“Salt will add, enhance or bring out more flavor in food than anything else you can add. Try a tiny sprinkle on a piece of melon or fruit.”
By Chef David “Smitty” Smith
In the last two articles, I talked about herbs and I know I said this column would be on spices, but I think before we talk spices, we need to talk about salt.
Most people think that salt is the most common spice used to add flavor to food. If you agree, you would be half right. Salt is the most used flavor enhancer, but it is not a spice, it is a mineral. Remember, spices are all plant parts not including the leaves, which would be herbs. Salt either comes from the ground by being mined or from the sea. Sea salt has become a huge hit in mostly just the last 10 years or so. What’s the difference?
I did a side-by-side taste test and, honestly, there was little difference. The sea salt I was using had a little larger crystal and was probably the main reason I picked it out about maybe 65 percent of the time, but there really wasn’t that much difference in flavor. I think the sea salt may have been slightly stronger, but again it was close. After the taste test, I did look online and found that the nutritional value of both was identical and they also said sea salt provided a cleaner, more enhanced flavor, but again, I wouldn’t bet my pay check to be able to consistently pick which one was which. I do know that you will pay more for sea salt.
Salt, since I started cooking in the 80s, has gone through the same ringer as a lot of other food items. Take the egg for example. First, when I was a kid, it was a super food great for you. Then studies said the egg was bad for you and should not be part of your diet because of cholesterol, and then it was good for you again. I think right now it is in one of its good phases, but like just about everything out there, it is all about moderation.
Salt for some is a definite no-no and the doctors that have cut it from your diet have sound reasons, but salt doesn’t have to be avoided like the plague by everyone else. Remember the big red dye No. 7 scare that took red M&M’s away for a while? Salt will add, enhance or bring out more flavor in food than anything else you can add. Try a tiny sprinkle on a piece of melon or fruit.
Try this test. Try making this soup using low sodium chicken or vegetable stock. You will notice no herbs listed and pepper is the only spice. Broccoli has a delicate flavor, so I don’t add anything else. Although the soup can take a fair amount of salt before it becomes saturated, and thus unbearably salty, add just a pinch and stir it in to let it dissolve. Taste and repeat a couple times using far less than the recipe would call for. You will be able to taste more and more flavor after each addition.
One last thing: when adding salt, always pour it into your hand first and then add some to your recipe. Pouring straight out of the container is usually the biggest reason for over-salting, as I and every chef have done at sometime or other.
2 stocks broccoli, cutting and saving aside small floweret’s from the top of one stock and rough chopping the rest
½ medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
4 medium red potatoes, peeled & sliced
¾ stick of butter
1 qt. chicken/vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanch the flowerets in boiling, lightly salted water just to brighten the color, immediately chill under cold water, strain and set aside. Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until they start to soften and add the broccoli. Sauté for a few minutes stirring so as not to burn the bottom and add the potato. Sauté for a few minutes and add the stock. Bring it to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until everything is tender. Puree in a blender. Add the flowerets and season to taste.
Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. For more information and archived copies of Stir it Up, visit chefsmitty.com. Smitty welcomes your questions and comments at[email protected] or (530) 412-3598.