Put down that salt - and reach for the mustard
Salt is a shortcut to flavour, and a very effective preservative. Because it works so well, food manufacturers and restaurants load into and onto our foods. The result is that we’re all eating far too much. And that ain’t good for us.
The primary culprits are processed and prepared foods, but you can make changes in the home kitchen that will help. Start by making your own salad dressings. It’s so easy. Start by plopping a couple of tablespoons of your favourite mustard in a bowl. (I just tasted some terrific stuff down at the One of a Kind Show from a small producer called Organics and Gold. But I also love the Kozlik’s Balsamic Figs and Date Mustard I got at the Delicious Food Show.) Add about a quarter-cup of vinegar. Whisk till it emulsifies. Then, continuing to whisk, slowly add about ¾ cup of oil. (The basic vinegar to oil ratio is about one to three, but I typically go a little heavier on the oil.) Add fresh or dried herbs, pour into a bottle or jar and you’ve got dressing for the week.
Last night, I used red wine vinegar with the fig and date mustard, mixed in the oil and then added just a touch of maple syrup. Wonderful. I also sometimes jazz up the dressing by adding a glorp of one of the tasty savory jellies from Jelly Boys. Try the chili and tangerine jelly in a vinaigrette for a baby spinach, toasted almond, dried (unsweetened) cranberries and green apple salad.
It’s also easy to bump up the flavours of your oil by infusing it with herbs. Just throw some herbs (I like using chives, basil or thyme- but roasted garlic is also pretty good) into a pot with oil (you’ll have to experiment with the proportions to get the taste you like) and fill with oil. Let it barely simmer, and then sit and cool for a few hours. Strain before pouring into a (VERY) clean bottle, like the one from Trudeau, shown above -- or a simple jar. Refrigerate. Use it in dressings, or drizzled on grilled fish or chicken. Or slice a baguette into rounds, brush some on each and grill slightly. Lovely as is, but even nicer with a splooch or goat cheese and a slice of tomato on top.
Another way to reduce salt? Pump up the herbs! Next time you’re in the market, grab a bunch of something fresh and experiment. Try heaping cilantro on a piece of fish that you’re going to steam or poach. Add baby spinach leaves and fresh basil to your pizza – even (maybe especially) if it’s store bought.