The simplest, most humble, and perhaps underappreciated ingredient in kitchens around the world is salt. A pinch can transform a dish, bringing depth of flavor to what would otherwise be bland and boring. It can be surprisingly easy to take such a simple substance for granted, ignoring the fact that it goes beyond the typical salt shaker, coming from exotic places like Salta, Argentina, and Hokkaido, Japan. Salt comes in different colors, sizes, and flavors that are exciting to explore. As with wine, salt can be paired with food to showcase its unique flavors, making it the perfect theme for your next party. Here are some ideas to increase your salt knowledge and get your own salt-tasting party underway.
What’s the difference?
You may be wondering what separates one salt from another. While subtle, the differences may surprise your taste buds. Red Hawaiian salt, for example, can be milder than traditional salt. Others, like black sea salt, offer a subtle smokiness. Texture is another factor. Grey sea salt often contains more moisture, changing the mouthfeel. Pink sea salt may have larger granules that add a little crunch to a dish. Flake salt, perfect for finishing, dissolves on the tongue softly. The fun part about all these different types of salt is that there are no rules. Sure, there are classic combinations (fleur de sel caramels, for example), but the options are endless. Experiment with different combinations and share your discoveries with your guests.
Choosing Salts: Deciding which salts to feature for your tasting is a perk of being the host. There are no rules here, but if you like guidelines to help with the decision-making process, you can stick to salt from a specific region like Hawaii, South America, Asia, or Europe. Another option would be to create a theme around the color of your salts. For example, you could try pink sea salts from different regions, focusing on the subtle differences created by each environment. If you have the time, you can do a combination of these themes. An easy combination to use, especially for beginners, is simply using three types of salt like white, red, and black. There are obvious contrasts that are easy to pinpoint. If there is enough interest, you can expand to a greater variety of salts at a later date.
— Rachael White, Menuism
For more tips on how to host your own salt-tasting party, visit Menuism!
How to Taste—and Adjust—Any Dish Like a Pro
Is the recipe too salty, sweet, or spicy? Here’s how to fix it.
Let&aposs say you’re making dinner for some guests (or maybe just yourself) and you decided to try out a new recipe for French Onion Soup. You’re sure it’s going to be a hit with your dinner guestster all, who doesn&apost love toasty, cheese-covered bread floating in a warm rich broth? You ladle the soup into bowls, pour some wine, and sit down to enjoy it all.
After the first spoonful, you stop. You’re horrified. The soup is totally bland. The broth is more like water and the caramelized onions, which should be deeply flavorful and sweet, are more like wet noodles. Then, you realize your mistake.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
You followed the recipe, but you never tasted your soup—not even onceore serving it to your guests.
If you𠆝 tasted the onions after you caramelized them, you probably would have let them cook longer. And if you𠆝 actually tasted your soup at all, you𠆝 have realized that you didn&apost add enough salt. You might have even garnished it with additional fresh herbs to give it extra zing.
We all make mistakes, especially when it comes to cooking. But tasting a dish throughout its various stages𠅊nd making adjustments as neededn help you save any dish before it reaches the dinner table.
With practice, a little patience, and a basic understanding of how flavors work in general, you’ll be on your way to tasting food like a pro and tweaking your dishes to perfection. Our handy guide has everything you need to get started, including a breakdown of different types of flavors and how to fix food that’s too salty, sweet, sour, bitter, or bland.
Jamie Oliver recipe hot chocolate. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
As the star of the whole show, the choice of chocolate is of no little importance here. Most recipes, including those from the Hairy Bikers and Jamie Oliver, call for plain chocolate, the latter specifying the 70% cocoa solids which seem to be the default choice for cooking purposes. Good Food magazine's deluxe hot chocolate suggests this "or milk chocolate, depending on how chocolatey you and the kids like it".
After trying both, I decide that while milk chocolate gives a sweeter, more blandly creamy result reminiscent of my childhood, I prefer the more intense, earthy flavour provided by the higher cocoa version. Perhaps I'm finally a proper grown-up after all.
Nigel Slater recipe hot chocolate. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
I'm not, however, quite as sophisticated as Mr Nigel Slater, who sighs that "most chocolate has too much sugar in to be satisfactory for making a hot drink. It ends up more like something you might pour over your profiteroles". As I abhor that staple of the buffet table, this intrigues me – could I be about to break through to another level of hot chocolatey perfection? "If you want to take the drink seriously," he continues (oh I do Nigel, I promise) "use the most bitter chocolate you can find . then sweeten it yourself".
I can think of no better way of proving my commitment than by bequeathing 50g of my Venezuelan black 100% pure cacao to the cause. Once the chocolate has been melted into the milk, I add sugar to taste – and by God does it need it. Even after I've stirred in a couple of spoons of demerara, the chocolate retains a bitter edge which makes it feel very grown-up indeed. I could definitely serve this in a teeny-tiny cup after dinner, but it doesn't quite hit the spot in the cockle-warming stakes.
David Lebovitz recipe hot chocolate. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
Food writer and former pastry chef David Lebovitz (author of The Great Book of Chocolate) supplies a recipe from Brussels chocolatier Wittamer, which uses a combination of plain and milk chocolate in a 2:1 ratio – although he cautions that the reader "should seek out a good quality one. Most of the better ones list the percentage of cacao on the label . and are likely to taste better than those bars where a small amount of chocolate is used basically as a colourant". It's more joyously rich than the plain chocolate versions I've tried, while retaining the same savoury edge that made them a more interesting proposition than the simple milk chocolate version – the best of both worlds, in other words. When it comes to chocolate, those Belgians really do know what they're doing.
As well as using plain chocolate, Jamie adds cocoa powder to his Epic Hot Chocolate. I wonder whether this is to keep it light, by reducing the cocoa butter content, without sacrificing any intensity of flavour, as in Nigel Slater's excellent brownie recipe, but as he then uses cornflour to thicken it, I can't really see the point.
Perfection with a pinch of salt
A man with a seesaw southern English accent asks: "Shall we sing a song?". A chorus of high-pitched voices agrees we should. I am most certainly not singing anything. It's 9.30 a.m. on a Saturday. I'm in bed. Who the hell are these people anyway?
It is hard to maintain any anger at the sight beneath my bedroom window. A small group of young children is gathered on the cobbled street. They are on a tour of Saltaire, the famous model village built by Sir Titus Salt outside Bradford, West Yorkshire, in England's industrial north. They are one of a handful of tours (not all singing) that will pass by my house during the course of that day.
Saltaire is at its most captivating on a summer's day. The yellow sandstone brightens like a sunflower in the sunshine and creates a village of gold, reflecting the wealth it has generated (and lost) in its history. People play cricket on the baize grass of Roberts Park. A barge offers bus rides along the canal while an omnipresent ice-cream van toots the theme tune to Match of the Day.
I can't help thinking that I have set up home in a museum - one presided over by the paternal ghosts of its invention, and preserved with great affection and pride in their honour. Strangely, however, the sense of the original inhabitants has somehow been eradicated. Their ghosts chose not to linger about in what seems to be someone else's doll's house.
Since 1985 the village has been listed for preservation but more recently it has been forwarded by the Government to UNESCO as a possible World Heritage candidate. This would put it in the same league as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.
Built on the river Aire, Saltaire centres on two mills. The Old Mill was built in 1853 and the New Mill was built in 1868. Salt catered for his workers by providing houses, a church, shops, and schools, a hospital and almshouses that are among the architectural gems of the village. Victoria Road, the tree-lined main thoroughfare, leads you from the top of the town, past these amenities and the railway station to the mills.
The Old Mill is internationally known as home to the David Hockney galleries. It comprises three galleries, each representing a different facet of Hockney's vision. His new exhibition of designs for opera-stage sets opened this month. On June 8th, Hockney received an honourary degree from the University of Leeds. June also saw him awarded Freedom of the City of Bradford, his home town. The New Mill is situated on the other side of the canal and has been turned into trendy riverside apartments.
Salt was a successful and wealthy 19th-century mill owner with five factories in Bradford. Although that city was booming in the 1840s, living conditions were appalling. There were no sewers and it was considered one of the filthiest towns in the world. With the outbreak of cholera in 1849, Salt, who had been elected as Bradford's second mayor the previous year, took action. By building an industrial settlement or model village outside the town, he believed that living and working conditions would be less hazardous. More conveniently for everyone, his workers could live close to the mill with such agreeable conditions as clean water and fresh air.
The Saltaire mill was opened in 1853. Built of fireproof bricks, stone flags and cast iron, it is 800,000 square feet, six storey s high and Italianate in style. Looking at it now in its elegant restored form it is hard to imagine the ceaseless drudgery that took place within it. Salt's workers were provided with a house, water supply, privy and gas. However, the nature of his paternalism was tempered with the autocracy and vanity that refused his workers the right to hang their laundry in their yards to dry (he thought it looked untidy) and named the streets in the village after his own family.
Salt died 23 years after the completion of the mill. Over a period of about 10 years, the business passed out of the hands of the Salt family to a consortium. In 1892 James Roberts became the new owner.
In the years that followed, changes in fashion and increased tax duties put the wool industry in Bradford under great strain. Overseas companies created stiff competition. Smaller mills, which could not afford the re-equipping necessary to create the fabrics that fashion dictated, shut down. Only very large companies pulled through.
Saltaire's Old Mill was eventually taken over by Illingworth Morris, which also ran a mill in Tullamore, Co Offaly. But by the early 1980s not even these tougher companies could sustain the strain. Bradford's textile industry, the woollen and worsted centre of the world, which had created huge economic and individual wealth, collapsed. The New Mill was already derelict and the owners of the Old Mill closed it and put it on the market.
The housing, in desperate need of maintenance, had already been sold via the Bradford Property Trust to sitting tenants, marking the beginning of private ownership in the village. When it looked like things couldn't get worse for the area a bid was put in by the Department of Transport, Bradford Metropolitan District Council and the West Yorkshire County Council to build a highway through Roberts Park.
But things turned around. In 1984 the Saltaire Village Society was formed and within a year had convinced English Heritage to list the village. 1984 also saw the reopening of the railway station. This meant that the housing was a short journey from both Bradford and Leeds, and the possibility of living in the country and being easily able to access work in the city attracted professionals, as it still does.
In 1987, self-made millionaire Jonathan Silver bought the Old Mill. Appropriately, he had made his fortune through a chain of clothing shops. And so "Salts" has been transformed. Besides housing the Hockney galleries, the mill is also home to electronic manufacturing companies like Pace Micro Technology plc and Filtronic Comtek plc, bringing it to the forefront of both modern art and modern technology.
Sometimes, in my little sandstone house, I get the feeling that I am also part of the exhibition. I understand that having been looking about this extraordinary place (which, unlike many historical sites, is still in everyday use) people may lose their sense of when to back off. Their curiosity is gentle and comparatively unimposing, like that of a child. More peculiarly, for an Irish woman, it instills in me too a sense of pride in, and appreciation of, where I live.
The school tour moves off to be replaced later by a group of adult tourists with an official guide. One can't help wondering what might become of the place with the onslaught of tourists that would arrive should Saltaire achieve World Heritage status. It already entertains 750,000 visitors per year.
Yet in its present busy state, the village still maintains an air of calm. It is an oasis on the edge of Bradford, watched over by its forebears whose names grace the streets, and by the four great stone lions situated outside the Saltaire Club and Institute. Originally intended to sentinel Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, and representing War, Peace, Vigilance and Determination, they now keep a peaceful watch over a model town.
The temperature of your ingredients actually matters. If you've forgotten and really don't want to wait a few hours for your straight-from-the-fridge butter to be ready, just warm a bowl in the microwave (or fill it with boiling water for a few seconds to warm it up), then cover your butter with it for a few minutes and it'll be ready to go.
A Pinch of Salt
In addition to a salty taste, salt adds texture and other interesting flavors to your beer. We’ll show you the basics and give you some ideas to try!
Salt in beer is almost exclusively associated with the “rediscovered” German beer style, gose. In this tart, spicy, wheat style, the salt adds a nice, crisp, briny note to contrast the tart flavors. Typical gose recipes call for only about one-half to a full ounce of salt for a five-gallon batch. It’s generally added late in the boil, perhaps to maintain any subtle flavors that may volatilize off, but adding it earlier in the boil probably wouldn’t be detrimental. I would caution against including it in the mash, as it could affect mash enzyme activity in undesirable ways.
Since salt is used in a relatively small amount, a brewer can be forgiven for not giving too much thought to what type of salt to use. However, since it’s such a unique and signature ingredient of the style, it’s worth picking the right salt for a desired impact. You can find a ridiculous number of different salt varieties in the marketplace, and though all have a special use, some types are regarded for their texture and dissolvability on the tongue. Perhaps more refined palates can detect the nuanced textual differences from a fancy French sea salt in their gose, but I think for this conversation we can stick to varieties that can impact flavor and leave “dissolvability” comparisons to the foodies.
In a pinch (pun fully intended), kosher salt can deliver the desired goal of adding saltiness to a beer, and that’s about it. It doesn’t have the iodine or anti-caking agent (sodium aluminosilicate) found in typical table salt (DO NOT USE), but it’s almost singularly sodium chloride. It won’t provide any other minerality qualities that can enhance some of the desired malt flavors. It will quickly dissolve in the wort, so it can be added very late in the boil. Kosher salt is a serviceable alternative, but sea salt should be the first choice.
A host of different sea salts are available, and a brewer can have fun choosing a particular geography’s boutique salt to add a certain sense of place to his/her beer. Ultimately, it’s the trace minerals in the salt that are adding the additional flavor. Typical white sea salt will have slightly more minerality than its kosher counterpart. It provides trace magnesium, manganese, calcium, and potassium, which can impart an overall “briny” character instead of a singular salty character, and can also improve general yeast health. These additional components, along with their chloride cation, can complement the malt and wheat characters in the beer.
It’s important to consider your water’s base mineral content. If you’re starting low on sulfates, all the extra chlorides could increase the underlying maltiness, which could distract from the tart brightness of a gose. Color is the clearest indication as to what additional minerals can be found in the sea salt. Pink Himalayan salt or Hawaiian Alaea sea salt has an increased iron oxide content, thus the reddish/pink hue. Trace iron can add an interesting component to the beer, but while it complements meat very well, it can give a slight blood-like character to the beer if overdone. It can also affect long-term stability by increasing oxidation, but for a beer that’s designed to be consumed fresh and quickly, this is less of a concern. Kauai sea salt has an added charcoal component, giving it a distinct gray/black hue and a smoke character, which could add an amazing complexity to a fruited gose (roasted pineapple gose with Kauai sea salt sounds incredible).
Beyond the gose, salt can balance the sweetness or sourness in a style or enhance some of the underlying rich flavors. Craft brewers are starting to show the versatility of salt in a number of different styles, as the recent non-gose salted releases from New Belgium (Fort Collins, Colorado), Monkey Paw (San Diego, California), Fonta Flora (Morganton, North Carolina), and Jester King (Austin, Texas) have demonstrated. With all the various salts and sea salts on the market, an intrepid brewer will never run out of options for experimentation.
An Illustrated Guide To Master The Elements Of Cooking — Without Recipes
Samin Nosrat has become known as the chef who taught Michael Pollan to cook, after the famed food writer featured her in his book Cooked and his Netflix show of the same name.
Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
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Now, she's sharing her wisdom with the masses in her new, illustrated cookbook called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. The key to good cooking, she says, is learning to balance those elements and trust your instincts, rather than just follow recipes.
Nosrat's own formal culinary education came at Chez Panisse, the legendary restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., founded by Alice Waters. She first went there as a diner, then asked for a job and got one, working her way up. And it was while cooking at Chez Panisse that Nosrat had the revelation that eventually led to this cookbook — that salt, fat, acid and heat are the fundamental elements to good food.
"The elements and the tenets of professional cooking don't always get translated to the home cook," she tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "Recipes don't encourage you to use your own senses and use your own judgement. And salt, fat, acid and heat can be your compass when you maybe don't have other tools."
Nosrat frees her readers to use their own senses instead of measuring cups.
She says we should salt things until they taste like the sea — which is a beautiful image, but also sounds like an awful lot of salt.
A pinch of salt Courtesy of Wendy MacNaughton hide caption
Courtesy of Wendy MacNaughton
"Just use more than you're comfortable with, I think is a good rule for most people," she says. You know, especially when you're boiling things in salted water, the idea is that most foods don't spend much time in that water. So the idea is to make it salty enough that the food can absorb enough salt and become seasoned from within. A lot of times you end up using less salt, total, if you get the salt right from within, because then the thing isn't over seasoned on the outside and bland in the center."
Nosrat's conversation with Martin is excerpted below. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
RACHEL MARTIN: So, let's get to fat, which is the next central element to cooking. This is something that people are afraid of. Even though we understand the difference between good and bad fat, fat still gets a bad rap in cooking.
To me, it's a tragedy because I think fat has this remarkable capability to offer us all these different and very interesting and delicious and mouth-watering textures in our food. And it's just about learning how to get those textures out of the fat that you're already using.
When you talk about acid in our food, what do you mean?
For me, it is all about getting that nice, tangy balance in a bite, in a meal or in a dish. And you can get that through citrus and vinegar and wine, which are maybe the three most obvious and well-known sources of acid. But then there's acid in so many other things. Almost every condiment we add to our food is acidic, which is why when you get a bean and cheese burrito, you're always hungry for salsa and sour cream and guacamole to put on there, because those things will just perk it up and add flavor.
What "Salt to Taste" Actually Means
"Salt to taste" can be a confusing instruction in recipes, since "taste" isn't a concrete measurement. Cooking blog the Kitchn lets us know what this oft-confused phrase really means.
"Salt to taste" doesn't mean "try to make your dishes salty." Instead, keep in mind what salt does as a seasoning: it reduces bitterness, and brings out the flavors of other, more subtle ingredients.
If you have a dish that tastes flat or bitter, a little salt might be the only fix you need. Before adding more spices or seasonings, try just adding a teaspoon or a healthy three-fingered pinch of salt . Taste again and see if the flavors have improved. Add a little more. Taste again.
And never forget the most important part: the tasting. Hit the link to read more.
The iconic bitters brand has been adding a pink tint and a touch of spice to cooking since Prohibition.
While the culinary tips currently printed on the oversize paper label on a bottle of Angostura bitters would have you believe otherwise, there initially wasn’t much kitchen experimentation happening at the House of Ango. The aromatic bitters—created in 1824 by Dr. Johann Siegert, a German physician living in Angostura, Venezuela, and now ubiquitous at quality cocktail bars, well-appointed home bars, and places to drink in between—was originally developed as a medicinal aid while Siegert was surgeon general of Simón Bolívar’s armies. It worked, and in 1850, Siegert retired from the military to focus on his growing company. He began exporting Angostura to England, the United States, and throughout the Caribbean, where the curative quickly caught on.
Five years after Siegert’s death in 1870, the family and the company relocated to Trinidad and Tobago to escape political unrest in Venezuela, and his sons, Carlos, Alfredo, and Luis took over the business. The timing was fortuitous, as the Golden Age of Cocktails was just over a decade old, and soon Angostura was rebranded as an indispensable cocktail component—one that “lends the aromatic fragrance of the tropics to your liquor,” according to a 1902 ad from distributor J. W. Wuppermann. The same ad also promised that Angostura “strengthens the jaded stomach,” presumably in the event too much fragrant spirit was imbibed.
The company conceived of new ways to use Angostura beyond the bar and medicine cabinet, promising consumers it provided “exquisite flavor” to everything from fruits and salads to fish.
Not until Prohibition, with the Volstead Act effectively making the consumption of alcohol illegal from 1920 to 1933, did Angostura’s marketing machine tout bitters as a culinary “flavor enhancer” in order for the business to survive. Unlike its competitors, Angostura “managed to convince U.S. government officials that it was too bitter to drink on its own, allowing it to be sold legally during Prohibition,” sayd Mark Bitterman in Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari. Still, it was by necessity that the company conceived of new ways to use Angostura beyond the bar and medicine cabinet, promising consumers it provided “exquisite flavor” to everything from fruits and salads to fish.
In 1934, a promotional booklet called Angostura Recipes debuted, featuring both savory and sweet dishes developed by a roster of the day’s top chefs. The cuisine, fussy and Eurocentric, was likely intimidating for Depression-ravaged home cooks—with recipes like lamb kidneys turbigo (from chef steward Gaston Michel of New York’s Roosevelt Hotel) and fillet of sole vigneronne à la Angostura (from chef de cuisine Emmanuel de Runigo, SS Paris, French Line) featured in the 32-recipe collection. The result was Angostura’s For Home Use, published a year later, promoting more accessible (and, presumably, home-economist-developed) fare, like stewed prunes, Angostura ice cream, jugged hare (par-roasted, then stewed, rabbit, slow-cooked and served in a Port- and Angostura-enhanced gravy), mutton broth, and something called “toast water” that necessitated soaking “brown, hard toasted bread” in cold water, straining the resulting mush, and anointing it with bitters.
The company’s effort to transport bitters from the bar to the home kitchen continued in 1958 with the arrival of The Secret of Good Taste: The Angostura Cook Book, instructing Americans on how a dash of bitters could give everything from Tunanoodle Dinner to Meat Ball Gems “a splash of international flair.” By the early 1960s, even Angostura’s label was featuring culinary tips it noted that everything from grapefruit and soups to “mince” and puddings benefited from a dash of bitters.
While some of the brand’s concoctions over the years—like celery stalks stuffed with Angostura-spiked cottage cheese—read as a bit contrived, many of the midcentury recipes are still relevant today. Scrambled eggs, sauces, and cream of mushroom soup get a boost of umami from a few drops of the inky liquid, while cold-weather dishes like candied sweet potatoes with Angostura crème fraîche open up new possibilities for an old classic. Bitters also work well in desserts, adding an evocative hint of spice to chocolate sauce and piquancy to apple crisp, according to the company’s website.
Running parallel to Angostura’s rise in the United States is the use of bitters in the West Indies—where Jamaicans, Trinidadians, and Barbadians have been fanatical about bitters since the brand’s inception—but they use the ingredient more in beverages like rum punch or as a finishing touch to gin and tonics. Mixed with hot water, it’s used as a remedy for an upset stomach (or a hangover).
Says Jamaican chef and author Michelle Rousseau, who co-owns a restaurant in Kingston called Summerhouse with her sister, Suzanne, “We often use chutneys, pepper sauces, and hot pickles as flavor enhancers or additions to a meal, but not bitters. Still, Angostura is so wildly popular the brand is synonymous with the ingredient. When you say, ‘add a dash of Angostura,’ everyone knows exactly what you mean.” After 196 years in business, so they should.
L.E.O. (Lox, Eggs and Onions)
Recipe adapted from Gabe Kennedy, Winner of ABC's 'The Taste'
Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup minced white onion (½ small white onion)
⅓ cup (2 ounces) lox, finely diced
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, season with a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk until the whites and yolks blend together, 20 to 30 seconds. Be careful not to overaerate. Add the eggs to the onions and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the eggs become soft curds and are almost fully cooked, 2½ minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the lox. Garnish with the chives, sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and flaky salt, and serve.