Kids Club Vol. 39: Salt
Welcome to the latest issue of our ChopChop Kids Club newsletter!
This month, we’re offering up our appreciation for the most humble, inexpensive, and vital kitchen ingredient: salt. You might not think about it much, but it sure can make the difference between a meal that tastes kind of blah and one that really sings with flavor. We’ve got recipes that highlight the craveable flavor of salt (can you imagine popcorn without it?) and experiments, fun facts, and projects that highlight its importance and versatility.
Yes, we’re feeling salty! (But in a good way.)
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Large, heavy pot with lid
- Pot holders
- Large serving bowl
- 2 tablespoons vegetable, olive, or coconut oil
- 1⁄3 cup popcorn kernels
- Salt and seasonings (see below)
- Put the oil in the pot and add 2 popcorn kernels. Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high.
- Cover the pot and wait for the 2 kernels to pop, 3 to 4 minutes. Once they pop, turn off the heat and take the pot off the stove. Now you know the oil is hot enough to pop the kernels evenly.
- Put the rest of the popcorn kernels in the pot and put on the lid. Using the pot holders to hold the lid in place, shake the pot well (you might need an adult for this). Leave the pot for 1 minute to heat up the kernels.
- Put the pot back on the stove, turn the heat back to medium-high, and wait. Using the pot holders to hold the lid in place, give the pot a good shake every now and then.
- After a few minutes, the popcorn will start popping—slowly at first, and then almost all at once. Once the popping has slowed down almost to a stop (this will take about 1 minute), take the pot off the heat and set it aside to finish popping for 1 minute.
- Add salt and/or your favorite seasoning and give the pot one last shake, then pour the popcorn into the bowl.
- Curry powder
- Garlic powder
- Chili powder
- Celery salt
- Grated lime zest
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Your favorite seasoning blend (Italian, Cajun, taco, Old Bay, etc.)
How to Taste and Season Food
Before you eat or serve any food you make, taste it and make sure it’s really good. If it’s not, then add more seasoning.
- If it’s too bland, it might need more salt. Add a pinch and taste again, then add more if it needs more. Soy sauce adds saltiness, too, as well as a rich flavor. If the flavor goes well with whatever you made, a little soy sauce might just do the trick.
- If you still need to brighten up the flavor, consider adding a little splash of something tart like lemon juice or vinegar.
- Is it nice and tangy, but actually a little bit TOO tangy? Add a tiny drop of a sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup, to balance the flavor.
- Do you wish it were spicy? Add a big grinding of black pepper, a dash of hot sauce, or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Salt is one of the oldest and most widely used seasonings on the planet—and saltiness is one of the very few basic human tastes. While it’s true that too much salt has been associated with health problems, especially in people prone to high blood pressure, salt is an important part of the human diet—and a very important ingredient in good-tasting food! (Even sweets, such as cookies and brownies, need salt to taste good.) Experiment with different kinds of salt to see how they taste and how much to use.
- Table salt, like the kind in a salt shaker, is fine-grained and may have added ingredients such as iodine (which is added because it’s a nutrient people need).
- Kosher salt has larger crystals, so you may need to use a little more of it, since it doesn’t pack down as much when you’re measuring. (It’s our favorite salt here at ChopChop.)
- Sea salt is made from evaporated ocean water and tends to have large crystals and a lot of flavor.
- Soy sauce is a salty condiment made from fermented soy beans. It adds flavors other than salt to a dish.
- Fish sauce is another salty condiment that adds taste in addition to saltiness. It’s made from fermented fish.
- Cut up a plain baked or boiled potato or a peeled hard-boiled egg, or put out a bowl of cooked (unsalted) pasta.
- Put out shakers or small dishes of whatever salt and salty condiments you have: table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, soy sauce, and/or fish sauce. (If you’ve only got one kind, just try that one.)
- Take a piece of potato, egg, or pasta and eat it plain. How does it taste?
- Now, try each of the salts: Sprinkle a little on and taste it (or, in the case of soy sauce or fish sauce, dip a piece into it). Now how does it taste? Do the salts taste different from each other? Is one salt saltier than another?
- Try adding another seasoning with the salt: a squeeze of lemon or a tiny pinch of sugar. Does that change the way you experience the saltiness?
What do you like best? What’s the perfect amount of salt for you?
Salt was so valuable in ancient times that Roman soldiers were paid with it. That’s where the expression “worth your salt” comes from, and it also might explain the root of the word “salary.”
Together Time: Play Dough
Salt is a key ingredient in this fun and squishable clay, which you can make for yourself or a younger sibling. All you need are a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
Spoon, for stirring
1/2 cup hot water
Food coloring (a few drops, or up to 2 teaspoons, depending on how bright you want the color to be)
1/2 cup table salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
- Put the water, food coloring, and salt in the bowl and stir well, allowing the salt to dissolve a bit.
- Add the oil and stir again.
- Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together, then knead it on the counter until it’s soft and pliable. (If it’s too dry, add a few more drops of water; if it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.)
- Play with it right away, or refrigerate in a zippered bag or airtight container for up to 1 week.
Make the play dough smell good with a drop or two of vanilla, lemon, or peppermint extract.