In addition to being nature’s most adept flavor enhancer, salt plays a few other key roles in cooking.
Salt in bread and pizza dough helps control the action of yeast and improves the dough’s ability to rise. If salt is left out, the finished product will be coarser and taste bland.
Salting slices of eggplant removes bitterness and excess moisture, so it absorbs less fat.
Salt also performs these other kitchen tasks:
• A little salt in gelatin helps it set more quickly.
• Add a pinch of salt to whipping cream or egg whites before beating to increase volume.
• Wash kale, spinach and other greens in saltwater for easy removal of dirt.
• Combine salt and lemon juice to remove fishy odors from hands and utensils.
• Sprinkle a hefty amount of salt on pie juices that bubble over in the oven to make them easier to clean. The mess will bake to a dry crust that’s a cinch to wipe away once it’s cool.
The beauty of balsamic
Both sweet and tangy, balsamic vinegar is one of the most useful ingredients in today’s kitchen.
Not only does it make a terrific marinade for meat, chicken or fish, but salad dressings made with balsamic vinegar have a rich, balanced flavor without a lot of fat and calories.
The finest balsamic vinegar comes from Italy and is aged for 15 to 20 years.
High quality balsamic vinegar does not have added sugar, fruit juice, concentrates, or food coloring. Vinegar is a main ingredient in marinades because it is a natural tenderizer.
Mediterranean Tofu Salad
Tofu does not have much taste of its own, but does carry other flavors well.
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. freeze-dried chives
1 lb firm tofu, drained and blotted dry, cut into 3/4″ cubes
1 pkg.(6 oz) lettuce of your choice
4 marinated sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
4 anchovy fillets (optional)
1. Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard and chives, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1 T of dressing with tofu.
2. Toss lettuce with remaining dressing. Arrange greens on 4 plates. Scatter tofu and tomatoes over greens. Top with anchovies, if using.
Makes 4 servings/180 calories each, 14 g pro.
Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 20 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists