I was introduced to a great seasoning blend after a volunteer stint recently. If you are a Houston Chowhound, you are undoubtedly thinking about food most of your waking hours. Which vendor has the freshest seafood? Which taco truck is conveniently located on your errand route? Where to savor your next gourmet meal? So it was no surprise to me when a fellow civically-minded Chowhound organized a meeting of our food-obsessed minds at the Houston Food Bank early one Saturday morning.
After a short tour of the facility, we entered the vast kitchen. A thorough hand-washing followed, and then we donned the oh-so-flattering hairnets, plastic aprons and gloves and formed two long assembly lines. I was in first position in my line, separating individual containers and portioning out handfuls of ice-cold spaghetti from an enormous bin to my right. My friend Maureen followed with a piece or two of chicken, and the rest in line scooped vegetables, sauce, parmesan, fresh basil (yes fresh basil) and lastly, canned fruit. By the time each container reached Gary, Maureen’s husband, it was pretty greasy and sticky. Gary was responsible for one of the ‘sealing machines’ and tried gallantly to keep the plastic wrap in position so that it could form a tight seal on each tray before it was carted off to the freezer. Fortunately for us he is mechanically inclined and in less than three hours we had assembled almost 1,000 wholesome meals!
To my left was a quiet gentleman named Larry. He was not part of our assembly line. He had a special spot at the head of the table and was our designated “basil chopper”. Larry wowed us with his superior knife skills by mincing bushels of basil for the spaghetti dinners we were packaging. I later found out that his ‘gramma’ Douglas developed a recipe for a delicious Kosher seasoning named Sōté.
Sōté, pronounced So-tay, stands for “salt of the earth”. The Serb in me and my knowledge of Cyrillic loves the use of diacritic marks in the label! Sōté is a mixture of Kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic, chilli, ginger, spice extract, turmeric and other spices. It is not spicy and contains no MSG. Salt is King here and the accompanying spices dance delicately around him.
Larry gifted me with a few containers to share with friends and family (disclaimer: I am not making a dime as I promote it). I have used it on baby back ribs and flatiron steaks with great results. Sōté is also suitable for vegetables but be forewarned that it is mostly salt so a little sprinkle goes a long way. I lightly sprinkled the salmon in my recipe below and paired it with a homemade roasted Hatch pepper sauce for a little fire and a sweet and crunchy jicama salad – the pairings were excellent!
Sōté is locally produced (another positive point in my mind) and packaged by the Texas Custom Spice Company in Houston. The packaging is understated and comes in a well-sealed metal container with a see-through lid. To order Sōté, click on the link. Also for sale are cool t-shirts and salt shakers.
Sōté rubbed salmon with Hatch pepper sauce and Jicama mango slaw
¾ lb salmon filet
Sōté seasoning or seasoning of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pat salmon dry with a paper towel to remove any moisture. Rub a little Sōté seasoning on the salmon, remembering that the Sōté is mostly salt.
Pour olive oil into an oven-proof pan or cast iron skillet. Heat pan over medium heat until the oil is very hot. Carefully add the salmon, skin side down. Cover with a splatter shield if necessary to prevent oil from splashing everywhere. Sauté salmon until the edges begin to turn color, about 5 – 6 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Remove pan with salmon from heat and place under broiler for 2 minutes to sear the top. Remove pan from oven using an oven mitt. Serve with Hatch pepper green sauce and Jicama mango slaw.
Hatch pepper sauce
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1 roasted Hatch pepper (spicy or not), skin removed, stemmed and seeded
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
1 peeled and chopped Roma tomato
Place all ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Jicama mango ‘slaw’
½ lb jicama, peeled and julienned (use the mandoline for this if you have one)
1 mango, peeled, sliced thin and then longwise into thin strips
8 radishes, sliced thinly (here again, the mandoline comes in handy)
1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Serve using tongs to drain slaw from the juices.