Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Salt or not to Salt

Since I have been volunteering, I have discovered that it is not just us amateur cooks who sometimes mess things up.  You have no idea how good it made me feel to see a tray of overdone cookies.  Over the years I have had several 'oops' moments. 

One of the worst was two-days spent baking bread and then throwing it in the trash.  Not that I had  performed any of the techniques wrong.  Instead, I forgot to add the salt to the dough. 

Since salt will kill yeast action, I usually weigh the salt and set it aside until I have started mixing and then add it.  Well, even though it was right there on the counter, I just forgot to do it.  When I tasted the cooled bread, I rolled my eyes and said 'Yuck'.  And almost immediately spotted the salt.  The bread went into the trash and I can assure you I have never made that mistake again.  Alton Brown mentions making the same mistake in his book.

One day, while volunteering, I was assigned the task of preparing the mashed potatoes.  Since the hospital is health conscious, they do not add salt.  Another 'yuck'.  Might as well eat paste. 

Salt is a necessary component of good tasting food.  Which brings me to the reason for my comments on using it.  A state assemblyman in New York wants to ban the use of all salt in restaurants.  Sure sounds like a good reason not to eat there.  I love this quote:  Tom Colicchio, star of "Top Chef" and owner of Craft, "Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that," he said.

Oh, how right he is.  While I eat in the cafeteria at the hospital, they at least put salt on the tables.  I do not do that at home, ever.  But if you are not going to cook with it, you will have to do something to bring out flavor.

Enough of lawmakers deciding what we should eat and how much.  No salt, no trans-fat, no sugar, more fiber.  There are somethings that we just need to decide for ourselves.  Like I tell my guests:  Stay out of my kitchen unless I ask for help.  Thank you very much.

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