Food Snark

Basic Types of Salt

July 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Salt is an essential item in cooking. In fact it is an essential item for the human body. Salt has played an integral part in human lives for thousands of years. According to Pliny the Elder, the Roman historian, the Roman soldiers were paid in salt and it from that act that the word Salary is derived from. Salt has (in surprising ways) come a long way since then. Now we find a variety of Salts like table, iodized, kosher etc. But we will take a look at the two basic types of Salt – Sea Salt and Table Salt.

Sea Salt does go through much processing and is created by the evaporation of sea water. It contains two percent of trace minerals and the rest is all Sodium Chloride. It is a little different in color and has a different taste to it as well. Sea Salt granules are a little bigger and it is used for purposes other than cooking; for example, Sea Salt is used in medicines and in producing cosmetics.

Table Salt can be created from sea water; however, it can also be harvested from salt deposits or more commonly from salt mines. The harvested salt is then run through a heavy processing program which sees additives like anti-caking agents, Iodine and others being added to it. While none of these are harmful, it remains the “wrong” salt for many who are used to the taste of Sea Salt. It is also said to be less healthy than Sea Salt because it contain 99.9 percent of Sodium Chloride. However, Table Salt does not have any impurities and the iodine that is present helps to prevent any thyroid problems.

The bottom line is that neither type of salt can be touted as the better one. It comes down to factors like what you want to use it for, whether you prefer the taste of one over the other and availability.

Bitter Melon Salad: Great Asian Salad Idea for Busting Bad Blood Sugar

July 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Diabetes Mellitus is one of those diseases that creeps up on you, and if ignored can bring about a plethora of complications which are often irreversible. Even though medications are available, nothing beats diet therapy when controlling blood sugar. In Asia and South America, there grows an herb-like vegetable known as bitter gourd or bitter melon. The vegetable is green and oblong in shape, with a wrinkled exterior. When cut in half, one can see it is hollow with large flat seeds filling the center.

The seeds are taken out when the vegetable is used for a variety of viands. But it is said, that the best way to eat this blood-sugar regulating vegetable, is raw. One can only imagine the taste, which the vegetable’s name speaks of so obviously. Here are quick and easy techniques for creating the perfect Asian salad that not only tickles your palate with a burst of flavor, it also does your body a great favor. You will need 2 fresh bitter melons, preferably with less wrinkles and a bright green color. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds, and drench in rock salt. Rub the rock salt against the vegetable, then squeeze until green liquid comes out of the bitter gourd. This technique will help you lose the bitter taste, without losing any of the vital nutrients.

Slice the bitter gourds in thin c-shaped slices, and pour 6 tablespoons of your regular vinegar (except balsamic vinegar), and set aside. You will also need one regular Mexican turnip, which you will julienne finely. Cut up one red onion finely. Take one piece of a fresh tomato, scoop out the seeds, and cut up in strips. Stir these ingredients in with your bitter melon. Season with fish sauce to taste and add a dash of pepper. This salad works best when you are having fried fish or grilled meat.

    High Smoking Point Oils are best for frying

    July 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    High smoking point oils are best for deep frying needs. This is because they can absorb a lot of heat before they start to smoke and burn. The following are some types of those oils that you can use.

    1. Peanut oil – Extracted by pressing the peanut and the kernel, this oil quite healthy for consumption. This is because it does not contain any type of fats that can affect the heart negatively. Store this oil in the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature before use.

    2. Canola oil – Made out of rape seed, this oil contains very little saturated fat. It is also considered to be friendly to the heart. It is also low in flavor so it will not affect the taste of the fried food too much.

    3. Safflower oil – Safflowers are found in colors of red, orange and yellow. Around five blooms are found on a branch usually and are rather spiny. Each flower contains around 25 seeds. The process of crushing these seeds and extracting the oil can produce two types of oil – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The former is used for deep frying and the latter is used in cold salads. The former is also high in oleic acids and low in saturated fat, which means it is quite healthy.

    4. Sunflower oil – This oil is also extracted from the seeds of the flower. It is also high in oleic acid, low in fat and contains vitamin E. It is known to bring down cholesterol levels and does not affect the heart negatively. It also has a long shelf life.

    5. Corn oil – Extracted from corn seeds, it is versatile as it can be used for deep frying as well as in salads. It is also very low in taste and in price.

    Multiple uses of White Vinegar

    June 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Although many of you may not realize it, white vinegar is a versatile product. It has many uses apart from being used in foods. White vinegar can be made from a variety of foods such as Rice, corn, rye, barley, wheat and even beetroot and potatoes. Basically, it can be made from almost anything that has high starch content.
    If you have had your room painted and the paint smell was still lingering on after a few days, you don’t have to resort to expensive air freshening products. White vinegar is quite effective at nullifying smells like that. All you have to do is, open a bottle and leave it in a central location for best results.
    White vinegar can also be used to dissuade pets from scratching your furniture or your walls. This is done by simply spraying the area with a little White Vinegar and your pets will never bother that place again. It can also come in handy if they are not trained well and they carelessly litter around the house. After scooping up the mess, just wipe that area with a tissue soaked in White Vinegar and the smell and the stain will vanish.
    Besides these uses, White vinegar can also be used in various remedies to cure Hiccups, Dandruff, Sore throat and athlete’s foot. It can be also used to remove stains from glassware, ceramics, windows, refrigerators etc.
    As you can see, White vinegar is truly a versatile product that has multiple uses in and around the house.

    Toasting Marshmallows

    June 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Cooking outdoors always involves toasting marshmallows. A bonfire on a summer night will just not be complete without having toasted marshmallows.

    However, achieving perfectly toasted marshmallows can be quite a feat. Some people like toasted marshmallows which are lightly warmed, some like it golden brown, while some like it charred.

    A properly toasted marshmallow goes through six phases to reach perfection. While the process itself is fairly quick, believe it or not, it is a fairly scientific process, which is outlined here:
    1. When the marshmallow is placed on a stick it starts to swell. This swelling is caused by the heat in the marshmallow, which heats up the moisture contained within, making it larger.
    2. The moisture contained inside the marshmallow bores little holes through it, in order to allow the steam to escape.
    3. The moisture-free marshmallow is now a blob of sugar. The marshmallow is about to start burning at this moment, as the oxygen in the air around it makes a beeline to the surface of the marshmallow.
    4. Oxygen from the surrounding air spreads to the outer area of the marshmallow. When it reaches the surface, the oxygen reacts with the carbon, making a blue flame. The correct terminology for this in ‘burning in the diffusion-limited’ mode.
    5. Next, carbon dioxide is made by carbon atoms seizing oxygen atoms, which in turn produce first carbon monoxide and then carbon dioxide.
    6. The final stage is called the Oxyinterruptus stage. This is what happens when you pull the marshmallow out of the fire, and interrupt the process of oxidization.

    How to Put Together a Good Salad

    May 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Putting together a good salad is not difficult. However, there are so many options to choose from. Here is a good starting point:

    First get all your greens together. Start off with a bit of lettuce – iceberg is a good choice. Romaine, green leaf or Boston are also good options. Next, you need to add in a bit of flavor with something from the chicory family, like endive. If you like your salads to have a mild peppery taste, then add in some watercress, ruby-red radicchio or even arugula. Next, drop in some herbs, as many as you like. Next add the vegetables, followed by cheese, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and whatever else you feel like adding into your salad.

    You might also want to add in some edible flowers to your salad. Here is a quick guide regarding their flavours:

    1. Peppery – nasturtiums
    2. Spicy – pansies
    3. Sweet/tart – violets
    4. Mildly sweet – rose petals

    Salad in a rush – sometimes you might not have enough time to put together a salad from scratch. In instances such as these, you can purchase a ‘salad in a bag’ which consists of mixed salad greens. This is a more expensive option, but it will save you some valuable time. By buying a pre-mixed package, you do not have to buy each kind of green in large amounts. When buying a ‘salad in a bag’, always look for those that have fresh leaves. If the package consists of mostly chopped lettuce, then it is a definite no-no. Remember to rinse the greens before you make your salad.

    Salad dressings – do not overdose on the vinaigrette or salad dressing used. Use a rich, creamy dressing with mild greens, while the more flavorful ones are best paired with a light vinaigrette or a light dressing.

    Pairing Wine and Food

    April 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Many food connoisseurs fuss over incorrect pairing of wine and food. Wine is part and parcel of fine dining and experimenting is always a must. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

    Why is wine an integral part of fine dining?
    It has become an important part of a fine meal not because of its ability to make you tipsy, but depending on the meal, the right choice of wine can enhance the flavours of the meal. Wine is known to accentuate flavours, bringing it up front, clearing the palate and neutralizing strong salty or bitter flavours. It is also used as an ingredient when cooking.

    Why is pairing wine with food so important?
    While wine does accentuate the flavour of fine foods, if paired wrongly it can make your meal taste bitter, horribly sweet or even metallic. Sommeliers of top, fine-dining restaurants are employed for their fine tongue, able to discern the flavours of each wine. However, this does not mean you need to be a sommelier to choose wines to match food items.

    What do you consider when matching wine with food?

    • Body – rich, strongly flavoured foods should be accompanied with a wine consisting of a rich body, otherwise the wine could possibly overpower the flavour of the meal. If serving up spicy lamb, then a merlot is a good choice of wine.

    • Flavour – sweet dishes and desserts are best paired up with sweet wines. The more acidic wines go well with salad dressings, salty foods and even tart, sharp sauces. Remember, the flavour of the wine must be less strong than the meal you serve. Otherwise you run the risk of the wine appearing to be sour or even rather dull.

    • Alcohol – wines containing a lower content of alcohol are best to pair up with food.
    The rule really with food and wine is that like is paired with like; like white meat with white wines and red meats with red wines.

    Is Sushi Fattening?

    April 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

    Sushi, meaning ‘vinegared’ rice is considered a novelty food in many countries around the world. Sushi was initially a simple preservative method of fish in ‘vinegared’ rice in Japan – in which the fish was eaten, and the rice discarded. Sushi was not even remotely popular in Japan in the 19th century.

    Sushi makes up a good portion of Japanese fast food, but unlike the fast foods we are usually used to, it is healthy and will not make you fat.

    Sushi was made popular in the 1960 in North America, by a Japanese sushi chef who made the sushi roll, which became an instant hit. Taking into consideration people’s general dislike to raw fish, he replaced it with avocado – and thus that is how the California roll gets its name.

    Here is why eating sushi is healthy:

    • Sushi does not contain any cholesterol or unhealthy fats
    • Sushi contains ‘good’ fats such as Omega 6 fatty acids
    • Contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
    • The rice in the sushi contains zinc, which helps enhance your immune system
    • Eating sushi gives you a better sex drive
    • Healthy hair
    • The sea weed used for sushi contains antioxidants and sea minerals
    • Sushi contains a fairly good amount of protein
    • It contains Vitamin E, which helps to ward off any cardio-vascular disease
    • It brings on lesser health risks compared to that of eating cooked beef or chicken

    Due to its health benefits and the novelty attached to it, the number of sushi bars in North America increased quite rapidly.