Salt has been used since ancient times and in many ways, from a condiment and a preservative to a valuable form of currency. Roman soldiers were paid in salt. The English word for salary is derived from the Latin word “salarium,” which means “payment in salt.” Salt was once so difficult to obtain that it was the catalyst for several wars.
Now everything old is new again, and salt is no exception. Sea salt, which is, well, as old as the sea, has become a fashionable, trendy ingredient. It’s the reigning queen of the culinary world, and that popularity has increased its price. Sea salt is imported from around the world and comes in a flavorful assortment of vibrant colors, including French gray, Peruvian pink, Hawaiian red and Indian black.
Combining salt with water and spices to make a brining solution is a delicious way to add flavor to your meal preparation. Brining meats provides moisture by hydrating the cells of the meat’s muscle tissue. That’s why brining turkey and chicken makes the meat so moist. Brining also is used during the cheese-making process, and as a preservative for a variety of vegetables.
My vegetable bin often contains what I call “sad” vegetables. Perhaps the cucumbers or the celery aren’t as crisp, or there’s one or two unloved radishes or carrots left over. Brining the vegetables gives them a savory flavor, a vibrant color and preserves them. My slightly wrinkled mushrooms, squash or eggplants, the neglected broccoli or cauliflower or that bunch of limp herbs is rejuvenated in this zesty brine. It also provides me with a new way to present a colorful array of vegetables at the dinner table.
I love the way that brining with salt and spices seasons ordinary meats and vegetables. The combination of salt, black pepper and sugar provides a spicy, sultry burst of flavor that tickles your tongue. If you’re a foodie, salt is sexy.
Brined Cucumber and Radish Salad
6 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound Kirby cucumbers
1/2 pound radishes, trimmed and quartered
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1. Boil water, sugar, garlic, peppercorns and 3 tablespoons
salt in a 4-quart pot, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
2. While brine is boiling, halve cucumbers lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices.
3. Remove brine from heat and add cucumbers and radishes. Let stand, uncovered, 10 minutes, then drain in a colander, discarding garlic and peppercorns. Transfer cucumbers and radishes to a bowl of ice and cold water to cool, then drain well in colander.
4. Toss cucumbers and radishes with parsley, oil and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and chill, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
5. The salad can be made ahead and refrigerated. Delicious when served with broiled or pan-seared fish.
Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.com.
Angela Shelf Medearis an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” ©2018 King Features Synd. and Angela Shelf Medearis