTS
Salt plays an important role in our daily life. Not only is it a vital substance for all living creatures, as it regulates the water content of our body, but it is also makes food taste better. Nobody can survive or cook without sodium chloride.
Unfortunately, in modern times, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that this crystalline mineral is a source of evil and at the origin of many of our health problems, thus you read everywhere that it must be avoided at any cost. There is absolutely no doubt about the controversial nature of this staple as it never ceases to be vehemently discussed about both in the medical and culinary world. An endless debate.
The good news is that it is not your enemy (have a look at this Daily Mail article). Of course, one should always consume it in reasonable quantities* and favor quality, hence it is our duty to steer clear of sodium-laden and harmful prepackaged or junk food (loaded with nasty sodium) as well as table salt (linked to high blood pressure and other heart or blood disease) crammed with additives and stripped of essential companion elements (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine).
Natural sea salt is beneficial for your well-being and highly savory; therefore it is the perfect replacement for that insipid, dangerous, abominable and industrially produced muck (check out this interesting read & this one).
A flavoured salt is one of the simplest and most basic ways of finishing a dish – it’s so easy and tasty, yet hardly anyone does it.–Jamie Oliver
Although this subject is captivating, I’m not going to speak about nutrition today, but will focus on salt as a flavor exhauster and on how one can use it to create extraordinary, refined and glamorous condiments that enhance as well as complement a dish. You might have guessed it, I am speaking about those colorful flavored salts that are all the rage in the culinary world right now.
* To control your salt intake, add sea salt to your food only after you have cooked it. You’ll be able to taste if you’re getting too much. In any case, I believe that if you have a need for salty grubs, then it is that your organism which controls your cravings.
Salt and seasonings are my big addiction. I would not be able to live without them as I cannot imagine enjoying a chow that is so awfully bland, lacks soul or oomph. My taste buds need to be constantly challenged; otherwise the fanciful eater that I am gets terribly frustrated.
Pungent spice blends are heavenly and elevate cooking to another level. That is exactly what flavored salts do. They are so versatile and can spruce up just about anything, thus they have the power to completely transform a recipe, the perfect addition to your kitchen pantry and a great gift for any occasion.
Nowadays, you can purchase them from any deli, supermarket, corner store and market merchant. They might not be a rarity, but generally store-bought flavored salts are quite expensive. It is the reason why I highly recommend you to prepare them at home as they cost a lot less and you can let your imagination go wild (no limitations) as well as have buckets full of fun during the process.
In order to facilitate your task, I have gathered some useful information and tips that might come in handy when developing your own formulas.
Which Salts To Choose:
Coarse or fine sea salts – preferably unrefined (grey) - as well as gourmet rock salts such as sel de Guérande, Himalayan Salt, Hawaiian Salt, Murray River Salt, Persian Blue Salt, Kala Namak, etc. And why not go for a smoked salt too!
For more information check out this salt glossary.
Which seasonings to use:
- Dried herbs (curry leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, etc.)
- Whole or powdered spices, lightly toasted or not (cumin, coriander, saffron, vanilla, five spice, garam masala, curry, smoked paprika, allspice, mustard, wasabi, celery, onion powder, garlic powder, etc.).
- Dried mushrooms, ground (porcini, truffle, shitake, morels, etc.)
- Toasted nuts, chopped finely (almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, etc.)
- Toasted seeds, chopped finely, if necessary (pumpkin, sesame, poppy seeds, sunflower, etc.)
- Grated zests, dried (orange, lime, lemon, tangerine, kumquat, etc.)
- Dried fruits, chopped (coconut, dried tomatoes, goji berries, etc.)
- Dried edible flowers, whole or petals, ground, chopped or entire (rose, dandelion, lavender, pansies, tulips, violets, geraniums, etc.)
- Miscellaneous (coarsely ground popcorn, vinegar powder, dried & finely chopped seaweed, ground cocoa, ground coffee, tea, squid ink, etc.).
In which ratio:
1/4 cup seasonings to 3/4 cup salt
Nonetheless, you can play around with the concentration of aromas, according to your personal taste.
Which method for combining the ingredients:
In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients (certain ingredients such as nuts, seeds and flowers can be added once the salt has been blended). Give it a few pulses, until thoroughly mixed. This will result in a fine mixture.
Some people like coarse-textured flavored salts. If that’s your case, ensure yourself that the aromatic ingredients have been chopped/pounded as finely as possible and then just combine all the ingredients by hand.
Which is the best use for flavored salts:
Sprinkle on chips, potato wedges/fries, salads, steamed vegetables, pasta, meat, seafood, over soups, in sandwiches or incorporate to spreads, dips, sauces and dressings.
- Herb salts: poultry, fish, beef, veal, pork, lamb, rubs, vegetables, soups, stews, braises, stuffings, breads, eggs, rice, pasta, dipping oils, dressings and dips.
- Spicy salts: beef, veal pork, poultry, fish, eggs, rice, popcorn, soups, stews, rubs, pasta, potatoes, sauces, couscous, dips, dressings and dipping oils.
- Mushroom salt: beef, veal pork, poultry, eggs, rice, popcorn, soups, pasta, potatoes, cream sauces and dipping oils.
- Nutty salts: vegetables, breads, rice, soups, dips and salad dressings.
- Seedy salts: vegetables, breads, soups, dips and salad dressings.
- Citrus salts: fish, seafood, chicken, potatoes, rice, pasta and salad dressings.
- Fruit salts: tagines, couscous, Middle Eastern dishes, poultry, beef, veal, pork, lamb and rice.
- Floral salts: vegetables, dressings, dips, beef, chicken, pork, lamb, veal, rice and soups.
Recipes Around The Web:
Indian Spicy Salt by Todd’s Blog
Jamie Oliver’s Flavoured Salts by The Purple Foodie
Lemon Fennel Chili Flavored Salt by Syrie Wongkaew
Seasoned Salt by Diana Rattray
Smoky Spiced Salt With Orange by The LA Times
Spiced Porcini Mushroom Salt by Gilt Taste
Spiced Salt by Food & Wine
Spiced Salt by The New York Times
Virgin Islands Spiced Salt by The Spice House