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Thomas The Accidental Gourmet

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Smoked Sea Salt

So, I've officially met middle age.  I am now no longer allowed to have unlimited double cheeseburgers. 

Now I have to cut down on my fat intake.

Hand me a gun.  I just want to get it over with.

Well, they say that necessity is the mother of invention. And I necessarily need something smoky in a lot of my food.  Bacon, apparently, is right out.  That means smoky goodness is right out.  Unless you want to have chipotles or smoked salt.

Chipotles are good (mine are awesome), but don't always go with what you're making.  Smoked salt runs about $30+/pound, which I am just too cheap to buy.

But what if you could buy your salt at about $9.00 a pound...or less?

I made a trip to World Market, bought some grey sea salt for about $8, and after my annual chipotle smoke, had almost a pound of smoked salt.

Smoked Sea Salt

What You Need:

Salt (coarse grind)
Smoke (about 30 hours worth)
Aluminum trays with small holes in the bottom

What To Do With It:

I did this while smoking jalapenos. For fun, I added (i) a sliced jalapeno to one pan, (ii) a whole jalapeno to a second and (iii) a sprig of fresh rosemary to a third. 

First, poke small holes in the bottoms of your pans. If you've got coarse salt, you shouldn't have any (or much) falling through. 

Next, add whatever herbs/spices you think might taste good.  I found that I could taste just a bit of extra heat from the sliced jalapeno tray.  The rosemary added just a hint of the spice when ground with the salt.

Place your trays according to the heat you're using: 150 degrees and less, place on the top rack.  More, place on the bottom rack. You don't want too much heat, as the resin will cook away. After my initial heating, I dropped my temp to about 125, and moved the trays up to the top rack, by the chimney (away from the fire box).

Don't do this if you're smoking ribs, for instance, as your salt will pick up the flavors of whatever moisture is floating around.  Jalapenos add a small amount of flavor, and so are great for this.

Smoke your salt, uncovered, for about 24-36 hours, stirring about every 4 hours. Put it in a grinder and use in place of bacon for flavoring (such as in potato-leek soup).

Couscous al Barco

I like couscous. I particularlly like the little, traditional-style, Moroccan couscous.

I don't know why, but some (most) of my friends find my liking of couscous a source of amusement--I now own a shirt that says "One Flew Over the Couscous Nest."  When I wear that to Central Market, I get mad props.  Everyone else just looks at me as if I've lost my mind.

Nobody would find it amusing if I ate spaghetti, or macaroni salad, or baked ziti...but mention couscous, and the laughing starts.

If you plan ahead and make too much couscous for dinner, the next day you can have it in a salad.  We did that recently when we chartered a boat down in the BVI. We were going from Cooper Island over to the Baths on Virgin Gorda for the day.  It was blowing somewhere between 17 and 22 knots (that's fairly strong and choppy), so we really didn't want to have anything overly-involved for lunch.

Hence, the salad.

Couscous al Barco

What You Need:

2 cups cooked moroccan couscous
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 mango, chopped
1/2 tsp ginger, minced
Salt to taste

What To Do With It:

Mix all ingredients, mix, and let stand for 3 hours for best results. Salt to taste and serve with a nice caribbean lager such as Red Stripe or Caribe.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gently Smoked Tilapia

For reasons I won't go into (because I'm not old enough to bitch about my health problems, yet), I have recently gone on an ultra low-fat, low fiber diet.  So, I get 3 tsp. (o.O) of oil and 6 ounces of lean meat a day. Other than that, it's all about carbo loading.

The unfortunate thing is that a typical serving of pasta has 210 calories.  Considering that I need about 2000 calories per day, and that I typically eat a double serving of pasta, that's 5 large bowlfuls of pasta per day.

That's boring.

And just what the creative juices needed to get boiling again.

So, I was smoking jalapenos this weekend for chipotles, and just about the time they were ready to come off the smoker, it was getting to be dinner time. We had a bit of tilapia in the freezer, and I had just made some tomatillo salsa the day before.

A little broccoli, some tomatoes, and a cup of rice later, and we had a good meal.

Gently Smoked Tilapia

What You Need

2 tilapia filets, room temperature
1 tbsp grapeseed oil (because of its high smoke point)
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 broccoli head
1 tbsp cilantro
1 lime
1/2 cup tomatillo salsa (room temperature)
1 tomato

What to do with it.

Place oil on and heat a cast-iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet) over medium-high heat until the oil pools in the center. Place your filets on the skillet and immediately remove from heat. Cover each filet with 1/4 cup salsa, then transfer to a smoker at about 150-175 degrees (I placed my skillet right where the firebox joins the smoker to maximize the heat).  Start your rice, squirt about half a lime on your broccoli and add the cilantro to it. Cook this about 5 minutes prior to your rice being done.

After about 20 minutes, pull up your rice, add the other 1/2 lime juice to that & fluff. Remove the tilapia from the grill, plate it all with 2-3 slices of tomato.

We served this with Liberty School chardonnay.