Thursday, March 22, 2007

Breakaway Salts with Eric Gower

Berkeley-based Eric Gower has long been one of my favorite cookbook authors. His first cookbook, The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen, has become a staple in my collection as he looks at new flavors, ingredients, and twists on traditional Japanese cooking. His newest book, The Breakaway Cook, explores more dishes and techniques and applies his global "flavor blasts" to dishes we eat every day. (He also has a terrific web-site complete with TOCs, recipes, and more info.)

In his newest book, he explores crusts, salts, and other unique add-ins like his current favorite -- maccha, a rich powder made from the entire green tea leaf providing an intense and complex bitterness with depth. How does he handle salt? He flavors it, of course. His website offers several recipes which all start will sel gris or another sea salt for unique flavors at your fingertips. You can also prepare these ahead and put them in jars or salt boxes for original gifts. From Eric's Breakaway Cook:

Maccha Salt: Powdered green tea plus salt. The stunning color bestows an ethereal beauty to foods. The slightly bitter tea marries beautifully with egg yolks, tofu, onions, and even chocolate. Read more about maccha.

Tangerine Salt: Dried pieces of tangerine (or orange) plus salt. Adds tangy, fruity, citrus notes to food. Try it sprinkled on roasted chicken, vegetable side dishes (especially beets), light pastas, shrimp, grilled fish, and omelets.

Lavender Salt: Dried lavender buds plus salt. Excellent on lamb (both as a salt rub before cooking, and a sprinkling afterward), salad greens, heirloom tomatoes, and avocados. Adds a floral, herbaceous touch.

Smoked Paprika Salt: Smoked, finely powdered paprika and salt. Use it when you want a smoky, powerful, earthy blast of flavor. Great on potatoes, fried rice, and grilled meats.

Kaffir Lime Salt: Leaves of the Kaffir lime tree plus salt. This salt infuses a Thai-like flowery headiness to dishes. Works well on poached eggs, seafood, corn on the cob, and steamed rice.

Saraga carries Kaffir lime leaves and they can be frozen. (Eric notes he keeps a bag in his freezer.) Use them like bay leaf to give a subtle citrus flavor to just about anything. Penzey's spices on 82th should have smoked paprika. In the summer, I usually find gorgeous lavender at the famer's markets. And I've become terribly interested in maccha and am looking forward to experimenting with it in the coming months. Eric (who I know from the WeLL) is currently experimenting with maccha-like powders from other teas, so look for more coming. (Westernized maccha with black tea. Tea truffles! Tea-flavored creamy mousses and desserts! And even black teas with meats. Ooooh, there are all kinds of ideas!)

No comments: