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
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.
Chop those veggies and herbs
Load the carrot, celery, parsnip and onion into the food processor and give them a whirl.
Step 3 a:
They should look like this – a fine chop. Careful, don’t liquify it!
Now the other soft herbs – and pulse.
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 !
Unload the mix into a bowl. Now add in the sea salt and stir.
Cover and get in the chill chest at least overnight.
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):
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!
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.
The Italian version – oops, I spilled some olive oil on it – guess I have to eat it!
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.)