Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Seasoning with Style

Since the anti-trans fat movement first reared its head in full force some five years ago, Americans in several regions across the country (including our very own King County, WA) have stood meekly by as restaurants and eateries stripped their menus of the heart-clogging culprit. Suggest a similar move for salt, however, and people are liable to rush at you wielding pitchforks and salt mills.

That’s what Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of Brooklyn discovered earlier this year when he proposed a measure to ban salt from all New York City restaurants. No sooner did he open his mouth than the streets and media were up in arms, questioning the validity of sodium studies and singing personal paeans to salt. Needless to say, the salt-free revolution will be a long time coming.

My attitude is that, while salt is indeed a wonderful thing, there seems to be little wisdom in tempting fate by drowning our food in the stuff, especially when there are so many fun and flavorful alternatives. Carla Emery offers up a smorgasbord of seasonings for our tasting pleasure, a number of which are listed below. Regardless of where you fall on the salt issue, you’ll have to agree that these mixtures are delightfully uncontroversial.

N.B.: For salt mixtures, use uniodized salt and dried ingredients. Crush and mix the mixture using a wooden spoon or mortar and pestle. Seasoning mixes should be stored in airtight containers in a dry, cool place—not over or beside your stove!

Low-Salt Herbed Salt

Combine ¼ c. salt, 2 t. dried basil, 1 t. dried tarragon, 1 t. dried chives, and ½ t. dried oregano. Get it all very fine and well mixed. Good on popcorn, etc.

Low-Salt Seasoning Salt

Combine ½ t. garlic powder, ½ t. dried lemon rind, ½ t. onion powder, 2 t. paprika, 6 T. salt, ½ t. dried thyme, 2 t. dry mustard, ½ t. curry powder, and ½ t. powdered cumin. Blend well. This is good with anything: veggies, meats, fish, or salad.

Bouquet Garni

This classic French herb mix is packed into little 4-inch packets of cheesecloth. Spread the cloth out flat. Measure into the middle of it 1 bay leaf, 1 t. marjoram, 1 T. parsley, 1 t. savory, and 1 t. thyme. Bring together the corners of the bag and tie them with a string so it looks like a miniature peddler’s bag. Good in soups and stews. You can vary it to taste, adding or subtracting herbs as you please.

Poultry Seasoning

For each 2 T. commercial poultry seasoning called for, substitute 1 t. sage, 1 t. marjoram, 1 t. thyme, and 1 T. dried parsley; or 1 t. each of sage, thyme, savory, and marjoram.

Best No-Salt Seasoning

Combine 1 T. garlic powder, 5 t. onion powder, 1 T. paprika, 1 T. thyme, ½ t. celery seed, 1 T. dry mustard, and ½ t. white pepper. Store tightly covered.

Dessert Spice Blend

Combine 2 t. powdered cinnamon, 2 t. ground nutmeg, 1 t. powdered ginger, ½ t. powdered allspice, and ½ t. powdered cloves. Optional are ½ t. mace, ½ t. ground coriander, and ½ t. ground cardamom. This blend is nicely balanced in flavor and is good for spice cakes, cookies, and pies.

Taco Seasoning

1) Combine ¾ c. chili powder, 9 T. paprika, 10 T. cumin, 6 T. onion powder, and 5 T. garlic powder. Or 2) Combine 1/3 c. chili powder, 4 T. cumin, 2 T. garlic powder, 1 T. onion powder, and 1 T. oregano. To either mixtures 1) or 2), add as much or as little crushed red pepper as you like. Then mix well, divide into serving-size packets such as small zip-top bags, and store.

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