Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food Tips: Salt and Pepper

I talked about using sea salt and fresh ground pepper in a previous blog. Yesterday I started talking to a friend about what kind of pepper to buy, so I wanted to blog in more detail about it.


I am super excited to have this 2 pound bag of sea salt from my favorite Asian grocery which happens to be in Fort Wayne where I grew up. (Oriental Grocery & Mart 504 Noble Dr Fort Wayne, IN 46825 (260) 471-0245‎). It is excellent sea salt and only was $1.79. I also love to get my Asian pantry staples here without the American megamarket mega-markup. (Pantry staples is a future post, but I love rice vinegar and sambal oelek (a chili paste)) I can splurge and buy random things to try and it seems to always come out to only $20.

More about sea salt... Sea salt is in flakes so it provides texture to take a pinch and use it to sprinkle across your food as you cook. But, as much as I love using sea salt, its larger size makes it harder to season your individual serving. For sprinkling on your own food, try a salt grinder (yeah, like a pepper grinder) to get that good salt taste without big chunks. They make sea salt rocks that are bigger so they don't fall through the grinder. When baking with sea salt, I've learned to start putting the salt in with the liquid mixture so it dissolves evenly throughout the food rather than mixing it with the dry. (Why are these biscuits so unevenly salty??)

I haven't gotten much into the varieties of salt (a la Michael Chiarello's obsession with gray salt) but I do have this red Hawaiian Alaea sea salt. Its interesting but haven't used it much. It is described as 'almost fruity with a slight peppery note'. If you want to get on the salt varietal bandwagon, check the above link for more types of salt.


I like multicolored peppercorns for a distinctly noticeable complexity to the pepper. The picture is of my current kind with gorgeous pink, white, green and black peppercorns all mixed together.


This is what happens when you have your own small college set, buy your own large grinder, then get your out-of-town-boyfriend-now-husband hooked on fresh ground pepper. A little grinder family! As I've mentioned, the iodized salt in the larger two is about worthless but the smallest one is a salt grinder, hooray! Having multiple grinders also means I can have different kinds of pepper at hand; the smallest has Szechuan peppercorns.

When buying a grinder look for one with metal grinding plates for durability and an adjustable plate depth for changing pepper particle size (using the nut at the top of the grinder). The ability to have varied particle size is good for making a fine pepper to season a soup and larger chunks when pepper-encrusting.

Oh, and when the husband gets his new fancy camera I'm sure he'll want to become my official photographer. And he will take much better pictures than I.


Chris said...

I can see your reflection in the grinders :)

You didn't talk about part of the reason why pepper tastes better when ground up. It releases oils and fragrance at the time of grinding, not two years prior in the factory for pre-ground pepper.

Kaco said...

I know, I wasn't happy to see my reflection in the grinders either. boo.