Great ingredients make for great meals. Whenever you can, use the highest quality supplies for your recipes. The flavor difference will always come through in your finished dish.
If there is an ingredient that you are not familiar with, check our Ingredient section. There are pages and pages of information about the ingredients used in my recipes.
Salt is salt. Many chefs and food writers will say that using kosher salt, sea salt or one of the many gourmet salts on the market is better than the stuff in the round blue box… but for the most part salt is salt.
I know chefs who claim that kosher salt tastes saltier. This is true only because the crystals are larger and less likely to dissolve completely on the food. The crystals that remain dissolve on the tongue, more directly activating the salt taste buds. There is a slight difference in the amount of sodium in a teaspoon of kosher and regular table salt. Again, this is because the larger, irregular crystals in kosher salt take up more room in the spoon. The weight of a teaspoon of table salt is about the same as 1 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt.
Sea salt is also popular and there are chefs that swear by using special varieties. The sodium chloride that makes up sea salt is the same as that in granulated or kosher salt. It is the impurities in sea salts that accounts for differences in flavor.
I have chosen to talk about salt here for a reason. Rice needs salt. But how much salt and how to use it?
The answer to the first question is not easy to answer but it appears that it should be no less than 300 mg per 1/2 cup serving. Many people will need to feel that the dish tastes salty enough but from the research that I have read as well as tasting foods and having others taste recipes this is the minimum necessary.
There are other flavors in a particular recipe that dictate how salty a final dish actually tastes (see Taste buds). The amount of salt that you normally eat is a factor also (see The health of it all – Do your salt taste buds learn?).
Since there are 2400 mg of sodium in a teaspoon that means that each serving of rice should have about 1/8 teaspoon. This is a good starting place but keep in mind that there will be salt in the cheese. In this case another 117 mg. I have found, in general, that recipes with 450 mg in a serving are satisfying to almost everyone.
Lastly, the best time to add salt is near the end of the recipe.
Canned beans are something I keep in my pantry to use in a pinch if I need a hurry-up meal. The flavor is usually great, but you have to be careful because of the sodium content. There is usually about 400 – 500 mg sodium in a half cup of canned beans.
Unfortunately, simply rinsing canned beans doesn't help to reduce the sodium content. However, if the beans are rinsed and then heated in clear water, the sodium content drops by about a third.
In the recipes on this Web site where I call for canned beans, the Nutrition Facts are based on canned beans. If you need to be on a very low salt diet, buying dried beans and cooking them yourself lets you control the amount of sodium.
Canned vegetables almost always have salt in them. Check the can carefully.
Depending on the vegetable, it is usually better to buy frozen vegetables because they seldom have added salt. Most are frozen right at the field where they are picked. Because of being frozen so soon after being picked many actually have more nutrients than fresh vegetables.