We both love spice and I regularly employ all sorts of hot peppers in the kitchen, but jalapeño receives the lion’s share of our attention. Never keen on letting fresh ingredients go to waste (nor exercising self-restraint in the garden or at the market when produce is in season + the price is right), I set off on an adventure to save the latest collection of chillies.
As with many topics of culinary history, the origin of cooking foods encased in salt is up for debate. Several cultures lay claim to the invention — from the Iberian Spaniards and Portuguese, to the Mediterranean Italians and Greeks, and further east to the ancient Persians and Chinese.
Whatever the truth, salt-baking, or salt-roasting, has stood the test of time. Similar to tagines and clay pots, this centuries-old method traps steam heat to infuse moisture, amplify flavor and retain nutrients. So remarkably tender and succulent are the foods cooked inside these paradoxical salt igloos, that this otherwise humble technique has even been likened to the light-years-more-high-tech magic of sous vide.
Herbes de Provence is a blend of dried herbs from the Provençal countryside in southern France. Thyme, rosemary and oregano are musts. Savory and marjoram typically find their way in as well. Maybe basil, fennel, chervil, sage, bay or dill. These are the foundation of herbes de Provence, but what makes it truly unique is the mild floral sweetness of dried lavender buds.
Combining a handful of these signature flavors with your best salt adds up to a versatile seasoning that can transform dishes in the kitchen or at the table. And it’s brilliant with so many things.
In the kitchen use it on meats, poultry and seafood, mixed with pasta or grains, veg or eggs, or in place of salt in vinaigrettes or sauces. It can also be the final flourish to salads or soups, and goes superbly with other staples of these regions like roasted potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, grilled lamb and chicken, chickpeas, and soft fresh goat and sheep milk cheeses.
If you’ve followed the HGN Blog for some time now, you maybe noticed my love for lemon. From the delicate shavings of zest to its fresh tart juice, lemon is a kitchen constant, bringing life and character to savory dishes, sweet treats and everything in between. Learning the technique of preserving lemons took things to a whole new level.
Before the advent of modern refrigeration, consistently hot and arid regions of the world turned to simple, ingenious preservation methods to deal with a scarcity and short lifespan of fresh ingredients. In areas surrounding the Mediterranean, one of the first on record is brining lemons in a mixture of salt, their own juices and a bit of water. This process not only increases “shelf-life,” it also yields softer fruit with far less of the usual puckery bite, offering a wider variety of culinary uses.
If there’s one thing I love more than lemons, it’s kitchen frugality!
The holidays are only a short ways off, meaning it’s time to start thinking about gifts. At the very least, it’s time to start thinking of ideas for everyone on your list — stocking stuffers, party favors, hostess gifts, gifts for coworkers or maybe your child’s teacher.
Today I’m sharing a unique idea that you might assume is something best left to the experts, when in actuality is incredibly easy to make at home, with no special equipment other than a food processor.
Homemade basil-infused salt.