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Cooking Questions I'd Like Tattooed on My Arm

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If you think salt is only salt, back up for a minute.

In her cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, chef Samin Nosrat reminds you that you have to think about whether, by “salt,” you mean kosher or sea or flaky or table or sel gris (whew). And then—and more importantly, I think—it’s time to think about whether it’s straight salt you want or a salty something or other to lend character to your salad or hummus or yogurt dip or pasta sauce. Maybe this seems simple, but I see it as a way of flinging open the doors and windows of any recipe you’re making. “Take a moment to think about where that salt should come from,” she writes.

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I like to make a simple vinaigrette for salads or potatoes, just lemon juice and red wine vinegar and olive oil and a fat pinch of salt, maybe with a scoop of Dijon mustard whipped in. I could swap the salt for electric smashed capers, or a paste of anchovies, or minced olives, or soy sauce, or grated pecorino or Parmesan, or preserved lemons, or chopped kimchi (!!!), or maybe a couple of these things layered onto each other.

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The character of the dressing (or, for that matter, pasta or chicken or block of tofu) will change, the saltiness roving this way and that. This is good. This is how we begin to dream up new recipes! We’re already doing it: Just imagine a funky kimchi dressing dribbled over halved hard-boiled eggs. Yum.

Kimchi, Shrimp, and Soba Salad

Kimchi, Shrimp, and Soba Salad by Ali Slagle

Bloody Mary Steak Salad

Bloody Mary Steak Salad by Ali Slagle

Here’s something from Samin that I practically want tattooed on my forearm so that I will never forget it for a moment, least of all when my belly rumbles and I pick up my knife: “The three basic decisions involving salt are: When? How much? In what form? Ask yourself these three questions every time you set out to cook. Their answers will begin to form a road map for improvisation.” In one way, it’s silly-simple; in another way, it’s ultimate freedom. It is more or less how to cook, in one line.

A little inspiration for salting beyond salt:

Watermelon with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Watermelon with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette by EmilyC

Miso Caramel

Miso Caramel by theminx

Heidi Swanson's Mostly Olive Salad, With Some Farro

Heidi Swanson's Mostly Olive Salad, With Some Farro by Sarah Jampel

Pasta alla Boscaiola (Mushroom, Olives, and Sausage Pasta)

Pasta alla Boscaiola (Mushroom, Olives, and Sausage Pasta) by Emiko

Bacon Pecan Meringues With (or Without) Milk Chocolate

Bacon Pecan Meringues With (or Without) Milk Chocolate by Alice Medrich

Crudités with Feta Pistachio Dip

Crudités with Feta Pistachio Dip by Sara Jenkins

Malted Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Malted Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Pretzels by fiveandspice

 Traditional Vegan Caesar Salad

Traditional Vegan Caesar Salad by Gena Hamshaw

Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice by Allison (Spontaneous Tomato)

The Scuttlebutt

The Scuttlebutt by Marian Bull


Photo by James Ransom

All April, Kitchen Confidence Camp takes us through the four essential elements of cooking, inspired by chef and author Samin Nosrat's cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Follow along here.

Tags: samin nosrat, kitchen confidence camp