Archive for October, 2009

Salt of the Earth

To compliment someone, you might say “she’s the salt of the earth,” but saying “she’s the kosher salt of the earth” might make a better compliment. There are many reasons to like kosher salt which is why it’s commonly found in good restaurants and professional kitchens. Kosher salt offers several taste, health and cooking advantages over common iodized table salt.

Kosher salt is removed from salt mines just like table salt, but a different processing technique creates large flakes instead of small compact salt grains. It is also refined less than table salt and retains some of its natural minerals. Unlike most table salts, it does not contain anti-caking agents or iodine. Iodine can impart a slight metallic flavor to table salt whereas kosher salt tends to have a clean salt flavor.

Because of the size and shape of the flake, kosher salt provides more flavor with less sodium chloride (the salty part of salt). This is because the crystal flakes have irregular shapes and holes that create a better taste sensation than smaller crystals of table salt. These larger flakes can also be crushed between your teeth and play on your tongue better by offering little bursts of salt flavor.

The irregular size also results in an uneven distribution of flakes when seasoning foods with salt. When foods are uniformly seasoned across a surface or within a mixture, your taste buds become sensitized to the taste. Variations in seasoning levels stimulate your taste receptors more unexpectedly resulting in a sensory “party in your mouth”. This increased level of satisfaction can help reduce the overall amount of salt used.

The crystalline structure of the kosher salt grains has a specific culinary advantage since they dissolve well and the large flakes are visually attractive as decorations for large baked pretzels and margarita glasses. When used to season foods such as chicken, you can physically see the large flakes. This provides a visual method of controlling the amount of salt you use which is better for taste and health.

Freschef products use kosher salt for seasoning foods and sauces to take advantage of the taste and culinary benefits the salt offers. To use kosher salts, there are a few tricks. Because of the larger salt crystals, kosher salt contains less sodium than fine grain table salt by volume. When replacing table salt with kosher salt, use between 20-50% more kosher salt by volume depending on the brand of kosher salt, for example:

Morton Table salt: 590mg salt per ¼ teaspoon
Morton Kosher salt: 480mg of salt per ¼ teaspoon
Diamond Kosher salt: 280mg of salt per ¼ teaspoon (pyramid shaped crystals take up more room)

Don’t try and use kosher salt for baking as the salt will not disperse uniformly the way table salt does in mixtures. So next time you reach for salt, you can consider these recommendations “with a grain of salt” or take them with a grain of kosher salt and improve the taste of your food and potentially use less salt.

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EVOO your kitchen and health

By now Rachel Ray’s “EVOO” has some name recognition and even be found in the Oxford American College Dictionary. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the most common form of olive oil used for cooking by those “in-the-know.” What’s to know, you ask? Well first, olive oil typically takes three forms in the grocery store:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): this oil is extracted mechanically. A press or a machine centrifuge is used to separate the oil from the olive solids.
  • Olive oil or Pure Olive oil: the main ingredient is refined olive oil, so the term “pure” may appear misleading. Refined olive oil requires chemicals and heat to separate the oils and solids. To add color and flavor to pure olive oil, virgin olive oil is added. Virgin olive oil is similar to extra virgin but has a different acidity and less flavor.
  • Extra Light or light Olive oil: this oil is similar to the refined pure olive oil but has less virgin olive oil added, so the color and flavor are lighter.

Is light olive oil lighter on the waist-line? Unfortunately, not because all oils have the same fat content. For 1 tablespoon of oil, there are 120 calories and nearly 14 grams of fat. Fortunately the fat in olive oils is a “better-for-you” fat. Most of the fat comes from a monounsaturated type which is linked to lower risks of coronary heart disease and decreased LDL levels (the Lousy cholesterol). Olive oils also provide some healthful omega-3 fats.

Reach for EVOO more often since EVOO offers nutrient advantages of more antioxidants (like vitamin E) and polyphenols (colorful vegetable pigments) than olive oils that are processed. Plus you get to save time by just saying “Pass the EVOO please”.

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