Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Much Salt?

Common Spice
Salt is not an exotic spice, but it should not be overlooked. Its common to every cuisine. My focus on spices in cuisine to make whole foods taste better, and my interest in health, leads me to this discussion about salt. My questions are whether to use salt, and if so, what kind and how much? Short answer, I think it would be crazy to exclude salt from the spice cabinet.

Sea Salt
Sea salt is an ancient spice, traded by ancient Greeks and Romans, among others. Sea salt comes from the sea water, either evaporated or mined as rocks from dried sea beds. Whole salt contains essential trace minerals. That's why we like salt. But only slightly ground unrefined salt. No refined salt.

Importantly, I want to control my own ingredients, spices and taste, thank you. Salt keeps bad friends. Salt correlates with and is marker for many other bad ingredients in manufactured foods. I don't buy cans or packages with salt as an ingredient. 

The health recommendation for sodium is about 2000 mg per day, which almost everyone ignores. Just pretend that salt is expensive, which it was 2,000 years ago.

  • 1 tsp salt = 5 grams salt = 2000 mg sodium

Try 1/8 tsp salt, in proportion to 2-4 cups of other main ingredients, serving 1-2 people.

Also try recipes without salt. It's a good practice to try to separate tastes. It's also good to make recipes simple. Add back, in small amount, 1/8 tsp, if too flat without. Try adding other tastes for complexity like sweet, sour, earthy and hot. But none are replacement for salt. I've found that 1/8-1/4 tsp salt is enough perk up otherwise bland or dull. Note I use the same proportion measure for chili pepper to add heat. A very small amount goes a long way.

If I make 4 dishes per day, and use 1/2 tsp salt, I allow for other products like condiments and pickles that also contain salt. Bump up to 1/4 tsp salt if needed.

Willpower and Taste
If the goal is to loose weight, and eat less, (which is not my case,) then bad tasting food is a hard way to eat less. It takes will power to eat bad tasting food when good tasting food is available. And will power is unreliable. Better to select the right foods and make them taste good, with a little salt, if necessary. I reject the idea that good food must be dull food. Both good food and good taste are possible. But it might take learning or rediscovering some forgotten basic culinary technology and skills, which our great-grandmothers probably knew and practiced.

No comments:

Post a Comment