Gremolata

Share your comments...

assorted_sauces

This is the world’s easiest condiment. Though traditionally an accompaniment to the Milanese classic Osso Bucco, gremolata can brighten up many dishes. I keep a jar on hand in the fridge, and use it whenever my dinner seems a bit boring. Sprinkle it over seafood, pork, game, t-bones, grilled salads , or bruschetta. I even use it to liven up pizza and pasta. You’ll find this and more in my new book,  SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon )

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

2 cups Italian parsley leaves

1 clove garlic

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Pinch black pepper

½ teaspoon unrefined salt- try any sel gris, Fiore di Sal, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with herbs, citrus, peppercorns, caper, anchovy, red wine vinegar, red wine, za’atar, or ash

Method

  1. Combine the parsley leaves, garlic, and zest on a cutting board and mince together into a dry paste. Add the salt and pepper at the end of mincing. Store airtight in the fridge for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

Variations

Regional Differences – There are some common versions of gremolata that include the addition of anchovies, grated Romano cheese, and toasted nuts. Ratios are left up to personal taste, but the general rule is that no one ingredient should overpower any of the others.

Persillade – This is the French version, which is contains no lemon zest—just parsley and garlic. It does, however, sometimes appear with olive oil or vinegar. I’d use a French salt here.

 

Kale Chips

Share your comments...

Kale_chips_Zucchini_Chips_Potato_Skins

I know—kale has morphed from the it-food to the hipster joke. But that’s a little unfair. It has been around for a long time, and not just as an ornamental plant. You all know by now that dark greens are the good ones, so lay off the jokes, and make these fantastic chips. They are salty, crisp, and (gasp) healthy. It’s another recipe from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon )

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients

1 pound curly kale, trimmed and torn into large but manageable bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined salt, divided – try Mali, Hana Flake, Alaea, smoked, or a salt infused with fresh herbs, fennel, paprika, seaweed, dashi, tea, sesame

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse and drain kale leaves, and pat or spin dry. Place in a large bowl and toss with oil and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  1. Arrange leaves in a single layer on several baking sheets (You’ll probably have to work in batches). Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking at the 5 minute mark to prevent burning (ovens vary—check for your own oven’s hot spot). The leaves should be still green, but browned on the edges. They will crisp a little more after they cool.
  1. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining salt. Cool completely, and serve. Store airtight at room temperature for a day or two.

Variations

Veggie Variations – Try this same method to “oven fry” thinly sliced root vegetables, like beets, parsnips, carrots. Use a mandolin to slice thin rounds, or a potato peeler for strips.

 

Sriracha Salt

Share your comments...

Infused_Hot_Salts

Here’s another excerpt from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).

I can’t explain the sudden popularity of this chile sauce. It’s been around since the early 20th century in Thailand, and has been available in the United States since 1980. The most popular brand in the US is made by Huy Fong Foods, a company that was started by Vietnamese refuge David Tran. He named his company after ship that brought him out of Vietnam. Also called “rooster sauce” because of the label design, demand has exceed supply so much that Tran doesn’t need to advertise. If you have jumped on the Sriracha bandwagon, this is the salt for you. Use it on anything that could use a spicy punch—popcorn, fried potatoes, ramen noodles, grilled seafood, and sliced tropical fruits.   I like to use a big flaked salt for this one, but it works with any salt you choose.

Ingredients

1-2 tablespoons Sriracha

1 cup unrefined sea salt

Method

  1. Stir the chile sauce and the salt together thoroughly. Spread out into a thin layer on a dry sheet to pan and set in the sun for 1-2 days, until dry. Alternatively you can dry it in an oven set 100° F, or a dehydrator overnight, or until dry. When completely dry, break up any clumps with your fingers or a spoon, and transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid.

 

 

Variations

 

Hot Sauce Salt – You can use any chile or hot sauce you like for this recipe. My favorite is Green Tabasco!

 

Chile-Lime Salt – Make a lime salt first ( page xx) then mix it with the chile sauce and dry as directed here.

 

Soy Salt – Use a strong soy sauce or ponzu, and proceed as directed. Use it anywhere you would use soy sauce for a strong, pungent kick at the top of each bite.

 

Fish Sauce Salt – Replace the chile sauce with this ancient salty fish sauce (these days seen most frequently in Thai cooking) and proceed as directed. Use it on grilled seafood, meat, and vegetables for a burst of umami.

 

 

Ash Infused Salt

Share your comments...

Smoked_Salt

Smoked salt is popular, as is anything with a smoky flavor. But the use of ash is popping up more and more too. Mixed with a great coarse salt, ash makes a fantastic finish, and adds a hint of outdoor cooking (which is especially nice when you’re stuck in a tiny apartment in winter). The world’s top restaurants are harnessing the bitter smokiness of ash on everything from marinades and rubs to crunchy, crumbled garnishes for vegetables, soups, and desserts. The ash in question is typically made from an indigenous edible grass, herbs, or wood. First time ashers should use familiar edibles—rosemary, thyme, sage—dried in whole bunches, which you can do in your kitchen by hanging them upside down for a few days.

You’ll find more infused salt recipes in my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).

Ingredients

1 large bunch of dried rosemary, thyme, or sage

1 cup unrefined sea salt

Method

Place the dried plant material on a large sheet of foil. Working away from anything flammable, preferably in a BBQ or fireplace, light the material on fire. Hold a screen, frying pan, or lid a foot above the flame to catch any ash that may float away.   Let it burn completely, then cool and transfer the ash to a small bowl. Add half the salt, mix to combine, then add the rest of the salt. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for at least 1 hour before using, to concentrate the smokiness.

Kimchi

Share your comments...

Kimchi

In addition to being obsessed with salt, I am currently enamored by fermentation, and the zillion ways you can vary a simple recipe like Kimchi.  This is a fairly classic version, but see the Variations for some interesting green alternatives. It’s another excerpt from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).

I use a kimchi pot made by a friend of mine, Chef Glen Ochi—who is a potter when he is not teaching culinary arts. But don’t worry! If you don’t have a kimchi pot you can still make your own kimchi. See the Variations for those instructions.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coarse unrefined salt – use any coarse sea salt, or look for coarse Korean sea salt, sometimes labeled Korean kimchi salt, or a medium grind of Himalayan or Bolivian rock salt.

1 quart water

1 head of garlic, chopped roughly

4 green onions, chopped

1-3 teaspoons dried Korean chile, (or red chili flake)

1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 yellow onion

1 pound daikon (Korean radish or Mu), which is about ½ of a large daikon

1 head Napa cabbage

Method

  1. Stir together salt and water, and set aside, stirring occasionally, until salt is dissolved.
  1. In a mortar or food processor combine the garlic, green onions, chile, and ginger. Puree to a rough paste.   Transfer to a large bowl.
  1. Slice thin the yellow onion, daikon, and cabbage, and add to the bowl. Add the salt water (which should now be a brine) and begin kneading and squeezing the cabbage until it wilts. (You might want gloves here.)
  1. Place the vegetables into a kimchi pot, and press down so that the brine rises up. Place a weight on top (most pots come with a ceramic weight), so that there are no vegetables floating on the surface. Put the lid on and fill the rim with water. (Kimchi pot lids have a gutter for water, which keeps the bad stuff out while letting the internal gas from fermentation to escape.) Leave the pot at room temperature for three days. Replace the water on top as necessary. On the third day, open the lid and taste your kimchi. If it tastes good to you, transfer it to airtight containers and store in the refrigerator.   If it lacks excitement, leave it another day. (If it tastes horrible, well, something went wrong, or you just don’t like kimchi.) Serve it along side your Korean BBQ, put it on your hot dog, or add it to your noodles (hot or cold), fried rice, or scrambled eggs.

Variations

Jar Kimchi – If you lack a kimchi pot, fill large canning jars with your kimchi mixture. Press the vegetables under the brine and weight it using a super clean, sterilized rock. (I sterilize my rocks by running them through the dishwasher.) Put the lid on and continue with the instructions as written.

Green Options – You can add so many different greens, it’s impossible for me to list them all. But whatever else you add, be sure you have at least 30% cabbage for the proper texture. I like using chard, mustard greens, kale, wild curly dock, lambs quarter, watercress, or a mixture of cabbages.

Veggie Additives – Feel free to add other veggies to your kimchi (as long as you still have 30% cabbage). You will frequently see any number of onion variations, including shallots, leeks, and garlic chives. Grated carrot, sliced cucumbers, any kind of radish, fresh chiles or sweet peppers are also common additives. Get creative, and use what you have on hand.

 

Salted Truffles

Share your comments...

Chocolate_Caramel_Fudge

 

Truffles are nothing but ganache, which is a basic culinary technique every cook should know. It’s super easy, and super-versatile. Once you master it (which doesn’t take long) the possibilities are endless.  The recipe is nothing new. Here, though, I finish them with a pinch of artisan salt, which has replaced the coating of cocoa powder and drizzles of chocolate that have long been standard.  The sweet-salt burst is unforgettable, and irresistible.

This is just a snippet from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).

Ingredients

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon unrefined salt – try a fine grind Himalayan, Bolivian, or Mongolian rock salt, any good flake salt, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with matcha, vanilla, bourbon, red wine, lavender, rose, sweet spice, or orange

1 cup heavy cream

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place half in a clean dry bowl and set is aside. Place the other half in a bowl along with the butter, vanilla, and ½ teaspoon salt. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate-butter bowl. Shake the bowl so that that all the chocolate is submerged, then set aside, untouched, for 5 minutes.
  1. At the 5-minute mark whisk smooth.   Set the ganache aside to set. You can refrigerate it here is you are in a hurry. As soon as the ganache is firm, form it into small balls, either by hand, or using a 1/6-1/4 ounce ice cream scoop, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill for 10 minutes.
  1. Melt remaining chocolate over a double boiler. Have at the ready a trivet, or something to set the hot pot on, a clean tray lined with parchment paper, and a few sheets of extra parchment paper. Remove the double boiler from the heat and set it on the trivet. Drop chilled truffles into the melted chocolate. Fish them out with a fork, then tap the fork on the edge of the pot, encouraging the excess chocolate to drip back into the pot. Now rub the fork along the extra sheets of parchment to clean the foot, and finally place on the clean, parchment lined tray. Immediately sprinkle with another tiny pinch of salt. Repeat with the remaining balls of ganache. Because the chocolate is not tempered, store these in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I like to serve them in small candy cups, or on a clean, dry salt block.

Variations

Dip-Free – instead of dipping the ganache balls in melted chocolate, you can serve them the original way, rolled in cocoa powder to simulate the dirt on the outside of the truffle fungus.   (Leave it to the French to make dirt appealing.) You can also roll it in powdered sugar, finely ground espresso beans, finely ground toasted nuts, or toasted coconut. You can even mix your salt into these powders for an amazing effect.

Spiced – There are a million other ways to flavor dark chocolate truffles, but with the salt I like to keep it simple. If you are really feeling exotic, though, try adding ½ teaspoon of cardamom, ground toasted anise, or your favorite chile powder.

 

Classic Panna Cotta

Share your comments...

Vanilla_Panna_Cotta

Here’s a great dessert that requires no oven, which is key as the weather heats up.  It’s from my book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).  This is one of those recipes that make you feel powerful. It is super-fancy, but super-easy. If vanilla is just too plain for you, see the Variations for more flavor ideas than you can shake a stick at—or a bean, as it were.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons water

2 ½ teaspoons (¼ ounce envelope) unflavored gelatin, (or 4 sheets gelatin)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

½ teaspoon unrefined salt – try Maldon, French fleur de sel, Italian fiores de sel, or a salt infused with rose, citrus, vanilla, chocolate, espresso, lavender, sesame, anise, or cognac

  1. Place the water in a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it sit for 5 minutes, until absorbed and solidified.   (If using sheet gelatin, increase the water and soak the sheets, submerged, for 1-2 minutes.) Prepare individual molds with a light coating of pan spray. (I usually spray, then wipe out the excess, so nothing but a thin film remains.)
  1. Combine the heavy cream, half and half, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat.   Add solidified gelatin (or squeezed limp sheets) to warm cream and stir until completely dissolved. Pour into prepared molds, and chill for 1 hour, or until firm. (Overnight is fine, too.)
  1. To unmold, wet your thumb and run it around the top of the custard, where it attaches to the mold. Press down to let some air into the bottom, which will release the vacuum. Unmold onto serving plates and serve with fresh seasonal fruit and a final sprinkle of salt.

Variations

Infused Cream – As you may have guessed, the flavor best enters the panna cotta via infusion with the cream. When added this way, the ingredients will not alter the preferred, creamy texture of the finished product. For this reason, the best flavors to use include toasted nuts, coffee, tea (matcha, hoji-cha, chai, earl grey), spices (cinnamon stick, star anise, crushed cardamom pods), herbs (lavender, thyme, mint, basil) or citrus zest (try lemon with rosemary). All of these can be added to the warm cream, steeped for several hours, or overnight, then strained out.   Potent extracts work too, but be careful, as their flavors are usually obviously artificial. For best results, consider mixing them with a natural flavor. Try almond and orange flower water, or saffron and rose water.

Puree Additions – For flavors that have some texture, like pumpkin puree, strawberry jam, or goat cheese, some adjustment will need to be made. Add no more than a cup, and increase the gelatin by half again as much (for a total of 3 ¾ teaspoons, 1 ½ packets, or 6 sheets).

Savory – Omit the sugar and make a savory cream for an amazing appetizer or side dish. Try corn, chunky shrimp, roasted chiles, dried mushrooms, or foie gras.

 

 

Sweet Rhubarb and Watermelon Pickles

Share your comments...

pickled

Just in time to enjoy the summer’s bounty, I bring you a great pickling recipe from my new book, Salt: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen, which hits the shelves on Sept 6. I love these sweet fruity pickles as a balancing accompaniment to salty charcuterie dishes, or as a tart, balancing feature to super-sweet desserts. Also, I like them right out of the jar, as I stand in front of the fridge.   You can make the two separately, but I like the essence of summer they evoke together. The charred spices add a layer of sophistication that powdered dry spices simply can’t.

Ingredients

4 cups rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 2-inch lengths

4 cups of the white meat of the watermelon rind (Use a potato peeler to remove the tough green skin)

1 cup water

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt—try Sal de Mara, Murray River, Panngasinan, or Japanese Shio

1 soft Mexican cinnamon stick

3-4 star anise

Method

  1. Combine rhubarb and watermelon rind in decorative jars, or plastic containers with fitted lids.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  1. Using tongs, hold the cinnamon sticks and star anise over an open flame, until they ignite. Allow to burn for a few seconds, until charred, then drop them into the pickling liquid. Pour the liquid—spices and all—over the rhubarb and watermelon. Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 day. The texture stays crisp for about a week. After a while, when you find they are too soft, add them into your favorite relish, chow chow, or chutney recipe.

Variations

Fennel – Sliced raw fennel bulb makes an equally enticing pickle using this recipe. I add the chopped fennel fronds to the mix as well.

Carrot – Try this same recipe with slices, or long julienne shreds of carrot. Add some ginger into the brine for fun. And why not try it with rainbow carrots. Yellow and orange together make a bold statement. Purple carrots bleed their color onto the others during curing, so soak them in a separate container.

Radish – Standard radishes, with red skin and white meat, turn a lovely shade of pink in this brine.

Quickest Cucumber Pickles

Share your comments...

pickled

ICYMI, my new book, Salt: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen comes out in just a few weeks. In honor of this momentous event, and because we are in the height of the summer growing season, I thought I’d offer up a couple excerpts that you can use right now. First up, Quick Cucumber Pickles.

If you have a green thumb, you might be experiencing a sudden abundance of cucumbers right about now. These easy pickles are a crisp and salty accompaniment to sandwiches, Asian noodles, barbecue meats, grilled fish, or your standard hot dog. Best of all, they really are quick. Lickety-split!

Ingredients

3-4 pickling cucumbers, cleaned and sliced

1 red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt – try French or Arabian Fleur de Sel, Japanese Shio, Korean Sogum, or any one the great smoked salts that are available, such as Pacific Northwest Alder Wood Salt, or Hawaiian Guava Wood Salt.

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  1. Combine cucumbers, onion, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Toss to coat, then refrigerate for 1 hour, tossing every 15 minutes to ensure even curing.
  1. Rinse off the salt, then soak the cucumber and onions in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain, then toss together with dill and olive oil. Serve well chilled. If you like your quick pickles a bit more tangy, finish with a teaspoon of rice vinegar or lemon juice.

Gingerbread Houses (and other structures)

Share your comments...

I have confessed my love for gingerbread many times, but I am not sure if you know about my obsession with gingerbread construction. It is problematic at best.

It started when I was a pastry chef, making centerpieces for the restaurants I worked in. Now our projects represent our summer vacation. Guess where we went this year …
mt rushmore
Don’t feel compelled to go crazy like me. (I once did the Taj Mahal.) Simple houses are fine, too.

The best gingerbread for construction is made with cheap but fragrant materials. I use shortening instead of butter because I don’t plan to eat it. But if you use this recipe for edible gingerbread men, substitute butter for the shortening, and cut the spice quantity in half. Here I have added more spice than I would want to eat (for its room-freshening ability).

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 TB. cinnamon
1 TB. ginger
1 tsp. clove
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup water

METHOD

  1. Beat together shortening and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add molasses and mix to incorporate.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients and add them alternately with the water to the molasses mixture .
  3. Divide the dough evenly into thirds, then press each piece between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll with a rolling pin to create an even sheet of dough about 1/4-inch thick. Chill sheets in the fridge or freezer until firm, at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place one parchment-packaged sheet of dough on a baking sheet and carefully peel off the top piece of parchment. Cut out the pattern pieces for your structure. To keep them in shape, remove the excess dough around them rather than moving the pieces themselves. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet. Repeat until you have all the pieces you need. Excess dough can be re-rolled, chilled, and cut as needed.
  5. Bake pieces until slightly puffed and firm, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Meanwhile, make the Royal Icing ‘glue’.

Royal Icing:
2 egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1-1/2 to 2 lb. powdered sugar, sifted

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to medium peaks. Slowly add in sifted powdered sugar until the icing is thick and holds its shape. (The amount needed will vary with sugar brands, and the moisture content of the egg whites.) Icing can be thinned (if necessary) with a few drops of water.

  1. Assemble the structure on a serving platter or stiff board. Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and fill the bag halfway with royal icing. Pipe a fat strip along the wrong side of the vertical edges of the front of the house. The two side pieces are then butted up against these strips of icing and held in place for 30-60 seconds. Re-enforce the inside joint with a bit more icing. Pipe similar strips on the wrong side of the back of the house, and press the back wall up against the two side pieces. Allow to set and harden for at least 1 hour.
  2. Pipe icing along one side of the roof line, and set one roof piece on top. Allow to set 30-60 minutes. Repeat on the other side of the roof. Again, allow to set 30-60 minutes.
  3. Use remaining icing to decorate your house as you see fit. Glue on candies, make icing icicles, pipe architectural features, or leave it simple and just give it a light dusting of powdered sugar snow.
Top