I highly recommend this cookbook. I am so thoroughly enjoying its premise and information that it can't pass by unnoticed. The book is, The Improvisational Cook, and the author, Sally Schneider, writes a food column by the same name.
In the book, she describes basic techniques that result in an ingredient so full of flavor and promise that it can be added to other dishes to transform them into something miraculous! Think slow roasted tomatoes to perfection... easily mastered roasted peppers... All of these turned into artful and tasty hors d'oeuvres, as well as additions to pasta and many other dishes. The book also contains basic seasoning ideas and mixtures, and describes groups of flavors that perform well together. This sort of information is always something I enjoy in a cookbook: don't just tell it to me, explain the why's and what-fors, too, please!!
I use this cookbook as yet another tool in my cooking repertoire. It provides a springboard for culinary ideas. Though it contains many wonderful recipes to work through word for word, I'm enjoying it more for its open-ended premise----cooking's innate deference for improvisation. Mistakes and hair-brained ideas can create masterpieces that you will turn to again and again, this line of thought says. The author even describes a few different occurrences of her own and uses these ideas in the book.
And here is one of the simplest and yet miraculous recipes/techniques in it. One that I'm happy to be able to utilize now that I'm living in a drier climate!
Forget about that astringent garlic salt in the cupboard! I actually don't use it because of its harsh flavor as I prefer either using the real stuff or a particular garlic powder I like to order.
But here's a simple solution! Now, why didn't I think of this??
Blend the garlic and the salt together using one of these methods... Chop the cloves together with the salt on a cutting board, using the side of your knife to gently smear the garlic into the salt... Press the garlic through a garlic press onto a mound of salt on your cutting board and smear it into the salt with your knife... Grind chopped up garlic with salt in a large mortar and pestle----but be careful not to completely demolish the salt granules. Also, it helps to be using fresh and juicey garlic.
After blending the salt with the garlic, place the mixture in a bowl and allow it to sit out to air dry for a day. Place in an airtight jar and use to your wild abandon!!
****If you're wondering why the salt in the pictures isn't stark white, I have a preference for this specific salt. I have had many visitors to my house ask me why my salt has "little specks" in it... Well, this salt contains lots of natural minerals and is mined by a small company in Utah. Look for it in your local natural foods store---you'll love its subtle flavor----it's well worth seeking out.