Everyday Kitchen -
If I've had one conversation about salt in the past month, I've had a hundred.
There are so many people trying to reduce their sodium intake, you'd think standard restaurant fare would contain less rather than more, and you could choose to add the amount you like.
Of course, that's silly, because salt is the easiest - and cheapest - way to boost flavour when the quality of the underlying ingredients is perhaps not what it could be.
So, how do you know you're taking in more than enough salt? If it's the primary flavour on your plate, then you know. Go to any fast food joint and watch people for a few minutes. How many of them brush the salt off their fries?
Unfortunately you can't do that with burgers and fried chicken - the salt is an integral ingredient in the seasoning.
But if takeout is a treat and scarcely enjoyed in your house, then you have total control over your salt intake.
You already know this, but I'm saying it to get it out of the way.
Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store - stay away from processed and canned foods and you have automatically reduced the sodium in every meal.
If you get fresh fruit, vegetables and meat - unless you buy the pre-seasoned, which kind of defeats the purpose of fresh - then it's up to you how much of everything you add. You should also look for the Health Check symbol sanctioned by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The book store should be your next step. There are many decent cookbooks out, but the gold standard is probably the DASH diet - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It's well known by heart doctors because following that program will almost certainly have a positive effect on your blood pressure and your health in general.
So what's the first step in reducing salt in your cooking? Think of five flavours you like - garlic, lemon, tarragon, wine and pepper, maybe - and build recipes around these as the basis, rather than salt. One other tip is to stop saying salt and pepper and start saying pepper and salt - aim for switching your normal ratio.
Today, I've got a few recipes to get you thinking. Even if salt is no issue for you, these will be winning dishes on your table.
Spices are your friends when salt is not. People from southern climes where heat is neat already know this, but if you combine the hot food with a starch - rice, potatoes, bread or pasta - the sizzle on your tongue dissipates quickly.
This amount will serve 6 to 8, but leftovers are spectacular.
2 tbsp. paprika (smoked if possible)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. each dried oregano and thyme
1/2 tsp. each powdered garlic and onion powder - not the kind with salt added
1/2 tsp. each ground cumin, coriander and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. each freshly ground nutmeg and salt
1-1/2 lbs. lean pork, roast or chops, cubed
vegetable oil for frying
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 each green and red pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Combine paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, pepper, nutmeg and salt.
Rub cubed pork briskly with spice mixture; refrigerate an hour or two. Brown in oil in small batches, setting aside after each.
Fry onion, adding a little more oil if needed, until golden. Add peppers and fry 1 minute. Return pork to pan and cook, stirring over medium heat until pork is cooked through but not dry. Stir in almonds and parsley and serve with rice or, more traditionally, rice and beans.
See FAVOURITE, page E2