If you’re anything like me (and of course you are), you’re basically ornery and ill-tempered at the end of a long day*when you only have minutes to get dinner on the table and your own hunger drives you to recklessly take shortcuts that ultimately compromise the quality of said meal, which in turn causes you to wonder why on earth you even bother to begin with. That was maybe one of the most convoluted sentences I’ve ever written, but I’m going to leave it in cuz I sort of like it, and it does speak to the truth of how frustrating it is to cook flavorful, awesome meals when you’re up against the clock at the end of the day.
Of course, this is the sole reason that wine was invented all those centuries ago, otherwise how would we get through the 5:00 hour with so few resources and so much hanging in the balance. But even after our nerves have been soothed, we’re still left with the actual challenge of getting that meal together, and this is where a few good shortcuts can save a meal and the sanity of all concerned.
And it's why I keep several seasoning options handy for just such moments. In previous posts, I’ve already shared a couple of my standby seasoning blends – my homemade taco seasoning and Tuscan Herb Salt, neither of which I can ever be without. And now I will share with you a couple more kick @*# seasoning shortcuts that have become indispensable in the Circle B Kitchen.
And speaking of shortcuts, do you guys know about these freeze-dried herbs?
I keep and grow fresh herbs all year long and use them with abandon, but there are just times when you don’t have the right herb or whatever, and these guys are a pretty great substitute for fresh OR dried herbs when the need arises. They're in the refrigerated section of most produce aisles and I always have them on hand.
But in the homemade department, here’s what goes into my own personal Circle B Kitchen Seasoning Salt…
I keep it in this little container that I repurposed from some sea salt, and it’s become a trusted friend when I need to amp up the flavor quotient of chicken, fish veggies or whatever.
Oh, and this little container is awesome cuz it has one of those lids you turn to get different kinds of openings, like shaker holes or a big hole for pouring. I also keep a jar of this (see top photo) for spooning and measuring. You can tell I’m serious about my seasoning salt.
I also keep on hand a couple of herb oils. This one is incredibly versatile and delicious with a blend of dried herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram, and rosemary, along with paprika, garlic, salt, pepper and a few crushed red pepper flakes.
You can use it to flavor sauces, or use as a dipping oil for crostini or to drizzle on pizza or create delicious pastas or drizzle on grilled meats. The bit of crushed red pepper gives a nice kick in the behind to just about anything you add it to.
And then there’s this spicy garlic oil that takes that kick in the behind and ramps it up to a full on punch in the face.
This stuff is super tasty on everything I mentioned above (and totally killer as a shrimp marinade), but delivers so much more when you need, well… more.
I keep all of these herb oils and seasonings near the stove (of course the herb oils are in the fridge, which is close enough) where I can grab them and create flavor – lots of flavor – when needed. Quickly.
OK, people. This should keep you busy and out of trouble for awhile. Next week I’m going to share with you some awesome things I’ve made using this stuff, so you’ll want to get your seasonings in order. Here are the recipes…
* Just to be clear, you and I both know that our ill-temperedness (does anyone even say ornery anymore?) is so rare as to be barely worth mentioning, but literary license was taken to make a point, which at this juncture I can't even remember why. Best we just move on.
Circle B Kitchen Seasoning Salt
It's my considered opinion that every kitchen should have a House Seasoning Blend on hand to give a quick flavor kick to your favorite meats and veggies. Of course you can buy seasoned salts, but why let someone else decide what your food should taste like? You should most definitely personalize this as you see fit and even create your own version(s) to match your culinary personality.
P.S. (8-27-15) I find myself adding less and less salt to this. I've gone from using 1/3 cup of salt to 1/4 cup of salt and now I'm using 3 tablespoons. I love the seasonings in this blend but find I can't use as much as I'd like to if the salt content is so high. Decide for yourself, of course, I just thought I'd share my latest version of it. I go through this stuff so fast.
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons freeze-dried parsley**
Mix the ingredients in a jar and shake or stir to combine thoroughly. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
You can use this seasoning salt for veggies, chicken, fish, grilled meats, pork or just about anything you think needs a spark of flavor. You can even mix it with sour cream for a tasty dip and it's awesome sprinkled liberally on grilled burgers or baked potatoes.
** Litehouse makes a line of freeze-dried herbs that are great to use when fresh herbs are not available or instead of dried herbs. You can find them in the refrigerated section of most produce aisles.
Spicy Garlic Oil
Recipe adapted from Peter Reinhart (The Bread Baker's Apprentice)
This makes an amazingly tasty oil for drizzling on pizzas or cheesy crostini. It also makes a great dipping oil for focaccia or flatbreads and an amazing marinade for shrimp. Once this is in your fridge, you'll find a million uses for it. Adjust the amount of crushed red pepper to make this as spicy (or not) as you'd like.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
Put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Continue to simmer on low for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 30 minutes before using. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. After it's in the fridge for awhile, the oil will solidify so take it out of the fridge an hour or so before you plan to use it. Or you can run hot water over the jar or microwave it briefly to return it to a liquid.
Spicy Herb Oil
Recipe courtesy of Peter Rheinhart (The Bread Baker's Apprentice)
This herb oil is so great to use as a marinade for fish or chicken or to drizzle over crostini or pizza. Feel free to add more or less crushed red pepper to adapt this to your own tastes.
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried or freeze-dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Combine the above ingredients in a jar and shake or stir to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate in an airtight container and use as desired, being careful to stir the mixture well before each use as the herbs will settle to the bottom. After being refrigerated, the oil will become a bit solid. You can take it out of the fridge an hour or so before you plan to use it, run a little hot water over the container to return the oil to its liquid state, or heat it briefly in the microwave.