Tuesday Tips: how to "season to taste" in raw dishes

Jennifer Pallian
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SALT!  It is a matter that requires serious attention. I have waxed poetic on this humblest of seasonings may times before, so you may already be rolling your eyes at my passion for the subject - but food simply has to be properly salted to taste good.

And, as a dietitian, I always feel like I have to follow that up with a digression on sodium in the North American diet: yes, it's a problem. But not for people who cook mostly from scratch with whole ingredients.  The FDA assures us that 75% of the sodium in the American diet comes from salt added by manufactures to processed foods (things like whole grain bagels! salad dressing! Raisin Bran!  - not just potato chips) and from restaurants (ahem, McDonalds).  Another 12% occurs naturally in foods.  And another important factor is simply portion size - portions in the US are out of control (breaking news, I know).  With anything, if you eat more of it, you get more of the stuff (like sodium) it contains. My "professional" advice: season your food well, base your meals on fresh, whole foods, and simply don't eat too much overall. Digression complete, thank you for listening. :)

A gorgeous curry, brimming with exotic spices, will be totally flat and lack-luster if there's not enough salt.  A rich vegetable soup veers toward cooked socks without proper seasoning.  Salt can simply make the difference between meh and wow. 

One of my biggest recipe pet peeves is the "season to taste" line at moments when it is simply NOT SAFE to taste.  Like, with raw meatballs. A quiche before its baked (though I'm admittedly lax when it comes to raw eggs).  Fillings or stuffings or anything at all with raw meat or egg components.

Yet seasoning shouldn't be a crapshoot - toss in a pinch or two and hope for the best. So Today's Tuesday Tip employs your microwave. To taste the seasoning of something without risking the gastrointestinal wrath of E. coli, simply put a teaspoon of the mixture in a little bowl and microwave it in 30 second intervals until steaming and cooked through (my little teaspoon of meatball mixture was more than cooked in a minute).  Taste.  If more salt is needed, add some and repeat. Ta da!

There you have it. No more under-seasoned hamburgers/kebabs/sausage stuffing/meatloaf/cabbage rolls/stuffed peppers/Christmas strata... etc.

PS. I'm sorry that my only visual is lumps of raw beef under terrible lighting.  Inspiration strikes when inspiration strikes. They were actually really delicious mascarpone, almond and parmesan meatballs that I threw together from a refrigerator cleanup, and really wish I'd recorded a recipe for.