My students will often ask me what a few of my favorite products are to work with when cooking. While I adore experimenting in the kitchen, a few “staples” include: Herbs de Provence, Smoked Salt and EVOO. Herbs de Provence… a mixture of dried herbs typical of Provence (France)… usually contains savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and lavender leaves and other herbs. One can generally purchase Herbs de Provence at any grocery store in the spice/dried herb section. Pairs brilliantly with roasted potatoes, cooked vegetables, Ahi tuna, chicken, other seafood and red meat… the lavender is a warm, inviting flavor… I love it!
A recent discovery and new love is an
Artisan Salish Alder Smoked Salt (Fine). I adore using a woodchip grill when cooking; however, living in a high-rise in downtown Dallas, I am unable to have a grill on my balcony. Ergo, the smoked sea salt truly permeates any type of protein/produce with a smoky bite. I once worked in a restaurant in Arizona that had a wood-fire. I would return home every night, smelling of a smoky-campfire… and loved the scent! My students love the smoked salt upon introduction… it truly tastes as wonderful as it smells! (can purchase at Sur La Table or online).
Last but not least, EVOO. What is it? Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Of all the fats and oils, EVOO is the most healthy oil for the human body (one of the essential fats that our bodies need in order to function properly!) In order for an oil to qualify as “extra virgin” the oil must also pass both an official chemical test in a laboratory and a sensory evaluation by a trained tasting panel recognized by the International Olive Council. The EVOO must be free from defects while exhibiting some fruitiness. Since extra virgin olive oil is simply pressed fruit juice without additives, the factors influencing its quality and taste weight heavily upon the varieties of olives used, production practices and the dedication of the producer. My advice? While quality EVOO can be pricy, spend the extra dollars on purchasing an EVOO that you enjoy. One of my favorite EVOO is LA Organic ORO EVOO INTENSO (can purchase at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Central Market) or Marques de Valdueza Extra Virgin Olive Oil (can purchase at Sur la Table). A rich EVOO can bring a bright, Mediterranean bite to any vegetable, protein or salad dressing.