August 08, 2012

You must make this now (fragrant Tuscan herb salt)

We just returned to Seattle after a month away. Most of the time was spent in Madison, Wis., but we drove there from Seattle, which means we spent four days in the car each way. I have lots of stuff to post (or not post) from our trip, but I want to start by sharing an amazing seasoning I learned about in the car on the drive back to Seattle. I have to say we didn't cook much — maybe not at all — in Madison. We ate out all the time with friends or just by ourselves, partly because we were lazy, and partly because it was so hot a lot of the time that cooking seemed too hard. I guess we didn't totally forget about cooking though, because on the car trip home we were listening to a podcast of The Splendid Table. The host, Lynne Rossetto Kaspar was talking to Sally Schneider about making herb salt, and as Ms. Schneider described her technique for crafting the salt, I could hardly sit still  — I wanted to make it right away.

As Ms. Schneider described the process of chopping garlic, kosher salt and herbs together, I could almost smell the aroma wafting through the car. I knew making herb salt was going to be a priority the minute we arrived home. As I type this, the aroma of the herbs and garlic is billowing around me as the mixture dries in a dish near the window in my work room. The fragrance is inspirational.

I'm not a big salt user, preferring to use minimal amounts to bring out flavor rather than impart a salty taste. My taste buds are used to little salt, and too much masks the flavor of food, in my opinion. The herb salt adds a new dimension of flavor without adding extra salt to a dish. It's so full of herbs and garlic, you can use less salt. For my herbs I used sage, rosemary, golden oregano, and tarragon, and I used the food processor method. I made half a recipe using 1/4 cup of kosher salt, two cloves of garlic and 1 cup of herbs.

I used the fragrant herb salt for the first time last night to add depth to a quinoa tabooli I was bringing to a potluck. (Couldn't wait for it to finish drying so I used it partly dry.) I cooked 2 cups of quinoa in 3-1/2 cups of water and broth. I didn't follow a recipe for the tabooli, just added the ingredients you'd expect to find, such as a large cucumber, a handful of chopped grape tomatoes, lemon juice from a large lemon, four chopped scallions, a handful of parsley and of mint, and a little olive oil, plus ingredients I felt like having, like raisins — and a teaspoon of herb salt. It was served on a large platter surrounded by stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes, olives, hummus and carrots, and was well-received.

Today, I had some leftover tabooli and olives for breakfast, and was amazed at how fantastic it tasted. I could really notice the herbal notes and I think it may have been the most delicious quinoa salad I've ever had.



If you would like to make herb salt, (and why wouldn't you?) here's a video of Sally Schneider telling you how. (If you could smell what I'm smelling right now, you'd make it immediately!) If you prefer to just read the recipe for Fragrant Tuscan Herb Salt, you can find it here. I suggest reading the recipe after watching the video to get the correct proportions of ingredients, because she makes a much smaller quantity in the video. Enjoy!

Note about salt: Different salts have different sodium contents by volume, so read the nutrition info on the package and compare. I know that kosher salt has less sodium by volume because of its large grain size, but I didn't realize how much variation there was among coarse salts in general. Kosher salt has the least sodium content by volume, but I found a very coarse sea salt with a comparable amount of sodium, and that's what I used. By volume, I mean when measured out by teaspoon rather than by weight. Kosher salt's large grains contain less sodium than fine salt when measured by volume. However, I found coarse sea salts that seemed to have the same grain size as kosher salt, but more sodium, even though all the measurements were the same (per 1/4 teaspoon).

Some comparisons of sodium per 1/4 teaspoon of salt: 
Diamond kosher salt = 280 mg
Lima Atlantic sea salt (coarse) = 330 mg
Selena Naturally light grey Celtic sea salt (coarse) = 410 mg
Morton fine sea salt = 560 mg

28 comments:

  1. This sounds terrific! I'll show it to Mike and perhaps we'll make it. I'm not a big salt person, either, and prefer very little in my meals. I think I'd love this. :)

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    1. I wish I could incorporate smells into the blog — the herb salt is better than any room freshener could ever be. :)

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  2. That sounds absolutely heavenly. I really want to make some of this! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You should definitely make some. You could probably make vanilla bean salt to sub for regular salt in baking. Maybe add some lemon balm.

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  3. oh my gosh that sounds amazing! and i love the tabooli!

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    1. Thanks! I think this is my new favorite tabooli.

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  4. This looks so good! I love flavored salts. Adding a little pinch on soup just before serving adds a delightful pop of flavor. I'm definitely going to make this!

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    1. This is the first time I've made my own flavored salt. I've seen them at the farmers market for exorbitant prices but now I have lots of ideas for making my own varieties.

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  5. Welcome back! Whenever I'm away I don't cook much either - it's not your kitchen and it's just easier on everyone to eat out. But wow, that herb salt looks great! I can see myself sprinkling that on everything. :-)

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    1. Thanks! Actually it kind of was my kitchen, since it's in the house we used to live in but now rent out. And it's a wonderful kitchen. But it's weird to cook when you have no pantry staples, and don't want to accumulate a bunch of stuff. And it was so HOT!

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  6. I don't have time to watch the video right now, but I trust your clearly written method. It sounds great. I was surprised when I read that it was a salt recipe because I know how little you use salt, so this must be a really good recipe. Glad to hear you're back in the cooler Northwest!

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    1. I'll sub the herb salt for the same amount of salt I normally use, but it will add a lot more flavor. At least I think it will. It sure worked in the quinoa! I think the recipe is great, and I highly recommend the video.

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  7. mmm this looks great Andrea. I don't eat much that has salt added, so I do like adding really good quality salts for that extra flavor. with fresh herbs, even better. now i just need to grow some.

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    1. I don't add much salt either, but now my little salt addition will pack more flavor. Different salts have different sodium contents, so read the nutrition info and compare. Kosher salt has the least but I found a very coarse sea salt with a comparable amount. Some of them were very high. Maybe I should add this to the post.

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  8. Andrea! You should have contacted me before your drive back...we could have gone to Ecopolitan or French Meadow or something on your way through MN :-) It would have been fun.

    I made a lemon rosemary salt for my mom and sister a few years ago for some holiday or another, and they both really liked it! Thank you for the reminder--I will make some herbed salt for them again soon. They are both salt fiends. Like you, I can't tolerate much salt so I never use it--I think it would go to waste in my kitchen!

    Courtney

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    1. I thought of it, but we came the S. Dakota route and didn't go through Minneapolis. If we drive again we'll take the N. Dakota route and meet up with you!

      Lemon rosemary sounds like a good combo. I use very little salt, so I just hope it doesn't loose its flavor before I use it up.

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  9. that looks just beautiful. I have a bit of a salt tooth, so I love anything that can help me cut down the amount I use is really appreciated!

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    1. Joey, I think you would love this, especially if you enjoy salt. It has so much body and flavor. You know if you cut down on salt you become accustomed to less, and you no longer like the taste of salty food.

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  10. That does sound amazing. Must give it a try!

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    1. The smell was as good as the taste — double rewards for making it! And it was really easy.

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  11. I've just forwarded this post to my friend, the queen of herbs; I hope she shares the fruits of her labor!
    PS The day someone brings a platter of food to my house looking that divine, I'll plotz.

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    1. If she doesn't, you could make some ... it's so easy.

      And, if it makes you feel any better, the grape leaves were from Costco, though I did cut the carrots myself. :)

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  12. So cool! I listened to Splendid Table on walks with our dog Vee and was also riveted by this, but I didn't have the follow through. Yours looks so good! I don't cook with rosemary and sage very often, so I'll have to think about what I might like to use. Maybe just garlic, lime zest and cilantro??

    xo
    kittee

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    1. I think I was particularly obsessed because I was trapped in a car for four days, and making herb salt seemed so much better than that. I don't usually use sage and rosemary either, and I added some extra herbs from my garden, but I've been using this stuff left and right. I think your idea is a good one, though I've found cilantro can lose a lot of flavor when it dries.

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  13. I'm salivating. I love salt way too much.

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    1. Well then, you should make some herb salt! This salt add lots of flavor with less sodium, if you use it measure for measure.

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  14. I recently uploaded smellavision and it was definitely worth it for this post.
    I love sodium...there I said it. This is a must make. and I am a fan of sage and rosemary. Thank you for posting.

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    1. Oooooo, smellavision is just what I need for blog-browsing. Can you please send a link?

      Sometimes I just take the lid off the herb salt jar and sniff. Mostly, though, I add it to food. :)

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