Salt and Food – Which Kind to Use?

I remember watching an Anthony Bourdain episode where he was in Sicily.   He was visiting a place that made salt.   Don’t picture a huge corporation, it was a family who lived by the sea.  There were huge mounds of salt all over the place.  It has been awhile since I’ve seen the episode so I can’t give too many more specifics.

My point… the family was going to bake some fish for him.   They took the fish and coated it all over in salt to where you could not see the fish.   Even Mr. Bourdain commented on camera that he wasn’t too sure about the recipe – thinking it would be the saltiest fish he’s ever had.

But lo and behold, the fish tasted amazing and was not salty.  So what gives?  What happened?  When the fish was baked, the salt (which was a course salt), hardened and provided a crust around the fish.  The salt did not dissolve into the fish but rather kept the fish moist.

All that to say salt can be used for more than just sprinkling over dishes which seem to lack flavor.   In fact there are three main types of salt – table salt, kosher salt and sea salt.  I’ll briefly explain each.

Table salt: This salt is best for baking purposes.  Reason is because it will dissolve completely and have a more even disbursement of flavor.

Salt

Kosher salt: No additives are added thus making it kosher.  But for “real” kosher you need to buy the kinds that have the endorsement of a rabbi which gave their blessing over the salt.  Use of kosher and sea salt are fairly parallel.   Do not use for baking.  You can use them in cooking recipes like you would salt, but there are a few guidelines you could follow which are good to know.  I won’t get into yet – another post.

Sea Salt: Straight from the sea.  It is the pure evaporated salt from the sea.  The Dead Sea is a perfect example where a lot of salt originates from.  However, the Dead Sea is actually experiencing decreasing water levels and will eventually dry up.  Interestingly, this is referenced as a prophecy in the Holy Bible.  I don’t recall the exact reference but if I come across it I’ll post it for you to look at.

Use the kosher and sea salt as toppings and for draining blood from meat.  Just as you would drain water from eggplant, the same rules apply with salt.  It draws moisture out.   If you tried using table salt to do this you would have a harder time because the size of salt particles would more easily dissolve and be absorbed into the meat or food item.  Because both kosher and sea salt are larger granules, they will not fully dissolve and can be rinsed off.

I’m looking forward to doing a short series on the different types of salt and their uses – especially in Italian foods.

Liz
www.simpleitaliancooking.com
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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post & your blog in general, I’ve been checking it out — I was just in Sicily, and since I’ve gotten back I’ve been brushing up on my Italian cooking, studying Italian too on Babbel.com (http://www.babbel.com). It’s been rewarding to study the food and the language in tandem.

  2. Thanks Mara. Glad you like the blog. My husband’s side of the family is from Sicily! Mine is from more Central. I love Italian food and I wish I could speak it better. I speak very little as of now. The best way to learn – go live there!

  3. Yes, I’ve been thinking about it. But it’s funny — when I was there I realized a ton of people spoke Sicilian, and some friends told me that in fact Spanish was closer to Italian than Sicilian was!

  4. I’m not surprised. There are so many dialects. When I was with my relatives they were saying they could not even travel Northern Italy and understand the people. Yet my cousin had made trips to Spain and was able to get by decently well. I don’t know if the “proper Italian” is more universally followed there.

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