There’s a hilarious way that certain of the characters with pointed teeth from Anne Rice’s Anne Rice vampire novels leave messages to each other writing notes on temple walls. They’re hidden to people who aren’t sure to search for them.
I get a bit of that “seeking hidden messages” feeling with the intriguing but hard-to-learn-more-about technique of pre-salting vegetables. I’ve read of an New Zealand chef who soaked his cauliflower in brine that was salty and have seen hints of this concept in recipes for mashed cucumbers. It’s not about picking vegetables, but rather prepping them to be seasoned and giving them more time to improve their flavor. There is no need to add more salt than you normally would however, you can do it earlier and think more carefully about it, in order to make your dish even better.
As home cooks surf the internet each time they’re looking for moist and dry brines to use on your turkeys and while it’s simple to find out ways to soak pork chops in the salty treatment for an hour prior to being cooked, there’s actually very little available for vegetable brines.
It’s pretty certain that there’s not a any reason to believe that.
As a regular maker of sauerkraut I was aware that there has to be some logic behind in the concept of salting something that could be thought to be a bit earlier than usual. There’s a first step in the making of kraut when the cabbage that has been chopped is placed in a bowl containing salt, then releasing water and then transforming into an energizing green within around an hour. I’m always sneaking one bite before putting the jar for fermentation and, even though it’s lost a small amount of crunch, it’s gained what I would describe as a satisfying “snap,” and, more importantly, the flavor.
I inquired with Chef Eric Rivera about the practice of pre-salting vegetables and he said that while he does this, it’s done in the “super random” way, and I got in contact with Preeti Mistry Chef podcaster, spice dealer and co-author the cookbook the Juhu Beach Club Cookbook. Mistry took note of the changes in texture I’d observed in the past, and he was somewhat critical of the “European norm” in which vegetables must have bright, green color and perfectly al the right amount of.
“On an initial level, there’s an idea that you shouldn’t salt before since it will lose the crunch,” they explained, adding that salting before “allows the salt as well as other flavors to penetrate the flesh of vegetables.”
Mistry is particularly fond of pre-salting the more nutritious vegetables, such as corn, potatoes and artichokes. This adds spice and flavor to the dish along with salt.
“I’ll mix broccoli with salt, ginger, garlic as well as cumin and soy and let it sit for a few hours. If you prepare it beforehand, the flavors will cohere with the vegetable,” they said, cautioning, “If you season just before grilling, it goes away.”
Mistry is particularly fond of making this dish with food that they will grill or deep fry. (Subsequent tests revealed the reason they choose these methods over others; cooking this in the saute pot made the kitchen smell like a smokey mess. kitchen.)
When we spoke I realized that the thing I was looking for was pre-salted simplicity, some simple rules to follow and Mistry was there to provide.
“I can’t force people to use proportional brine,” they said, refers to the method where a liter of liquid and half a kilogram of vegetables could have 150 grams of salt tossed into. Instead, they suggested a simpler tips: “Put more salt on than you would … should it was placed on your plate.”
I took the note to my heart. In the course of my preparation I could add a salting step, for instance, just after cutting a cauliflower into wedges. Then continue to cook in the same way as always.
In the spirit of that I set to work buying vegetables and then salting them as soon as I could during the process of making what I was making. Typically, I would get positive results, particularly when I made sure to save an un salted and “normally salty” sample to see how it compares to. I noticed that with my green beans, I had to begin early and toss them at least once or twice in order to spread all the salt equally. I would sprinkle it on and in entire heads of broccoli and sometimes spray the greens with water to help that salt stuck.
I also seasoned large plates of chopped vegetables, and rearranging the prep to allow them more time than normal before throwing them onto the grill. Radish slices that I used for crudites would just sit in the brine’s salty flavor for a few minutes before acquiring a little of slopiness which is why I would only smash them with magical crystals later in the game. There were times when I had issues like the salt pulling too many gallons of water out of zucchini or squash that I needed to wipe the dry part to prevent it from splattering on the grill. In general I was on a healthy route, not over-salting but simply salting more frequently and generally making food taste better.
I was interested in brining–dosing veggies in salted water for a few minutes prior to cooking. To answer that question, I contacted Paul Adams, senior research editor at America’s Test Kitchen. Adams was an ex- WIRED contributor, and concisely defines his current role as “I study,” also took a practical approach to when to brine before salting.
“Do it with any veggie that you would like to taste good and salty as you eat it, or might barbecue,” he said. “I believe there’s no sufficient reason as to why it’s not being very popular. If you can sit for about 45 minutes in a tub, it’s going to come out much better.”
He also wanted to let people taste the brine at a certain percentage.
“Presumably you aren’t looking to invest too time on this task and therefore you’ll need an excellent concentrated brine, like 10 percent for an hour, based on the type of vegetable,” he said. “Below five percent you’ll be waiting for your vegetable to become salty.”
To make that 10 percent brine such as this, take the mass of water and the vegetables multiplied by 0.1 and then add the quantity of salt.
He suggested that you try asparagus or carrots, with which can be pricked using the fork, and then soaked in an 8-percent solution that took just under an hour. “Don’t be concerned,” he says, “you’re not going to be over-salting things in less than 45 minutes. Salt will only dissolve in such a short time.”
Adams Also, she reminded me of the way you could add salt to the cooking water and suggested reading out the cookbook on Food and Cooking, in which renowned food science writer Harold McGee recommends boiling green vegetables in a three-percent salt solution.
This, with or without it, is the thing chefs are discussing using boiling water for cooking that “tastes like sea water,” something that’s going seem like an metric ton for those who love salt, but the salt in this recipe is very low and is absorbed into the vegetables.
In my time of experimentation with this technique the results were uneven, but they definitely tend to be successful. I began to notice that foods that were salted properly did not taste salty, they simply tasted better. When I tested head-to-head, the vegetables that were salted prior to their cooking times were sour and watery. The food that was salted prior to cooking tasted more like the food it was cooked in, something that top chefs are striving for.
All of it fell into place after I realized that my favorite cookbook, Meera Sodha’s vegetarian marvel East included a number of recipes that required salting before cooking but she was not making a big fuss about it. I began to pay attention to the words “and put aside” to be a sure indication.
Her Thai salad that includes cashews and grapefruit for instance, is made up of red cabbage, grapefruit lettuce, carrots along with Thai basil in a bowl, along with salt. The mixture is mixed and placed aside while you smash garlic, chiles, along with sugar, into a smooth paste which will become the dressing. It’s the same for her delicious Mouth-Numbing noodles, in which the leaves of cabbage mint, cukes, and are picked quickly with sesame oil, vinegar as well as sesame seeds as well as salt. They are then put aside while you cook the rest of the food.
I saw this again for Sodha’s chargrilled summer vegetables with dhana-jeera dressing, and I started doing it to good effect even with other recipes that didn’t call for it, especially her surprisingly good celery-and-peanut-filled wontons. This was not any more salt than the recipe calls for, it was just an earlier version of the recipe. I wasn’t only acquiring an interesting new cookbook, but I was also gaining my cooking skills.
Pre-salting and, occasionally, pre-brining and making sure that I didn’t have to change my schedule or engage in mental movements to get it done and my food got more delicious. This wasn’t a leaps and bounds improvement but rather an experiment which almost always made great food taste a bit better.