Adventures in the Kitchen with Michelle, Salted Herbs

Once again my magazines have gotten me into trouble – well, maybe not trouble…this month, in my Food & Wine Magazine, I stumbled over an interesting ingredient. I can’t resist a recipe labeled ‘Creamed Spinach transformed by Magic Salt’. OK, you got me – magic salt!?

This is something that, after a bit of research, I discovered has been done in Canada for years. Salted herbs, aka Le Herbes Salees, are the ‘evil twin’ to the coveted Montreal Steak Seasoning. I know you remember when that dried delight landed on the grocery store shelves in the lower 48! I know I was in awe, and used it on every piece of meat I could…even a pork chop wasn’t safe. Now, this is different. I did say evil twin,…meaning this is salty and fresh instead of peppery and dried. After reading about it’s use, I had to make some. As I did, my mind wandered to all the different ways I could use it. This is an ingredient, not a condiment. Be careful. Now, search your mental Cloud for those old high school French lessons and follow along: permet de cuisine ! (Let’s cook)

Le Herbes Salees

Step 1: Gather together

Gather Ingredients

1 Medium Carrot, coarse chop

1 rib of Celery, coarse chop

1 Medium Parsnip, coarse chop (parsnip?? Imagine a turnip crossed with a super sweet carrot..yumm)

1/2 Medium Onion, coarse chop

1 Cup Fresh Parsley, coarse chop, packed (mine equalled one whole bunch crammed in the cup)

1 Cup Fresh Chives, snipped (again, one package equalled a cup)

1 Cup Fresh Spinach, packed *

1/3 Cup Sea Salt, coarse (sea salt is super salty – next time I may use a touch less)

*the recipe said specifically NOT to use baby spinach. After reading some of the other variations of recipes (of which there are many!) they include things like fresh savory – we don’t even have dried Savory here!, and Chervil, once again – go fish! So, when I thought about it, the dark curly spinach that’s somewhat tough and strong tasting would be great. I imagine that’s why they used it, not as a veggie, but more of a large herb. Alas, another item we don’t have here. I decided to use a smaller handful of baby spinach I had on hand. I keep in mind that it will have more water and less taste – next time I’ll be sure to have the real thing on hand.

Step 2:

Salted Herbs Step2

Chop those veggies and herbs

Step 3:

Salted Herbs, process

Load the carrot, celery, parsnip and onion into the food processor and give them a whirl.

Step 3 a:

Salted Herbs, A fine chop

They should look like this – a fine chop. Careful, don’t liquify it!

Step 4:

Salted Herbs, process

Now the other soft herbs – and pulse.

Step 4a:

Salted Herbs, step 4a

Looks a bit like pesto. Everybody’s a fairly uniform size too. Just imagine how long this would take by hand – ugh! But, Mmmm, that smell !

Step 5:

salted Herbs

Unload the mix into a bowl. Now add in the sea salt and stir.

Step 6:

Salted Herbs, step 6

Cover and get in the chill chest at least overnight.

Step 7:

Salted Herbs, Step 7

And the next day… Since I don’t have a Creamed Spinach dish that I’m adding this to, I used my imagination. I did say ingredient – NOT condiment. This is NOT pesto or some French Canadian salsa. Use it a teaspoon or less at a time to whatever dish needs it. Do not add this to anything that has salt in it already…like salted butter, or cream cheese. Now Crème Friache’ , s’il vows plaît ! Like butter meets cream cheese and there’s no salt (yes, a ton of fat). O M G !!

OK, this is pretty healthy as it has no fat – so get a can, or box, of strained tomatoes and add some in – now you have a fat free dip to go with nearly anything! I of course know that it’s begging to be a steak marinade, like chimichurri, or under the skin of the next chicken I roast. Got fish – oh yes. Lay out a fillet on a foil, top with a spoon full, make a pouch and pop it in the oven. Escalloped potatoes will never be the same.

Step 8 (a):

Salted herbs, step8a

Maybe you like this idea, but can’t get over how similar it is to that lovely mix of fresh & dry italian herbs served at restaurants with olive oil and bread. OK, a pinch of pressed garlic, sun-dried tomato flakes, and dried red pepper flakes and we’re off to Italy. Again – very salty. Feel free to add this to a bunch of fresh basil – presto pesto!

Finale:

salted Herbs, Finale

The Canadians have as many variations of this as stars in the sky – I like the sweet parsnip addition. People list it being used in all sorts of soups (great idea), veggie casseroles, mashed potatoes and sauces. So, make this up, put it in a jar and park it in the fridge. This should keep for at least a month, maybe more. Next time you give a dish a taste and think ‘it needs a little something???.. “ before you pop in a bouillon cube or reach for the salt shaker, give this a try.

Finale 2:

salted Herbs, Finale2

The Italian version – oops, I spilled some olive oil on it – guess I have to eat it!

Finale 3:

Salted Herbs, Finale 3

Those fancy herb cheese spreads are in such trouble – crème fraiche and a bit of this swirled in put on a no-salt water cracker. I can almost tolerate the fat content for this little gem …and since I made it – I need to eat it.

How I suffer to bring you these things. Vous êtes les bienvenus. (Your welcome.)

Michelle Beal 

 

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