The Power of Salt

salt revolution


Remember when salt used to come only from those large cylindrical containers, and it was really just an afterthought, casually sprinkled atop your bland meal? I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along this crazy foodie journey I ended up with six different kinds of salt that currently live on my kitchen counter (not to mention the salt block, for full-on salt cooking), and deciding which salt pairs with which dish is one of the toughest parts of cooking dinner.

I recently received a package of Salt Revolution’s Aztec Sea Salt, and I have to say this is one of my favorite ones yet. Harvested from Mexico’s Cuyutlán Lagoon over a 45-day period each year, it’s sorted by hand in small packages, and combines a beautiful, subtle salty flavor with just the right amount of crunch — it comes in big, flaky pieces, much smoother than a jagged piece of rock salt, so it settles in your mouth in just the right way. Their small-batch approach means that each harvesting season they sell salt until their supply is gone; you can sign up to find out when the new batch is available.

Adapting a dough recipe from one of my go-to cookbooks, The New Spanish Table, I whipped up this coca-dough flatbread, topped with onions, rosemary, pine nuts, pancetta and goat cheese…and of course, some finishing salt sprinkled on top!

Sea Salt Flatbread

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Salt Block Root Beer Steak


You’re probably wondering what a salt block root beer steak is, and you’d be right to, because well..until now, that has definitely not been a thing.

Here’s what happened: I had two exciting new products burning a whole in my kitchen, waiting to be used.

1) My still unused Christmas present: a Himalayan pink salt block from the Meadow. Salt blocks allow you to cook foods at 600-degree temperatures, while the salt rapidly sears proteins, caramelizes sugar, and yes, adds a wee bit of salty deliciousness. By the way, this is how beautiful it looks before you get into the nitty gritty of grilling on it:

salt block

2) A bottle of McCormick Root Beer Concentrate that came my way as part of McCormick’s Flavor of Together program, a yearlong initiative to share 1.25 million stories about how flavor both unites and defines people across the globe.

So, what exactly is root beer concentrate? Well, it’s kind of like vanilla extract, except instead of vanilla it adds a dash of root beer flavor to whatever you’re cooking.

In 1889, Willoughby M. McCormick went door to door selling one of McCormick & Company’s first products, Root Beer Extract. From there, the product quickly rose in popularity and led to a trending sensation of root beer floats and root beer home brewing in the early 1900s. In 2014, McCormick marks its 125th anniversary by celebrating the role flavor plays in all of our lives, inspiring flavorful conversation, and giving back to communities around the world. They asked me to come up with my own Root Beer Concentrate recipe…and clearly I was not going to make a plain old root beer float.

I’ve glazed meat in coke before, so I figured, why not root beer meat?

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It’s ‘National Something’ Day!!!


Nuts! I missed it again! Just like last year I woke up too hung over to remember that it was National Tequila Day. And each time this glorious day is celebrated I think back to that little neighborhood bar that I stumbled into 5 years ago. It was loud, it was packed, and it was National Tequila Day 2008 where I was taught the proper techniques for taking and giving Body Shots, a how-to course on slurping Tequila from the naval of female strangers, and the realization that just because you own a credit card that isn’t justification to scream “A shot for everybody!” multiple times in a crowed bar. It did make me a lot of friends though, none of which it turned out had bail money. But that’s a different story….

The origin of exactly why National Tequila Day is celebrated on July 24th is as fuzzy as my vision on the morning of the 25th. We celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th because supposedly that was the day he died. And although I deeply admire the way in which the Irish celebrate the dead, I can remember many a day after a Saint Patrick’s celebration that I too wished I were dead.

But the 24th of July is set aside and solely dedicated to the celebration and appreciation of Tequila! Yaaay!!!!!

(Well… maybe not solely. It’s also National Amelia Earhart Day as well as National Drive-Thru Day which just goes to show how many national observances we have on any given day.)

So raise your shot glasses my fellow Americans and celebrate this smooth, clear, south-of-the-border nectar by licking some salt, tossing one back and sucking on a lime! Or if you prefer the amber brands you can do it like the Germans and lick some cinnamon, toss one back and suck on an orange slice. Either way, get a designated driver and stop at a drive-thru on your way home. Then do us all a favor and like Amelia, disappear into the night. You’re going to need your rest….

National Cheesecake Day is just around the corner!!!

High-Dollar Holiday Alternative: The Special Salt-Encrusted Sirloin Sensation

Prelude- Let me explain why this particular recipe contains no accompanying pictures; the reason is that THIS year I am planning to make this dish for my New Years Night Party, and I feel that this is such a great alternative to lavish, overdone traditional holiday meals that I didn’t want to wait until after the new year to post the recipe. Plus, I can usually only afford to make this dish once a year so please accept my picture-less apology.

When I was growing up I always looked forward to the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter were ‘The Big Three’ when all of the aunts, uncles and grandparents would gather each of the extended families of cousins and other in-laws, and would have a huge afternoon-into-evening dinner party. This went on from the time that I was a baby into my early teens and, although I loved those times, the one thing that always bugged me was this; the menu never changed. Because it was always the same group of people, and because everyone had to make or bring their own special ‘signature’ dishes, it was a constant combination of all three holiday menus. There was always a massive turkey, a giant ham and 2 different types of polish sausage (pork and beef), along with the green bean casseroles, creamed corn, pumpkin pies, crescent rolls, etc. This happened three times a year, EVERY year from my birth until I obtained a drivers license. (Yes! Thank you Jesus!)

This is why I prefer to have non-traditional menus during MY holidays.  I want something that I don’t eat during the year but that I look forward to making and consuming. Something laid back and casual, but decadent, naughty, rich. Something that that is so expensive to make, you couldn’t afford to eat it out at a restaurant. I’m going to share one of those recipes now. This particular one works great with any of the ‘Big Three’ holidays, but is also perfect for poker parties or during the playoffs–provided you collect a cover charge at the door. It’ll feed at least 8 so plan accordingly. This ain’t cheap, but it’s worth every cent!

Presenting, what I like to call “The Special Salt-Encrusted Sirloin Sensation” or, “Some Real Expensive Meat Thrown In a Bunch of Butter.”

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Salted Peanut No-Bake Cheesecake

Salted Peanut No-Bake Cheesecake

This weekend I came home with 20 lbs of sugar, enough flour to antique all of Chi Mega and its alumnis, and more Crisco than any ten rounds of Crisco Twister could ever use. Um, the last two descriptions should not be taken as an insight into my college years. It does however mark the start of high baking season. And to ease everyone into it I’m starting with a no-bake cheesecake. This is an easy recipe that can be thrown together in twenty minutes and refrigerated up to three days before serving.

This year I’m going to attempt to keep the craziness contained by simplifying my repertoire. That said, I’m opening it up. If anyone has any dessert requests they want to see made on ES this year — let me know by leaving me a note in the comment section.

Salted Peanut No-Bake Cheesecake

1 1/2 cup crushed graham cracker
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
7 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1. Combine graham cracker crumbs with sugar.
2. Add melted butter and blend until combined.
3. Press into pan. Set aside

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Seconds to the Rescue

photo (29)

This crazy change in weather has finally invaded my system. I feel like crap. Stuffed-up nose. Irritation in throat. Body droopy. Brain exhausted.

Luckily, this weekend, before sickness fell upon me, I spent all of Saturday afternoon taking care of twenty five pounds of “second” tomatoes. (My second seconds of the year.) It took me about an hour to cut all of the tomatoes up, placing 2/3 of the tomatoes in two roasting pans, and when my oven was full, dumping the rest in a tall pot with onion, 2 bay leaves and salt and pepper.

The tomatoes lucky enough to sit in a 400-degree oven for 3 hours tasted doubly delicious, having been reduced and intensified in flavor. I had no clue what I was going to make with all of the tomatoes so decided I’d just do one big pot of a thick soup/sauce and dumped the roasted tomatoes in with the simmering tomatoes.

I reserved a container-ful of chunky tomatoes and onions and then pureed (with an immersion blender) the rest for a creamy, saucy soup.

And while I was at first not eager to take on all of those tomatoes, I am now glad I have an easy meal to warm up while fighting off this cold.

Chunky Tomato Soup with Ricotta and Egg

In a small saucepan I warmed up the chunky tomato soup, stirred in a spoonful of ricotta, then created a dent and dropped in an egg. I lowered the heat, covered the pan and let the egg “poach” for 5-7 minutes. Once the egg was cooked I topped it with a few strands of fresh oregano.

(Recipe hat tip Eggs in Purgatory)

Culinary School Day One: Over Easy

Over Easy

Editor’s Note: As you may remember, ES contributor forkitude has given up the corporate life to take the plunge into culinary school. Here are her thoughts from day one.

Day number one: Culinary Foundations.

  • Knife skills: my fingers are valuable. It is a bloody lesson, but one I have learned. Got it. My knife skills are a work in progress.
  • Mirepoix: 50% onion, 25% carrots, 25% celery. The basic building block of soups, stocks, and sauces. Simple enough.
  • Eggs: better known as the devil. Eggs are easy to make and easy to screw up, and I have screwed up my share of eggs. Therefore, I get excited to learn the correct way to do things because screwing up is a pain in the ass. Eggs were my favorite part of the day:
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