Sunday, October 28, 2012

Salt. It's what's exciting!

Salt Mill (Wikipedia Image)
I've recently noticed that I use more and more salt in my food, not the food I prepare, but rather food I go out for. I am not going to mention any specific restaurants, but even some really respected places which are managed by palettes I look up to have let me down in the salt department. So the question I have is whether my taste buds dulled, or chefs simply started to cut down on the basic of flavor enhancers?

Everywhere we look there is all this talk about cutting down on sodium and lowering your salt intake. Ads for sea salt and other gimmicks. By the way, what kind of salt is not sea salt? This of course is a trick question, since all salt comes from the sea. There would be no salt where there was no sea. Anyway, I digress.

Being healthy, is important to me too, but I don't want to - no, I refuse to sacrifice flavor. I think that we can all strike a balance between salt and health. I found that one the easiest ways is to use finishing salts. In another words, let's say you are making a hamburger and want to put a couple of teaspoons of salt into the chopped meat, well, add just half of the salt you were going to add anyway and after the meat is done cooking be sure to sprinkle just a dash of flake salt on top of the patty. This will make a huge difference! Your taste buds will excite and you are going to love, love, love your burger. Also, sometimes adding salt into places we don't think of will do the same. Case in point, empanadas. Well, call it empanads, pirojki, samosa, or a plain ole hand held meat pie, you still need flavor. Most of the time the filling for these items is pretty high in salt, because the dough itself is pretty bland. So what do you do? Simple, after forming the dough around the filling into whatever shape you desire and using egg wash or just plain olive oil to coat the top for color, sprinkle just a little coarse salt right a top of the pastry before baking. Trust me, when you take a bite of out this baked goodness you are going to want to spork yourself at how amazing it will taste. Every flavor from sweet, bitter, acidic, umami and salty will dance on your palette. This way you're using the salt in a smart way and staying health conscious in the process.

So to you chefs of some of my favorite restaurants I say that your biggest mistake is probably not tasting the food before you send it out. Taste everything! As for me, I'll keep a close eye on my supposedly dulling taste buds, but will definitely use my own advice and cut down on the sodium chloride (NaCl) altogether.

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