A Twenty Dollar Jar of Salt

If it isn’t obvious by the title of this website, I am in love with all things vanilla or lemon. They are the flavours that cause my palate to dance. And not just my palate, my nose too, and my emotions, and sometimes even my booty. Although that last one, I promise, no one will ever witness…

To me, vanilla evokes calmness, reassurance, and no matter where I am when I taste or smell it, I can close my eyes and be home. I feel loved. Yup, I get all that from plain ‘ol vanilla. But plain it is not, in my opinion, and perhaps what I love even more about  the vanilla bean is its’ story. Read about it, it’s fascinating.

As for lemon, it is the perfect pick-me-up, the pivotal end to a heavy meal, the splash that can bring life to any dish. Not only are lemons for the taste buds, but the eyes as well. Someone once told me that you should have a little yellow in every room of your house. For the kitchen, it’s lemons.

Ok, onward. But the above will help to explain why I spent $20 on a 4oz jar of salt.

I had always walked right past the lady selling salt at the St. Helena Farmer’s Market, because really, I’m not there to buy salt. Last time though, I glanced a little longer than usual and this word caught my eye: Vainilla. I thought, “that’s not how to spell vanilla, she can’t be selling something with vanilla in it”, but my curiosity was sparked and I walked over. Sure enough. Vanilla beans from the Kingdom of Tonga were infusing little white crystals of Ilocana Asin sea salt.

Beautiful.

A finishing salt with vanilla flavour. What dessert would not be elevated?

So I bought the little jar and thanked the lovely lady. Here it is in all it’s salty glory:

Vainilla Asin, Infused March 2011. PhillippineSeaSalts.com

When I first tasted it, I almost expected it to be sweet because vanilla has always been associated with sweet. The salty grains were just that though, but enhanced ever so delicately with the oils of the bean. It was one of the most striking contrasts I had ever tasted.

I asked the lady what she puts the salt on and she gave me some of her favourites, but what really brought it home was the message typed on the label that reads: “This unique blend is a combination of sweet and salty flavors, creating a true sensory journey. Its application is only limited by the boundaries of your culinary intrigue.”

Yes, vanilla may be a humble flavour, but it is one my my favourites and I can’t wait to put my culinary intrigue to the test!

Fab Fungi

I am not sure about your Farmer’s Market, but mine is not cheap. Of course, living in the Napa Valley, not much is. My zip code boasts some of the most expensive housing, gas prices, and grocery stores in the nation. Five years ago when my hubby and I moved here, this fact became glaringly obvious when I was given my dry cleaning bill.  I chuckled at the amount, then told the clerk that she must have made a mistake. She assured me that she had not. Yikes. I have not been back.

With all the expense however, we are blessed to live here. We are graced daily with endless beauty, near perfect weather, outrageously delicious restaurants, lovely people, an impeccable selection of  seasonal foods…  the list goes on.

But back to the Farmer’s Market.

I go on Friday mornings. I do not go with a list. The items that catch my eye, and sometimes my nose, are what I buy. Produce is limited to three or four items to ensure that I use them all. I do not always know how to prepare my purchases, but that is where the fun begins. I bring my treasures home, consult with one or more of my favourite cook books, recipe websites, or cooking shows, tweak the recipes to my liking, and voila, something delicious emerges.

Usually.

Last week it was the mushroom guy that caught my eye.

It was cheaper to buy an assorted basket, so I got all these beauties for $5. They include King Trumpet, Oyster, Shiitake, and Lions Mane.

I wanted to taste each one, but did not want to prepare them all differently, so I did something simple that would still highlight the flavour in each mushroom. They got sliced, placed in a baking dish, drizzled with EVOO, seasoned with salt and fresh thyme, then dotted with fresh mozzarella. Lucky little mushrooms.

Then I threw them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes and they came out looking like this:

They tasted even better!

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