I saw an old painter's palette at a flea market the other day smeared with vibrant shades of sunset oranges and cornflower blues. Later that day Wayne and I were sharing a gelato in North Beach and he was telling me about a gelataria that serves a sampler on a painter's palette, six tiny scoops for seven dollars - your choice of flavors. It all got me thinking about color. I got home and had a few sticks of butter in the refrigerator and decided to make a spectrum of compound butters. Compound butter can bring an explosive burst of flavor to a recipe and I don't use them nearly enough. My goal was to create butters that vibrant, colorful, and unique - I didn't want to make any I had tried in the past. I ended up making the following flavors: Dry Desert Lime Butter, Raw Serrano Butter, Dehydrated Strawberry Butter, and Smoked Paprika Butter.
Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter: I've been playing around quite a bit lately using tea as a seasoning. Many times I'll grind up tea leaves in a mortar and pestle and use it the way you might use a pepper. The fragrance that comes off the ground leaves is wonderful and brings an unexpected element to many preparations. Depending on the tea I am using this can range from smoky to floral to fresh and bright. In this case I choose a dried lime tisane (or herbal tea) instead. There is something haunting, vibrant and ancient in the taste of dried lime and I thought it might lend itself nicely to a compound butter for use on a range of foods like: sweet potatoes (mashed/roasted), grilled corn, as a spread on sandwiches, etc.
Freeze-Dried Strawberry Compound Butter: Freeze-dried fruit is quite common now. You can get strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pineapple. Crush and chop these strawberries, whip them into the butter and you get a textured, color-flecked spread perfect for pancakes, toast, muffins and the like. The strawberries are on the very tart side of sweet so I sweetened this one up with a bit of sugar - I used Florida Crystals because I didn't want a browner sugar to impact its bright color.
Raw Serrano Compound Butter: This one is for the cornbreads of the world. It has a little heat and a lot of flavor. I used 2 medium serrano chiles, but you can scale up of down on the chile scale depending on your tastes. A pretty pale green butter flecked with dark green freckles I'm going to use it on crepes, and corn, and to toss fresh summer shell beans, and for pasta....really versatile. I think a great variation on this one would be to add roasted garlic and pan-toast the chiles before blending them in.
Smoked Paprika Compound Butter: Fragrant, delicious, and a stunning rusty-orange color a little of this butter goes the distance. It will lend itself nicely to brown rice, certain kabobs, sandwiches, corn soup (I'm setting myself up for a corn bender), toasted artisan breads, and zucchini muffins.
A couple other ideas I had in mind but didn't get around to:
- toasted, shredded nori with sesame seeds
- dried fig and Balinese long pepper
Picture compound butters: (clockwise) Serrano, Smoked Paprika, Strawberry, Desert Lime
A Quartet of Compound ButtersThese recipes make batches of roughly 1/4 cup each. Feel free to double or triple batches depending on the quantity you are after.
Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter Recipe
4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 or 2 Numi Desert Lime tea bags (depending on how strong you want it), cut open and the contents ground in a mortar and pestle 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea saltCombine in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Dehydrated Strawberry Compound Butter Recipe
4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar (I used Florida Crystals) 1/3 cup dehydrated organic strawberries, mincedCombine in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Raw Serrano Compound Butter Recipe
4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 2 serrano chiles, deveined and seeded, loosely chopped 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea saltCombine in a small bowl and puree with a handblender until the chiles are fully incorporated. Refrigerate.
Smoked Paprika Compound Butter Recipe
4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea saltCombine in a small bowl and refrigerate.