It’s summer! That means plentiful produce, lighter meals, and less cooking. I’m sure, you, like me, change your eating habits in the summer, if for no other reason than it’s too hot in the kitchen to cook. Most folks move it outside to the BBQ, or experiment with non-cooked dinners, like salads.
But salads can be boring too, especially if you fall back to the same items all the time. Instead, prowl the Farmer’s Markets and choose items that you might not normally pick, and integrate them into your salads for some new kick. Another way of un-borifing your salads is to use new dressings.
Maison Orphée, a Canadian-owned company specializing in gourmet ingredients like olive oils, vinegars and salts, recently released a new app that is going to make your summer so much easier! In it, there are over 100 combinations of vinaigrettes and marinades for all your summer salad and BBQing needs.
Here’s a basic vinaigrette that I really like from their app; it’s the hazelnut oil that really takes it to the next level, giving it a roasted, nutty flavour.
This vinaigrette does double duty; you can put it on a salad, or you can toss it with pasta and roasted veggies for a simple, quick dinner. You could even make this into a pasta salad, by using rotini or penne or macaroni, cooking it, and then cooling it in the fridge. Add your veggies, dress, and voila!
Kale with grape tomatoes, radishes, roasted chickpeas, and Hazelnut and Fennel Vinaigrette.
I’m a fan of homemade gifts. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a cheapskate, but I just feel like people don’t very often do homemade gifts these days. I like to give homemade gifts, because I feel like they are special.
Most of my homemade gifts centre around baking. I’ll make batches and batches of different kinds of cookies, and put them in a beautiful Christmas cellophane bag, and seal them with a bow. I also like to gift homemade sauces. This year, though, I’m doing something new to me.
Flavoured salts are really all the rage right now. They are primarily used as finishing salts–which means that you use them just before you serve the food to give it that last punch of seasoning. You can, of course, use an infused salt during the cooking process, but you’ll probably get the best use out of them if you use them as a finishing salt.
Because these salts are so “hot” right now, they can be expensive to buy. I’ve paid up to $17 for some (but to be fair, it was truffle salt), but on average, you’re probably looking at about $7-10 to purchase a container of these salts.
You can easily make your own for a lot less, and they make impressive gifts.
Be sure that you use good quality salt. When I say “good quality salt,” most people think French sea salt. For mine, I used a Canadian-imported grey French sea salt from Maison Orphee. By the way, if you think it’s too much work to make your own, Maison Orphee also makes their own seasoned sea salt–in a couple of different flavours. They also sell a giant 2kg bag of grey French sea salt for $4. This is what I used to make my Herbs de Provence finishing salt for gifting. I also grew and dried my own herbs to incorporate into this salt, taking the “homemade” part of it just a little further.
Okay. So. What the heck even are Herbs de Provence? They are the herbs that are native to the Provence area of France, and so the cuisine of that area uses them a lot in cooking. Generally speaking Herbs de Provence include woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, and savory. Here in North America, lavender is often added into the mix.
I think of mine as “Scarborough Fair” salt, as I added parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (all of which, except for the parsley, I grew in my garden and dried). You can use whatever combination you like best.
DIY Flavoured Salt (Herbs de Provence)
You will need:
1/2 cup good French sea salt
2 tsp each dried parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Combine the salt with the herbs. Place in the coffee grinder and blitz it all well together. Package in a pretty glass jar. That’s it!
Notes: I tried making this, at first, in my blender, but the blender was kind of big. I tried it using my mortar and pestle, and that did work, but didn’t get the salt quite as fine as I liked. I purchased a cheap coffee/spice grinder for $10, and it really did the trick! If the salt is too clumpy for whatever reason, spread it in a thin layer on a baking sheet and let it sit in the oven overnight with the heat off. It will help to dry it out a little.
In terms of packaging you could use mason jars, but I found these adorable little flip-top glass spice bottles at my local dollar store, 2/$1.25. Finally, you might want to print off some adorable labels, or wrap them with raffia or a pretty ribbon, and use a printable tag. Additionally, you could include a recipe letting your recipient know how they can use their new flavoured sea salt, like, say, this beautiful Rosemary Focaccia.