This is your source for information on premium, unrefined, gourmet salt. Here you will find an ever-changing smorgasbord of entries by
our staff and guest authors about their experiences and love for gourmet salt, references to salt in the news and on the web, and salt application and tasting ideas.
Archive for January, 2010
Posted January 26th, 2010 by Chris
Filed under: event, Fumee de Sel, Garlic Shallot, Hot Habanero, news
We are forced to ask the question, is the culinary world ready for savory, salted, marshmallows? This quandary arises as a result of Beyond the Shaker’s invitation to participate in Odd Pairs, a Chicago-based food competition. Odd Pairs brings together some of the most exciting, small scale, food producers in the Midwest by pairing them together with the goal to develop a single culinary dish that highlights, in an ‘odd’ way, the culinary specialities of each participant. The invite-only event is attended by restauranteurs, food bloggers, chefs, and other culinary folk in the regional food industry. The upcoming Odd Pairs event is on March 26th from 7-9pm with a special media/VIP mixer at 6pm at 2023 West Carroll Avenue, Suite 401, in Chicago.
Some of the participants in March will be Ineeka Teas, Das Foods, Goose Island Brewery, Fig Catering, and of course, Beyond the Shaker. At the end of the evening one team is awarded the coveted Tastemaker prize for having the most popular Odd Pair. During the October 2009 Odd Pairs, NBC Chicago’s DC Crenshaw was one of the celebrity judges.
Odd Pairs is hosted by two amazing Chicago companies, both of which are friends and business-mentors to Beyond the Shaker, Crop to Cup and Bean and Body. Previous menu items from the event included Smoke Brisket Slider with Fig Earl Grey Preserves (from Goddess and Grocer & Rare Bird Preserves) and Black Bean and Banana Empanada with Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil (from Simone’s and Sonoma Farms).
So what the heck does all this have to do with savory, salted, marshmallows? WELL, Beyond the Shaker was fortunate enough to be paired with FIG Catering and its wickedly brilliant Chef Molly. During our first brainstorming event, Molly uttered two words that might forever change how we view that fluffy little white confection – “SAVORY MARSHMALLOW.” There was no denying that this was certainly an odd pair; marshmallows in their natural state are the furthest from the savory as could be imagined. It was suggested that a successful odd pair would be one that captures the imagination by flagrantly defying expectations. In this way, we are expanding the culinary diction by forcing a break in the bounds of what can (and should) be combined to produce a tasty food item.
I met with Molly last week after she had a chance to explore some of the most popular Beyond the Shaker salts in the comfort of the FIG Catering kitchen, and WOW did she push the envelope. Although I had a dinner later in the evening, Molly slapped around my culinary expectations with savory marshmallows each made from avocados, garlic, tomato and ginger. Purely because we could, Molly also decided to torch the heck out of a avocado marshmallow to discover what flavors would emerge (as you can see, we did not have fire safety in mind as a first priority when this was done on a wood table, but it was all in the name of righteous flavor so that made it OK).
We also tried some delicious spiced aztec hot cocoa with a Hot Habanero Salted Marshmallow and freshly fried tortilla chips (seen in the picture above). But the overall winner was this amazing organic carrot soup that Chef Molly concocted. To this we added several different savory marshmallows based on the flavors that harmonized with the soup. The savory marshmallows would melt as they were stirred into the soup creating a creamy explosion of salt and yum (get your mind out of the gutter). Our goal in this tasting session was to derive a single menu item for the upcoming Odd Pairs event, and it was clear to us that a combination of organic carrot soup and savory, salted, marshmallows was the ticket. Our offering would include three different types of flavored marshmallow to allow the taster to experiment with the delectable culinary options.
And so, our final menu item is as follows:
Organic Springtime Carrot Soup With Trio of Savory, Salted Micro-Marshmallow Accoutrements including, Roasted Garlic Shallot Salted Marshmallow (based on the Beyond the Shaker Garlic Shallot Salt), Ginger Wasabi Lemongrass Salted Marshmallow (based on the Everest Wet Salt), and Smokey Bacon Fumee de Sel Marshmallow (based on our Fumee de Sel).
We are incredibly excited about this event, and will keep you updated as preparations continue as we take Odd Pairs by storm.
Posted January 25th, 2010 by Tyler
Filed under: Alderwood Smoke, Chanterelle Vanilla, Chef's Blend, Citrus Basil, event, Garlic Shallot, Herb Garden, Hickory Maple, Hot Habenero, recipes, Windy City Celery
As I am sure you have been following, the Beyond the Shaker salt challenge was last week, and it was amazing! I had no idea that my friends had were so imaginative and skilled in the kitchen. I honestly expected some of the dishes to be flops, simply on the basis that cooking in this forum is challenging, but every single dish was superb and we were all blown away. A few observations that I found interesting:
1. There was a really nice distribution between courses that people made. When laying down the rules for the challenge, I didn’t specify what type of dish you had to make, and was pleased with the amount of appetizers, entrees, sides, and even desserts that were made!
2. Much to my surprise, the desserts actually were AMAZING – I guess it makes sense when you think about how nicely salty and sweet flavors pair together.
3. I was surprised at how distinct each of our own salts are and how much flavor they added to each dish.
With that, here is a breakdown of what was created:
Myself (Tyler) [Citrus Wet] – Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with a Honey Citrus Glaze
Amanda [French Herb Blend] – French Herb Lentil Soup
Chris [Hot Habanero]: Salad with a Hot Habanero Chile Dressing, Slab of Bacon, and a Hot Habanero Dressing Infused Watermelon slice
Kate [Chef’s Blend]: Chef’s Blend Yum Pasta
Logan [Windy City Celery]: Pork Tenderloin Brined in Windy City Celery Salt with Brussel Sprouts
Melissa [Everest Wet]: Everest Coconut Macaroons
Geoff [Citrus Basil Blend]: Citrus Basil Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos
Mandy [Herb Garden Blend]: Herb Garden Mashed Potatoes
Amy [Hickory Maple Blend]: Hickory Maple Twice Baked Potato
Laurie [Alderwood Smoke]: Alderwood Smoke Slow-Cooked Ribs
Dave [Garlic Shallot]: Garlic Shallot Pizzas
Roxanne [Chanterelle Vanilla]: Chanterelle Vanilla Walnut Toffee/Chanterelle Vanilla Almond Toffee Topped with Chanterelle Vanilla Ice Cream
And the winner of the first Beyond the Shaker challenge was..
Geoff with the Citrus Basil Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos! These were amazing. Geoff added the Citrus Basil salt to the seasoning he coated the Tilapia with, as well as to his homemade chipotle mayo and each bite was better than before. He warmed the tortilla’s up and cooked the Tilapia moments before serving and topped them with lettuce, tomato, chipotle mayo, and cilantro.
I could have easily eaten ten more of these without hesitation.
I wanted to also call out honorable mentions, but after sitting here for ten minutes I have to say its impossible to do so based on the caliber of what was created. Every single dish was amazing. However, as I mentioned above, I was extremely impressed with the two venturesome participants who chose to make desserts. Melissa’s macaroons were so amazing – each bite was an alternating combination of sweet from the coconut and salty from the Everest Wet salts. And Roxanne’s toffee/ice cream combination was the perfect way to end the night.
So that’s it! Keep checking back over the next few weeks as we will be posting many of the recipes that were created and hope you will try them yourself!
Posted January 25th, 2010 by Chris
Filed under: Chicago, event, merchandise mart, news, unrefined salt
Had an amazing weekend at the Chicago Merchandise Mart (dang that thing is big) Gift and Giving Show. Thanks everyone that came out to meet us and taste our distinctive unrefined salts and handmade blends. Chef Eric and our wonderful Chicago representative, Janelle (firstname.lastname@example.org) did Beyond the Shaker proud with lots of in-person time for potential retail sellers.
The show goes until until January 26th so feel free to stop by and try some of the ridiculously simple gourmet offerings that Chef Eric has whipped up with Beyond the Shaker unrefined salts and handmade blends. The most interesting revelation from my time at the show was a. there is a lot of ‘get rich quick’ products out there (fancy desserts in a fricking preservative-filled bottle that you can make at home in your microwave…uh, no thanks!) b. folks are concerned about sodium intake, and c. fear of the strength of the economy, especially in the midwest, continues to shackle growth.
To point c., it is time to take a stance and jump in with both feet. We are in an incredibly unique situation in time and economic history, so rather than tucking away funds under an aged mattress, use that money to grow and build. Enough. I say this not as a producer, but as a consumer. We have languished for long enough, and now is the time to move forward. Come on! And heck, unrefined salt is a great cause (health, culinary, and otherwise) in many ways, so spreading the word by purchasing or reselling our products cannot be half bad, right!?
Anyway, here is another picture from the show. Enjoy!
Chef Eric Talking Up Our Gourmet Salts
Posted January 22nd, 2010 by Tyler
Filed under: challenge, contest, fun, recipe, scallops
I know you have been dying to find out what my recipe is for the Beyond the Shaker Challenge, so without further ado, here it is!
Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with a Citrus Glaze
12 Large DRY Scallops
6 Pieces of Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
1/2 tsp Beyond the Shaker Citrus Wet Salt
6 tbsp Honey
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon
Cooking Utensils Needed:
Raised-edge Cookie Sheet
0. Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.
1. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
2. Lay down a couple pieces of paper towel and lay out scallops.
3. Using another piece of paper towel pat each scallop to remove any excess moisture (the drier the scallop the better!)
4. Grind pepper onto each scallop, turn them over and repeat.
5. Cut the strips of prosciutto in half the longways using sharp knife.
6. Lay piece of prosciutto on a piece of paper towel and set one scallop on the end closest to you.
7. Roll the scallop and prosciutto away from you until the prosciutto is wrapped around the round edge of the scallop entirely. Then put a toothpick through it to hold in place. Put completed scallop onto cookie sheet and repeat for remaining scallops.
8. Once complete, place cookie sheet into oven on middle rack where they will cook for a total of 15 minutes.
While they are cooking, prepare the glaze in the following manner:
1. In a small bowl add the honey, lemon juice and Citrus Wet Salt.
2. Using a fork or small whisk, rapidly mix together until all combines into a smooth liquid (taste to see if you have the correct amount of sweet/salty/sour taste).
When there is 5 minutes left of the scallops, open the oven and bast the top of each scallop with the glaze.
After 15 minutes in the oven, remove and serve immediately!
I wanted to experiment with turning the heat to broil for the last few minutes in order to ensure a nice brown honey glaze on the tops of each scallop, but ran out of time in the end and was fearful of over-cooking them. If you are able to do this, please let me know how it turns out!
Posted January 22nd, 2010 by Tyler
Filed under: cooking, recipe, scallops
This is it! One day left before the big challenge, and I am happy to report that things with the scallops are looking up since last week.
As a reminder, my salt assignment was Wet Citrus and I had great visions of pairing this salt with scallops – however things were not going so well due to being unable to cook the scallops to perfection.
I am happy to report that since then, I have determined what I have been doing wrong and I now have my recipe finalized. So what was it you ask? After doing extensive research, it turns out there are two different classifications of scallops: dry and wet. Wet scallops are treated with a chemical solution called STP (sodium tripolyphosphate) which helps them keep their moisture and leads to a longer shelf life. The downside to this (other than the obvious fact that there is a chemical added to them) is that the excess moisture makes them nearly impossible to brown correctly, and leads to the exact issues that I was having last week (under/over cooking).
As soon as I discovered this, I immediately threw out my remaining wet scallops and headed to my local specialty food store. To my surprise, dry scallops are much harder to find than I anticipated and the first three places I went to didn’t carry them at all. I am sure this has to do with the fact that they don’t last as long and are most likely more expensive to carry. This may be a useful trick for evaluating your own fish provider – ask them if their scallops are dry or wet, and you might be surprised! If they are cutting corners on their scallops, it is likely they may be doing it other places that you wouldn’t expect!
I finally tracked down some dry scallops at Holiday Market in Royal Oak (I knew I should have gone there first) and in talking to their seafood staff, I discovered that they ONLY carry dry scallops which is great! Once I began my testing over with these dry scallops, I found that I could do no wrong with them. Every method that had previously failed was now turning out to be a delicious tasty treat!
With that, I finalized my recipe and will post it shortly. The big event is tomorrow, so tune in afterward for a full recap!
Posted January 19th, 2010 by Chris
Filed under: bonnie's kitchen, news, salt event
If you are interested in premium unrefined salts, distinctive hand blended salts, or just food in general, and you live in the Detroit area, you are in some incredible luck. One of our favorite retail locations, Bonnie’s Kitchen, is hosting a fantastic salt event on February 6, 2010 from 1-2pm EST. In order to take part in the event, you must RSVP by calling (248) 540-4001. Bonnie’s Kitchen is located at 6527 Telegraph Road.
We know what you are thinking…an event as colossally yumtastic as this, must be incredibly expensive. Well your luck just keeps getting better (go play the lottery or something), because this salt event is completely and utterly free. You heard (read) that right. You will pay nada for this informative and delicious opportunity to try Beyond the Shaker salts, and you might even learn a thing or two in the process!
So come on out and don’t forget to RSVP!
Posted January 18th, 2010 by Chris
Filed under: carrot soup, Citrus Basil, Fleur de Sel, Hot Habanero, Murray River, recipe, Sel Gris
It is winter in the Midwest. This means shortened days and bone chilling, unrelenting, cold. This is the type of cold your mom warned you of…it sinks into your body and you feel like a long forgotten icy-pop from the back of the freezer (the one with the strange ‘yellow’ flavor that no one likes). Yeah, that is some serious cold!
So warm up with this delightful carrot soup, which we promise is incredibly filling and robust. One bowl will allow you to battle even the worst of the winter weather while it warms you from the inside out. Some folks out there are probably rolling their eyes about the prospect of carrot soup. At first it does sound a little boring, like a hospital meal, but what if I told you that THIS particular recipe has almost a bottle of wine in it? Hmmm…I certainly am not aware of any ER that is serving such culinary fare! And what if I went on to tell you that this recipe for carrot soup also contains the kick of fresh grated ginger root? Ah, yes, this really is not your typical carrot soup recipe, so perhaps you should give it a whirl and let your taste buds decide for themselves!
The other promise we can make you is that this recipe is ridiculously easy. The flavors do the work for you. No, they don’t cut up the onions or peel the carrots, but if you can accomplish the simple task of getting stuff in a pot, you will be a ‘seasoned’ (HA, never gets old) professional at whipping up this wonderful soup for you and your family/friends. AND the best part, is that it is not cream based, so there is an argument that it probably is not entirely bad for you (the 6 tablespoons of butter might indicate differently, but we will leave that determination to the experts).
Here are the ingredients:
6 tablespoons of butter, unsalted (you will be the master of what salts go into your food!)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped ginger root (you can pick this up at most grocery stores now..just use a potato peeler to remove the brown outer skin)
3 cloves of chopped garlic
5 cups of chicken or veggie stock, unsalted (I think you know why)
2 cups of dry white wine (just grab any old dry white wine, the grape varietal is not important)
1 lb of carrots, peeled and chopped into little coin shapes
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of either Beyond the Shaker Hot Habanero Blend (for those folks that want even more kick) or Citrus Basil Blend (for those folks that like a stronger citrus flavor)
Fresh chives (optional, but yummy)
2 teaspoons of a Pure Foundation Collection salt with a flakey texture, like Sel Gris, Fleur de Sel or Murray River.
1. Prepare all your ingredients ahead of time. Seriously. Organization like this will help make your cooking experience much more delightful and less rushed. Chop your onions, garlic and ginger root and toss them in a bowl together. Separately peel and cut your carrots. Have your wine bottle open (a small swig at this point is acceptable).
2. Get a large stock pot and put it on a medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt then add the olive oil. Drop in your onion, garlic and ginger root. Stir this around until the onions just start to become clear. Turn down the heat if anything starts to brown in the pot (browning is bad at this point).
3. Once your onions just begin to become clear add your Beyond Blend salt (either Hot Habanero Blend or Citrus Basil, but feel free to experiment too) and the carrots. Keep mixing (folding the carrots into the yummy flavors already built up in the pot) until the onions are completely clear. Add in the wine. Scrap the bottom of the pot with your mixing spoon or spatula to release all the crazy good flavors that have caramelized there. The wine will help you a lot here. Now keep mixing periodically until the whole mixture starts to boil.
4. Now add in the chicken or veggie stock and wait until the mixture boils again, and then turn it down to a simmer (like a mini boil, small little bubble escaping across the entire surface).
5. The mixture should simmer until you can pull a carrot out and it is soft all the way through (put a fork in it to test). Turn off the heat completely. Add the lemon juice.
6. If you are using a blender with a glass pitcher, be careful to allow the mixture to cool a bit before blending. The heat can easily crack the blender, and that would mean ‘no soup for you!’ Pour the mixture into a blender. Blend the heck out of it until it is a consistent and uniform color.
7. Add the blended mixture back to the pot to warm it up again, if necessary. To serve, add to bowls and top with the rough chopped chives and the flakey salt – season to taste with the salt. Most likely the soup will need some salt at this point since we were careful to only include ingredients that did not have salt in them in our soup mixture.
That is it! Seriously, I broke out each step to guide you through the process, but do not let that fool you into thinking this recipe is complex. It is very simple and the robust flavors will make you think differently about carrot soup. In all, it took about 45 minutes to make with the bulk of the time required to allow the carrots to become tender.
For the more adventure driven cooks, try these variations:
1. Add two medium sized Serrano peppers, chopped, to the mix at the same time as wine. The trick to the heat is the seeds of the pepper. Add them all if you want some SERIOUS heat or add just a bit for some nice spicy warmth.
2. Parsnip. Sounds like a funny name, but tastes great with carrot. Take three large parsnips, peel them with a potato peel. Coat with olive oil and put on a roasting pan covered with aluminum foil in a 400 oven for about 20 minutes. The parsnips are ready when they have a little brown to them and are soft. Now throw this into the mix at the same time as the carrots. Wow, is that good and worth the extra effort. Seriously do not rob yourself of the yum.
3. Add a dollop of plain yogurt or butter to the top of the soup just prior to serving.
Posted January 17th, 2010 by Chris
Filed under: new york city, new york times, sodium, war on salt
In case you missed it, the City of New York decided to target the sodium intake of its citizens this week in an effort to increase public health (the New York Times article describing the initiative). This is similar to other social and public health programs instituted by Chicago and New York over the last few years. At Beyond the Shaker, we were overrun with questions about how New York’s plan to curtail sodium in products would impact our flavor-filled mission to spark an unrefined salt revolution. And the answer is…we don’t really give NYC’s initiative a lot of thought as a threat to Beyond the Shaker. Of course, we certainly care about public health and decreasing blood pressure, but as the New York Times article points out, (and as we have discussed in our Salt Guide), there is still no scientific evidence that directly ties sodium intake to heart disease or blood pressure. There are some studies that indicate there may be a specific gene that causes high blood pressure and such gene is triggered by sodium, but to date there is no evidence that universally, decreasing sodium consumption provides a decrease in hypertension.
Putting aside whether the sodium in your diet actually is the cause of high blood pressure, WE do agree that there seems to be a lot of sodium in packaged and restaurant foods. Studies indicate that 80% of salt in our diets originates from packaged or restaurant food. That statistic is staggering regardless of the health impact of a high sodium diet. And this is precisely why New York’s “war on salt” really does not faze us at Beyond the Shaker. Our focus from the beginning has been cooking at home and the value of using unrefined, naturally harvested, salts in your kitchen to boost flavor. Foods that are pre-packaged often contain high sodium levels because of salt’s ability to act as a preservative. Typically when using salt in the dishes you prepare yourself, little thought (hopefully) goes into the shelf life of that home made meal. Instead, in the home kitchen, you reach for salt to add flavor, texture and color.
In an incredibly useful, but unscientific poll, we have observed that use of unrefined salts (like the salts in our Pure Foundation Collection) and salt blends (like the hand crafted blends in our Beyond Blends Collection) typically curtails the overall total amount of salt that would have been used if table salt were substituted. The explanation behind this culinary phenomenon stems from the fact, in our opinion, that tasters recognize a more satisfying salt flavor in unrefined salts. Table salts are processed to a point where the salt itself transforms into more of a lab experiment than a seasoning, especially with all the various anti-caking agents and additives used in the modern ‘table salt’ (shelf life = infinity). Just take a close look at snow-flake like Murray River Salt or the incredible crystal structure of Cyprus Black Lava Salt, and even visually, it becomes quite clear why table salt just doesn’t cut it on our palettes.
Its Pink Snow!
So I guess we applaud New York’s initiative, not because we believe the government should legislate what we eat, but instead because it might mean people will make an effort to prepare more of their food themselves. Add some wonderfully distinctive salts to your kitchen pantry, explore some of our recipes and application ideas, and cook at home for yourself and family. This can be quite rewarding and certainly more healthy that relying on food produced in a factory setting where the focus is shelf life, not flavor!
Posted January 16th, 2010 by Tyler
Filed under: challenge, cooking, scallops
We are now a week into the challenge, with a week left before its time to present our dishes for judging. I wanted to take this opportunity to describe a few of my own trials and tribulations as I prepare the (what I hope to be) award winning dish!
As a reminder, my random salt assignment was Citrus Wet Salt, which I personally feel is one of the more challenging salts to use without a little direction or inspiration (and I guess that is why we have so many recipe ideas on this site!). That being said, I am forging ahead and not letting it dissuade me! I have settled on trying to pair this salt with scallops, which I am finding are also a bit of a challenge – bear in mind, I am no master chef – so things could certainly get interesting once the judging begins!
So far, I have gone through 18 scallops with less-than-desired outcomes. I have decided to use the Citrus Wet Salt in a citrus and honey glaze that I will coat the scallops with shortly before they are finished to give them a nice browning. However, the glaze has not been the issue and instead I cannot seem to get them to cook correctly!
I have attempted to cook them a variety of ways which include: pan-searing, baking, broiling, and grilling. I have also done lots of research and followed cooking instructions I have found in various places, but no matter what I do I cannot seem to cook them correctly. Each of the 18 so far has either been completely raw on the inside, or so overdone that they turn into small rubber balls that are impossible to chew.
So with a week to go, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board for me. Check back next week to hopefully hear some better news!
Posted January 10th, 2010 by Tyler
Filed under: challenge, contest, fun
Recently it occurred to me (while watching an episode of Top Chef) that it would be extremely fun to host our own competition in which the varieties of Beyond the Shaker salts are highlighted. I quickly found eleven friends who were up to the challenge and the games begun! The rules were simple:
1) Each of the 12 participants would each be given a random jar of Beyond the Shaker salt.
2) Each person will then need to concept a dish that focuses on and highlights that salt.
3) We will all get together for dinner and each person will present their dish and serve it to the other participants.
4) Votes will be cast, and a winner will be chosen!
Everyone agreed to the rules, and the challenge was underway. Using a random system, the salt assignments were determined:
Myself (Tyler): Citrus Wet
Amanda: French Herb Blend
Chris: Hot Habanero
Kate: Chef’s Blend
Logan: Windy City Celery
Melissa: Everest Wet
Geoff: Citrus Basil Blend
Mandy: Herb Garden Blend
Amy: Hickory Maple Blend
Laurie: Alderwood Smoke
Dave: Garlic Shallot
Roxanne: Chanterelle Vanilla
The winner will receive this awesome chef trophy:
Who will win?
Check back soon for an update on the events leading up to the big challenge!