There are salt-lovers and sweets-lovers, but pretty much everyone agrees that they crave salty snacks at some point. Our bodies need salt, but all too often we reach for preservative-laden foods with sodium levels way above our daily allowance. As local author Cynthia Nims contends, making salty snacks at home allows you to use better ingredients and control the amount of salt you use. And with her latest book, Salty Snacks, she's got recipes for craveable snack food and even some healthy snacks.
Nims, who's authored or co-authored thirteen cookbooks, confesses in the book's introduction that she has a "salty tooth." Alas, there aren't as many books dedicated to salty treats as there are to sweet treats, and Nims aims to change that. This demure cookbook packs in 75 recipes for chips, crisps, breads and pastries, smoked and pickled fish, dips and spreads, jerky, deep-fried and tempura vegetables, seasoned nuts and snack mixes, and more. This book elevates snacking to a more esteemed level. Gourgeres get a dose of porcini powder, chickpeas are sprinkled with sumac, and fried pickles are made with cornichons. And while you wouldn't normally serve jerky to your guests, you would serve Nims' duck jerky.
The book's introduction includes information and statistics about some of the problems our country has with sodium and snacking. Nims argues that the salt we add ourselves to food, either on the plate or cooking, accounts for an average of just 10 percent of our daily totals. This is a cookbook though, and Nims dedicates more pages to teaching you about techniques and equipment for cranking out crackers, snack mixes, and more.
Recipes range from retro classics like deviled ham, anchovy spread baked onto toast points, Chex-style snack mix, and soft pretzels to unique snacks such as oven-baked salami chips, fried duck skin seasoned with Chinese 5-spice powder, and "snacking croutons," because Nims knows the best part of many salads is the croutons. Many recipes are surprisingly healthy compared to conventional salty snacks. There are cumin lentil crackers, almond and olive oil crackers, oven-dried apple chips sprinkled with Sichuan peppercorns and salt, kale chips, and carrot and parsnip curls dried in the oven and seasoned with salt and fresh thyme.
Sprinkled throughout the book are sidebars and anecdotes about everything from the history of crackers, potato chips and popcorn, to how to make citrus salt, seed tomatoes and pit olives. This book is clearly more than a gift book--though I think any salt-loving friend would appreciate this book along with a box of Maldon sea salt. Recipes include variations and tips for storing, though most are best eaten the day they are made due to their lack of preservatives. I'd argue most of these snacks wouldn't last much longer anyways, because even more than store-bought snacks, it's hard to eat just one.