By Jill Ettinger, EcoSalon
Gourmet seasoned salt blends add delicious flavor to your meals and they make great gifts, too.
Salt, while highly overused in the Western Diet, is still an essential ingredient for a healthy life. Knowing where to cut out the bad stuff and where to add in the good can make all the difference. Limiting your intake of processed/ fast food–which are usually excessively salted for flavor and preservation–is a great place to start. And making these simple DIY gourmet seasoned salt recipes can consciously connect you with your salt intake and take it to a new level.
Adding herbs and spices to your salt reduces the overall sodium content and adds lots of delicious flavor. Most anything is fair game—and half the fun is in experimenting.
When making salt blends, I recommend working with a high quality mineral salt such as Himalayan, Peruvian or a Mediterranean Sea salt. But you can also use a natural sea salt—just avoid any products with an image of a lady with an umbrella in a rainstorm. You want a natural salt, not a chemical one.
I prefer a coarse salt, but if you like a finer texture, that works well, too. The ideal ratio is about ¼ cup of salt to 1 tablespoon of herbs or 1 teaspoon of spice. For anything exceptionally hot (like cayenne), reduce the teaspoon to half, adjusting for more flavor as your taste buds dictate.
A few favorite recommendations:
1. Citrus: Dried citrus peels such as lemon, lime or tangerine, can bring a wonderful fragrance and flavor to your salt. Peels will dry easily in a dehydrator or in an oven at a low setting of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once dried, macerate the peels with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. A little texture is nice; so don’t pulverize into a powder.
2. Fresh dried herbs: Herbs add quite a bit of depth to salt—and vice versa—the salt brings out the essence of fresh herbs. You can easily dry your favorite herbs by hanging them upside down for a few days. (You may want to lightly cover them in muslin or cheesecloth to keep dust and bugs from settling on them.) For a savory herb blend, try any of the following: rosemary, marjoram, parsley, sage, oregano and thyme. You can also use dry leafy greens such as spinach, kale or even a spicy arugula for a nice green kick with lots of flavor. For something a bit sweeter, try mint (peppermint or spearmint), lemon balm, lavender or even chervil.
3. Mushrooms: Dried mushrooms are aromatic and full of flavor. Truffles are of course the holy grail of fungus, if you can get your hands on some, use them sparingly (their price will ensure that!). Dried shiitakes are widely available in the macrobiotic section of health-minded stores and add a lovely umami flavor—but essentially any dried mushroom will do, even crimini or buttons. Grind them well once they’re dried and add a little at a time as their strong flavors can vary from cap to cap.
4. Peppery: Of course, what goes better with salt than pepper? I personally recommend a variety of coarsely ground whole peppercorns. Pink and white are so aromatic, and so is a nice Tellicherry black, too. You can also go the hotter route with a nice smoky paprika, cayenne or crushed pepper flakes.
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