Streuth’s in the Salt

After reading yet another treatise on kosher salt for cooking, I feel compelled to speak. Often, I don’t even have to read something for this to happen. Salt, however, is my favorite seasoning.

First: All politics is local, and all salt is sea salt. Even the mined stuff, quietly waiting in pink slabs for people to make lamps out of it, has oceanic origins. So it’s not a question of sea vs. not-sea. That said: People. Just use Giusto’s fine sea salt, evaporated just for you from the San Francisco Bay. SO much better than any of the self-styled so-called soi disant kosher salts it’s not even funny. Pure, light, finger-crushable, dissolves in a flash. Even salt-shaker-able for table use. Also: cheap and accessible, in the Mother’s Market bulk section. I keep Maldon on hand for finishing certain things, and clammy large-gauge for braised meat, and the odd grain of black lava salt, but quotidian three-finger pinches are Giusto’s. Sure, this is easy for me, a person who may or may not have a 50-pound bag of it in her barn at this very moment, to say… but also, 8,000% streuth. Make this simple change and your cooking will reap heretofore unimagined benefits, I swear.

Saffron Salvation

Is there life without saffron? Maybe, for some cooks. But not for me.

I’ve planted my own saffron crocuses, and from the several that bloomed (that’s one in the photo) over a couple of years I eked out enough stigmas to tint and flavor a handful of dishes—an ultra-clarified golden fish stock poured around a lozenge of poached halibut one Christmas eve sticks in my mind. I don’t make a saffron dish every day, of course, but often enough that I keep it on hand. Or, strive to—I’d actually been without for a while, making do with one-use purchases.

Now, however, I have a forever saffron, from Rumi Spice, which I learned about from a most unlikely source, Shark Tank. It’s not that I don’t consume every single Shark Tank ep with single-minded concentration, I do—it’s just that I do not expect to glean a great cooking ingredient in so doing. It’s especially gratifying that Rumi Spice saffron is the very best I’ve ever tasted and cooked with, because it has something else going for it: righteousness. And righteousness hasn’t really been a part of the story of the global spice trade through history, has it. The company was founded by U.S. veterans of the war in Afghanistan, looking to contribute in a meaningful way to the country in which they’d served, especially in a way benefiting Afghan women.

Just a pinch of Rumi saffron threads tinted my risotto a deep, sunny, school-bus yellow—you can see in the photo—and had a round, savory flavor and aroma completely without the harsh, medicinal edge that instantly creates saffron-dislikers. So good! Convenient to order from the Rumi website or, as I did, from AMZN Prime. The price is so good, too: just $8.99 for half a gram, $14.99 for 1 g. I started with the half, but think I’ll be on the gram plan from here on in.

 

Wobbly-Start Tart, Very Mary Berry Finish

#5, jonagold apple

My oven’s been on the fritz. Had a Sears guy out this a.m., which makes three visits. Three no-resolution visits. He took the brain out again, which had already been sent to Illinois for repair, returned, and reinstalled, to re-send. This after much telephone conversation with putative experts on the other end of the line, one of whom finally responded affirmatively to his out-of-ideas question about should he send the board in again. You might think it’d be a little comforting that he the actual tech had his calls end several times and was left hanging on hold for, at one point, a solid 30 minutes. Techs, they’re just like us, blahblahblah. No, I can tell you, it was not, comforting. It was only more no-working-oven.

Anythewho, at some point in this sad interim I bought a countertop oven so I could investigate a Mary Berry tart that had intrigued me. So I could BAKE, in other words. I just finished a rewatch of Masterclasses from The Great British Bake-Off, in anticipation of the new season, and Mary illustrated Season 4’s two-crust fruit pie sig chal with her Wobbly Apricot Tart—wobbly referring to the top crust following the undulating apricot curves. What caught my baker’s eye (other than calling for marzipan, which matched up nicely with an overstock in my pantry) was the high proportion of powdered sugar in the pastry, which I could see resulting in a nice crisp crust, just as Mary said. It is unsurprising in the extreme that she Mary was right. Very nice tart pastry. The thin top crust revealingly draping the fruit underneath like a bias-cut sheath is some kinda genius.

#1, yellow peach

 

I used big yellow peaches, peeled and sliced, in the first one—we’d just returned from a mini road trip to the Santa Ynez Valley with the usual fruit-and-veg souvenirs. Very well received by those who 1. like a piece of such things with tea in the morning, and 2. like a piece of such things with Dr. Who late at night. (These are the same people.)

 

#2, white nectarine/blackberry

 

Second one used the last Santa Ynez white nectarine and last blackberries. (This iteration remains the favorite of one of the Dr. Whoers.)

 

 

 

#3, jonagold apple

 

Third, and fourth: Santa Ynez jonagold apples, only just in season when we drove past Dittmar’s, and very good for baking. One of these I served to neighbors after dinner, sending the remainder home with an attendee, because tea and Dr. Who were covered by already-baked #4. The other day, the final three small jonagolds were baked into #5.

 

I made just a couple of changes, in service of supporting my habit of finishing the top of tarts with a sprinkle of large-gauge sparkling sugar—I added a teaspoon or two of water to the egg I beat for the pastry, and held back a scant teaspoon to brush on the top before sugaring and baking. Mary goes for a post-bake dusting of icing sugar from her always-to-hand dredger; we each have our tart habits.

In conclusion: Countertop oven does a nice job on tarts, even has convection; Sears doesn’t give a flying fig if my Master Protection Agreement-covered appliance ever works again; and, I’m going to need more marzipan.

Find Mary’s recipe here: Wobbly Apricot Tart.