by Marco Canora with Catherine Young
Foreword by Tom Colicchio
2009 Rodale Press
When most people watch me salt a pot of boiling water for the first time, their reaction is disbelief. To them, the handfuls of Diamond Crystal kosher I dump in before adding pasta or vegetables seem excessive. What they don’t realize is that a healthy dose of salt is essential to bringing out the natural flavors of almost any ingredient you can think of, and adding salt to water is actually a subtle way to season food, because it absorbs only a small amount of the salt it is boiled or blanched.
Salt is a critical ingredient in every dish I make. Too much salt, however, can make any dish inedible. The obvious question then is how much is enough and how much is too much? I “salt to taste,” but I want to stress that there are a few basic things you should know in order to follow my lead. You need to consider the flavor of all your ingredients. Some foods are inherently salty - Parmesan cheese, for example, has a lot of salt in it, so if you are using significant amounts, you won’t need as much salt. The same goes for anchovies. You also need to think about what happens to the salinity of a liquid as it cooks. A sauce that simmers away on the stove for hours will get saltier as the water evaporates and the flavors concentrate; the same thing happens with soups and braises. You need to be careful not to add too much salt in the early phases of cooking. Generally speaking, the best way to determine the perfect amount of salt is to add a little at a time, tasting as you go so that you can decide when no more is needed.
While trying out the recipes on the following pages, let your preferences be your guide. If you’re not a fan of rosemary, substitute sage, thyme, or some other herb you like. If a spicy kick is not your thing, leave the peperoncini or red pepper flakes out of the clams casino or use half the recommended amount. When all is said and done, I think tastebuds are far more reliable than measuring spoons when it comes to determining the right ratios of spice and seasoning for whatever dish you are making.
If I can leave you with one last piece of advice, it is this: Cooking is not a mere chore but a creative outlet and a pastime, one that requires you to use all your senses, your intuition, and you resourcefulness. Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn to accept the fact that sometimes your experiments will flop. Take the occasional failure with a grain of salt (so to speak) and learn from your mistakes. Start to think of the recipes in the pages that follow as templates, with information that you can apply to a wide variety of dishes, foods, and cooking situations, and this book will have served its purpose. If the food you are inspired to make brings smiles and satisfaction to those who eat it, then you will be doing something to make this crazy world we live in a better, more hospitable place.
“Cooking for many chefs is a job. But for Marco, cooking is a
lifestyle. He cooks at home, much to the enjoyment of family and their
wide circle of friends. This book reflects that multidimensionalty - by
nature, cooking at home is different than done in a restaurant, but it
comes from the same place: true passion, knowledge and love of fine ingredients,
and a conviction that one should do only as much to a dish as it needs
to be great, never more. Marco Canora cooks with his heart and soul.”
“Marco Canora’s intuitive sense of the delicious is renowned
throughout chef circles, but this magnificent tome takes it to the home,
simplifying his cooking into a beautiful, lyrical melody. The photos are
inspiration, and the recipes pull me toward the greenmarket and then back
to the kitchen every time I open the pages. His words are my new poetry.”
“Leafing through Marco Canora’s “Salt to Taste”
was like traveling back in time to my first trip to Italy. His dishes
reminded me of the excitement and wonder I felt while discovering its
distinct regions and tasting its time-honored recipes.”
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Rodale Books (October 13, 2009)
Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.2 x 1 inches