Salty surprises

Tuscan Spiced Salt

I’ve become a Spice Girl this past month - I had the cool (I thought) idea to mix up some seasoned salts to give as gifts. I know, another Martha moment. But, listen, it was really fun, and so easy to do.

A few weeks ago, I went to Penzey’s, my all-time favorite source for fresh spices. It’s also one of the very few places that J is happy to visit with me on errand day. He just loves to find the cinnamon section, where, I kid you not, there are more varieties on display then you ever thought possible, each with their own flavor and aroma profile.

I take the top off the big jar they have available for sniffing, and he sticks his little nose right in there. Mmmmm. Then we move along to the vanilla and cocoa section for more aromatherapy before I continue on with the business at hand, which is stocking up on the freshest spices you’ll find anywhere. I usually pick up a few boxes of Diamond kosher salt while I’m at it; for some reason this brand isn’t readily available in my regular grocery store, and I prefer it over Morton’s kosher, which has smaller, less articulated flakes. (I can get a little geeky on the topic of salt, but if you find yourself curious, read this.)

I packed little jars of my spiced salts and decorated the lids with nice decorative paper, labels and ribbons. Aren't they cute?

One of my favorite creations turned out to be a citrusy, slightly spicy Tuscan-style blend. Last night I rubbed some on a boneless pork loin about 2 hours before roasting it in a 450 degree oven , and it was pretty darn good - juicy and tender.

Tuscan Spiced Salt
Makes about one cup

1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarse sugar, such as Demerara or turbinado
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Tellicherry peppercorns
2 tablespoons each fennel and coriander seed
2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon dried minced lemon peel

Put the salt, sugar and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Put the remaining ingredients in a small electric spice grinder or mini food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Dump into the bowl with the salt, and mix until evenly blended. Use about 1 tablespoon per pound of pork, chicken, or beef.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle


Anonymous said...

You're back! :) Glad to see a new post. Thanks for the salt blend idea(s). Wish we had a Penzey's around here. Everyone raves about their spices so.

Anna said...

Hey, I am salt geek too! I don't know if I told you this, but Amanda Hesser did a series of chocolate chip cookie recipes calling for what seemed to me like excessive amounts of Kosher salt. People kept complaining about the cookies. I made the cookies, skeptical about the salt content, and discovered they were indeed WAY too salty. Turns out NYT was using Diamond Kosher which is about 1/3 less salty than Morton kosher. I wrote emailed Amanda, she and her test kitchen revisited the situation and the NYT test kitchen re-tested their recipes with Morton to find that the cookies were horribly salt. They now plan on taking the saltiness of salt into consideration.

Karen said...

Wow, Anna. That is a salty surprise. And good for you for getting the NYT to rethink, and perfect, their testing of salt in their recipes. I just love that there are people like you that provoke these kinds of conversations!

Kalyn said...

This sounds like a great recipe. I made some Rosemary Salt for Christmas presents this year too. I'm saving your recipe right now.

And Penzeys rocks.

Alanna said...

I'm lucky to attest to how great the Tuscan Spice Mix is: so far I've just been using it on vegetables and eggs. Must now try it with the pork! Nice to have you back!

Nupur said...

I have had the same troubles with Kosher salt...I normally use Diamond Kosher and upon moving to St. Louis, could not find it and settled for Morton Kosher. Ever since that day, I have been struggling to make food that is not over-salty :( I think I am adjusting to it now. Thanks for writing about Penzey's...I *have* to go and take a look!

Kristen said...

I love Penzyes... I could waste away an entire afternoon in that store!
You have a lovely blog. Thanks for visiting mine because now I know of yours :)

Nicole said...

I love making different seasoned salts, too! This one sounds great! I have never been to Penzeys but I order my spices online from The Spice House (same family). Using really fresh spices makes such a big difference!

SteamyKitchen said...

I too have an obsession with salt.

I want this:

Karen said...

Nicole, I like the Spice House too. They have some blends and things that Penzey's doesn't carry.

Steamy Kitchen, the bamboo salt collection looks beautiful! I'm inspired to make one myself :-)