Discovering and Rediscovering Essential Seasonings
There's salt, and then there's salt– red salt from Hawaii, pink salt from the Himalayas, black smoked salt from Denmark, pristine white salt from the shores of France– each with its own characteristics and, yes, saltiness. Think "terroir" but for the sea! Finishing salts are used on completed dishes to add a final flourish of flavour, texture and colour. Apart from finding a good everyday salt, pick a finishing salt or two and give them a try.
Salt for Success
Did you know that the words "salad" "sausage" and "sauce" all derive from the word "salt"? Across time, across cultures, salt has been essential to cooking and to food preservation. The key to using salt properly in the kitchen is to use it before or while you cook. One reason people shake so much salt onto their plates is that table salt doesn't easily absorb into foods; the crystals' shape may even "bounce" off the surface of your grilled chicken or steak.
And the key to learning how much salt foods can take is to taste the foods as you cook. The phrase "to correct the seasoning" may sound like a schoolteacher reprimanding a student, but it really means to ensure that the flavours are balanced, and the best implement for that is your own palate!
Peppercorns on Parade
Green, black and white peppercorns all come from the same peppercorn vine, native to India. Green peppercorns are picked young and have a mild flavour. Black peppercorns are left on the vine to ripen and have the most intense "pepper" flavour. White peppercorns are black peppercorns that have been soaked to remove the outer black shell; their flavour is milder than black peppercorns and their white colour is useful in light coloured sauces.
Pink "peppercorns" are not actually peppercorns at all, but are dried berries from a Baies rose plant. Freshly ground peppercorns, no matter which colour, are much more flavourful and aromatic than pre-ground pepper. Investing in a good quality pepper grinder and using freshly ground pepper will greatly enhance your food!