Category: Sides

Smoked Sea Salt

Smoked sea salt adds a gentle, smoky flavor to anything you sprinkle it on. Meat, seafood, cooked vegetables or even salad…it’s all more delicious when finished with smoked salt. You’ve probably seen smoked sea salt in gourmet food stores but the truth is, it’s nothing fancy. You can make a batch of smoked sea salt right now simply using your charcoal grill.

Light the lump charcoal, cover it with soaked wood chips and set a foil pan filled with sea salt on the grill grates. Cover the grill and let the smoke work its magic on the salt for an hour. That’s pretty much it. Smoked salt keeps forever in a glass jar, in the unlikely event that you don’t go through it much faster. Do keep in mind that just a pinch of sea salt punches up the flavor of food a lot, so there’s no need to be heavy handed. But there’s also no need to be fearful of salt.

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Cauliflower Muffin Bites

If you’ve ever tried to make a cauliflower pizza crust and liked the flavor but not the soggy doesn’t-really-hold-together texture, then cauliflower muffin bites are the way to go. Easier to make and much more likely to hold together, these mini muffins make a nice snack, side dish or appetizer.

In fact, there’s no reason you can’t turn these into “pizza muffin bites” by adding grated cheese, olives and pepperoni. Think of this recipe for cauliflower muffins as a template that you can add all sorts of different flavors to.

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Tomato and Eggplant Gratin

If you want a beautiful side dish to set on the table, this tomato and eggplant gratin is it. Especially when made with colorful heirloom tomatoes. It tastes rich and decadent but is actually quite healthy when you take into account the antioxidants from the tomatoes and eggplant, potential health benefits of full fat dairy and protein from eggs.

Did you know that eggplant has high levels potent antioxidants? And as most people know, so do tomatoes. Healthwise and flavorwise they make a good team. But enough about all the healthy stuff. Plain and simple, this tomato and eggplant gratin is delicious. Really, delicious. Make it in the summer with perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes or make it in the winter and serve it as a holiday side dish.

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Pancetta with Halibut and Asparagus

If something akin to “meat butter” sounds good to you, then head to your favorite local (or online) butcher shop and ask for pancetta, guanciale or lardo. All three are fatty cuts of pork – with an emphasis on fatty – that are dry cured with salt, herbs and spices.

Guanciale comes from the jowl, lardo comes from the back and pancetta comes from the belly. The long curing time (usually a couple months or so) means these seriously tasty slabs of mostly fat marbled with a little meat can be eaten raw. This is usually done by draping very thin slices of pancetta, guanciale or lardo over cooked meat, fish or vegetables, so it melts like butter. Meaty, salty, extremely rich butter.

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Crispy and Creamy Avocado Fries

Avocado fries have that tempting combination of a crispy outer layer, creamy middle and addictive fried flavor. Made with nothing more than avocado, coconut, egg, salt and spices, it’s a pure and healthful snack or salad topping loaded with beneficial fatty acids.

Before you scarf down an entire plateful, keep in mind that a little bit of avocado goes a long way. The good news is that avocado fries are both rich and filling so a small portion is plenty satisfying. This simple recipe gives avocado fries a Southwest flair, adding cumin and chili powder to the mix. You could take this theme a little further by adding finely chopped cilantro to the coating and finishing them with a squirt of fresh lime.

One last thing: Don’t make this recipe unless you have a bottle of hot sauce in the fridge. It adds the extra kick that sends avocado fries over the top.

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How to Make Flavored Salts

At first glance, flavored salt might strike you as a “why bother?” type of project. Who has time to make their own flavored salt when you can just grab a jar of seasoning salt from the spice aisle at the grocery store? But the arguments for making your own seasonings are much stronger than the lazy argument against.

Making flavored salt is quick and easy. You probably already have some of the ingredients right at your fingertips: kosher or sea salt, fresh herbs, spices, dried mushrooms and citrus fruit are a great place to start.
Making flavored salt is fun. Make one and you’ll immediately find yourself brainstorming new combinations. What about cocoa powder-espresso salt for steak? Or spicy sumac salt for seafood and vegetables? Stock up on glass jars, because you’re going to want to make one batch after another.
Fresh is best, even when it comes to dried seasonings. Homemade flavored salt adds more vibrant flavor to your meals and has health benefits to boot. No one really knows how long that store-bought seasoning salt has been sitting on the store shelf or how long that same seasoning salt then sits in your pantry. Homemade flavored salt can be made in small batches with organic ingredients, promising fresh flavor and antioxidants.

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