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  • Wendy Sand Eckel

One Essential Ingredient



While writing Death at the Day Lily Café, the second in the Rosalie Hart mystery series, I spent endless hours in my kitchen testing recipes for the café’s menu and daily specials. It wasn’t unusual for me to answer the door with a dusting of flour on my clothes or, one particularly embarrassing time when I had egg on my nose from the feta and fresh chive omelet I had just whipped up. That’s right, caught with egg on my face . . . literally.

But the one ingredient that made it into every savory dish was aromatic seasoned salt. A combination of fresh herbs, garlic, citrus zest, and coarse sea salt, not unlike a valued piece of jewelry, it is the perfect enhancer.

I first discovered the salt when a neighbor gave me a jar full for the holidays. When I popped open the lid I immediately began to salivate. I wasn’t the only one who was wowed by her concoction. So a few weeks later, three of us got together for a salt making party.

Fortified with wine and cheese, we formed an assembly line for mass production. “Basil!” Donna called out from her spot in front of the industrial-sized food processor she had inherited from her mother.

As Nancy handed her the basil, I denuded several sprigs of time. The tiny leaves fell off easily as I passed it between my finger and thumb.

“Who’s zesting the lemon?” Nancy said.

“More importantly,” I said, “who’s in charge of the wine?”

The processor roared as Nancy and I chopped clove after clove of garlic.

“Keep going, ladies,” Donna called. “It’s all about the garlic.”

Ever since that day I have been making batches of aromatic salt on a regular basis. My family and friends will notify me when they are running low. The first delivery came in a ceramic salt cellar. After that, ziplock baggies. My son-in-law recently asked my daughter if they were ever going to eat regular salt again and she promptly said, “no.”

The recipe can be modified any number of ways. You can change up the herbs, maybe add some parsley or oregano. Or if you are a Southwest foodie, you can add cilantro and, are you ready? Lightly toasted cumin seed. Bakers may want to add fresh lavender. It would be delicious in the lemon muffin recipe listed in the back of Murder at Barclay Meadow, the first in the Rosalie Hart series.

Having just made a new batch, particularly savory in July as I grow all the herbs in my garden, my kitchen is filled with a heady aroma.

Try it. Or better yet, have a salt making party. Our last gathering included nine women. We each contributed bunches of fragrant herbs and chopped and snipped together while the hostess took the helm at the food processor. The warmth from the wine, the heavenly scents, and the hearty laughter were stimulating to the senses and soothing to the soul.

Enjoy! And please pass the salt.

Aromatic Seasoned Salt

2 small sprigs of any of the following herbs:

Thyme

Basil

Rosemary

Chives

1 cup coarse sea salt

3 - 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

zest of one lemon or lime

A few grinds of pepper

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Spread the salt out on a baking dish and let dry for two days, stirring frequently. Your kitchen will take on the aroma of an Italian cucina.

Southwestern salt

1 Tablespoon cumin seed

3 - 4 Tablespoons coarse sea salt

Place the cumin seed in a small nonstick frying pan and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the seeds are aromatic and beginning to change color, remove from heat. Place in a food processor or mini chop with the salt and blend. Store in a sealed container.


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