Salt of the EarthHave you ever wondered why food sometimes tastes flat or like something is missing? The answer is salt.  As a major component of cooking, just a pinch brings a tasteless meal to a perfectly seasoned and delectable dining experience. Its’ not about adding lots of salt to your food when cooking, that’s not what chefs do; they layer and season all components of a dish.  Ex: making spaghetti and meatballs, a chef tastes and adds salt throughout the process.  When making meatballs, meat gets salted, when the tomato sauce/gravy is made it gets salted and, finally adding salt to the boiling water to cook the spaghetti.  It all comes together as a well orchestrated symphony in your mouth.  This doesn’t mean you add huge amounts of salt or fail to taste as you’re seasoning/cooking.  The beauty of layering flavors is you don’t need to add as much salt.  Remember, it’s not about quantity but rather when and where salt is added.  Another factor to take into account is external products you add to the dish and if they contain added salt; canned and pre-made stocks, broths and salted butter are good examples of added salt.

According to Wikipedia and Food Network all salts are at least 97.5% Sodium Chloride and have two differences, the locale of the salt and the process used.   It is the basis of all cooking and therefore, the best quality should be used.   There are so many varieties of salt, it can be confusing.  Which ones are best for what application?

Kosher is coarse in texture, additive free and dissolves fast, it’s a great all purpose cooking salt and comes from the sea or underground salt deposits.

Table Salt is mined exclusively from underground salt deposits.  Most minerals are removed in the process with the addition of Calcium Silicate, an anti-clumping agent, and iodine.  Salt which contains iodine is usually considered the best salt for people with thyroid condition.

Sea Salt is great for raw or a quick cooking method.  It contains trace minerals and is not processed.  It comes in various colors and has distinct flavors depending on the minerals and clay in the area.  Ex:  Hawaiian salt is pink in hue, due to the Alea which comes from volcanic red clay.  Sea salt may also have natural traces of iodine, depending on the area.  Sea salt is more expensive and loses its distinct flavor when cooked.  A good rule of thumb is to always check the salt label and review the contents.

One very interesting and valuable piece of information; table salt has such tiny granules one teaspoon of table salt contains more salt than one tablespoon of sea salt.

Caveat:  Even chefs learn new things like not to put coarse salt in a metal grinder, it corrodes the mechanism….well, I guess this means a trip to Fante’s for a stainless steel grinder.  You need one too?  Please join me on Saturday October 22, 2012 for our Italian Market Tour.  Oh and the owner, Mariella will extend a 10% discount (Except sale and electronics) to guests of Taste 4 Travel that day.  Look forward to seeing you!