One rotten thing about modernity is how the word 'friend' has been pilloried and debased. Oh, I friended her but she unfriended me and now he's my friend but not my FRIEND-friend--we're just, you know, friends. Air-quote, Air-quote.
I love my friends. One unfailing measure, to me, of friendship--the real kind, minus the air quotes and other paraphernalia--is whether I know something about what or how this person likes to eat, and vice versa. It's a marker of having spent some time, paid some attention. Loves cilantro, hates cilantro, allergic to potatoes, can't stomach white food, will not eat citrus with a meal, dessert first, no green salad in the winter, not crazy about squash. Those are some of my peeps.
Once I have some curious little fact of this nature to file away, I realize me and this person have moved past the opening event.
A couple of benefits of friends (not the same as friends with benefits, so don't you start): they expose you to new things to eat, and they often lead you to more friends, who will do the same.
This has plenty of benefits. One of them is that I have never had to say "full disclosure" before, but now I can: I received a review copy of Marisa's new book, with all its handsome new pathways for tasty things to eat. Watch for the R&P plug in the headnote for quince chutney!. It's like Hollywood, this food blogging business. Limos and swag and webs of influence.
Friends or strangers, Marisa is a hot one to follow, even if you are not (yet) into canning. She gathers up amazing links from all over creation and I always end up cooking something new when she posts them. She's quick to point out ways to engage mason jars for purposes other than canning. And her canning 101 is a great resource, so you're in good hands if you do decide to start canning (or take it to the next level) once you fall under her spell.
In my ongoing quest to find something to make eating feel like fun again while we wait for the food to come up, I made a few batches of her herb salt. The total investment was about 5 minutes of active time per batch, and the results were outstanding, something you can play with endlessly and tailor just to your liking.
Basically you mix minced fresh herbs with aromatics and salt, and either let them air dry for two days (her method) or zatz them in a slow oven or food dehydrator (my impatient solution), and then Bob is your uncle. I lightly pounded it all in a mortar and pestle when things were dried out, to even out the consistency. Popcorn, roasted brussels sprouts, my new favorite mixy mixy one-bowl meal, eggs and other items have not been heard complaining when they were dusted with the stuff.
adapted from Preserving By The Pint, by Marisa McClellan
version #1: 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, 1 bunch of fresh scallions, 1T freshly grated fresh ginger, microplaned zest of two limes, pinch of cayenne, 2T good quality coarse salt
version #2: two handfuls of fresh shiso leaf (available in Asian groceries, and in a few weeks as a weed around my chicken coop, hard as that may be to believe now), 2T toasted sesame seeds, 2 cloves of garlic, 2t freshly grated fresh ginger, 1t korean red pepper flakes, microplaned zest of two limes, 2T good quality coarse salt
Mince everything up as finely as possible, then add the salt and mince it all together some more. Spread it on a plate to air dry, stirring occasionally, for a day or two, or put it in an oven, set as low as possible, or dehydrator for a few hours. Pound it lightly with a mortar and pestle if you like, to grind out anything chunky, and fling with merry abandon over anything you like to eat.