26 October 2010
Palm Island Sea Salts Review + Butternut Squash Aioli on Blanched Asparagus
I received an assortment of Palm Island Premium Sea Salts from the company that I've been waiting to review. This is one of my favorite brands of sea salt ever since I first stumbled upon the salts in the grocery store a few months ago. I was excited because the flavors of the salts seemed unique compared to other varieties I know about.
Starting clockwise on the top left, we have Bamboo Jade sea salt. Certified organic bamboo-leaf extract is mixed with the salt and has one of the most unique scents and tastes available. The salt crystals are large in size and have a very pretty light green coloring. The suggested use is to enhance Asian recipes. I've sprinkled this salt on top of oatmeal cookies before being baked. Really lends a unique flavor that takes the cookie from typical to outstanding.
Next is White Silver, which is the base for all the other salts. The salt, which is harvested from the Molokai waters, is allowed to dry under Hawaii Kai's original "Solar Seal", their method of preserving the trace minerals present naturally in salt. The ingredients list goes, "Natural Pacific sea salt, premium Hawaiian sea salt, and Hawaii Kai Ocean Essence". The crystals are sparkly and the taste of this one is a bit saltier, but not tinny like most table salts.
Red Gold Sea Salt includes the White Silver mixed with rel alaea clay. The clay they select is purified and bonded with the White Silver. The texture is slightly clumpy when you pour the salt from the bag, but the taste is great. This is the salt featured in the recipe I used for the review.
Last is Black Lava. Hawaii Kai uses premium activated charcoal, which they say is an antitoxin and digestive aid, mixed with their White Silver. The presentation factor is outstanding with this alt. The flavor is deep and earthy and would be great as a finishing salt on meats. (That's how I've used it.)
Any of these salts can be used however you want as a finishing salt, you just need to match or contrast the flavors.
To feature the salt, I paired the Red Gold sea salt with a butternut squash aioli on top of blanched asparagus. I used the same recipe for aioli that I've used in the past, only I omitted the honey and stevia. I didn't have any lemon juice so I subbed white wine vinegar. Also, I doubled the garlic and added a little horseradish mustard. I seasoned lightly with regular flake kosher salt to bring out the flavors, knowing I'd be sprinkling the Palm Island salt on top later. Don't make it too salty!
To make this dish a bit more fall-centric, I roasted a butternut squash until tender, then scooped and mashed the flesh. I added 1/2 cup squash to the finished aioli. The light orange color is beautiful! The aioli can be prepared days ahead of time and stored, covered, in the fridge for a while. This is a great way to sneak in more vegetables into your diet as well as using what's in season. Just make sure the squash is roasted completely and mashed smoothly so it blends with the aioli. I always prick the squash with a fork, microwave on high for 5 minutes. This makes the squash easy to slice open. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stick in a hot oven (375° is what my oven was on) until the flesh can easily be stuck with a fork and scooped.
I saw these small, tender asparagus stalks at Martin's and knew that I wanted to do something with them. My goal was to keep prep minimal, so instead of roasting I opted to blanch. Blanching is the process of cooking whatever for a brief amount of time in boiling water, just until the color pops, then removing to a bowl of really cold or ice water to halt the cooking process. The result is tender vegetables that look beautiful and have a snap. Difficult to overcook, really. So I trimmed the asparagus, plopped in boiling water, and it was ready in no time. You want to make sure you pat the asparagus dry or else it'll make the aioli watery. All that remained was the finishing touch of the Red Gold Sea Salt, which clearly contrasts nicely against the subtle orange of the aioli.
If you see any of these salts at a grocery store near you, don's hesitate to purchase a bag. They're also available online.