Salt is essential to all human life, but did you know it’s also considered a founding pillar of civilization and has been the motivating factor behind more than a few wars over the course of human history due to its value as a preserving agent?
That’s a pretty substantial legacy for these seemingly small grains of flavor. But just as we don’t judge a book by its cover, we can’t scoff at a grain of salt because of its size. Salt’s impact—both in terms of flavor and historical importance—is huge and not all salts are created equal. Though the basic chemical ingredients are the same (all salts consist of sodium chloride plus mineral additives), its physical structure and flavor vary greatly by region, the minerals present at the source and method of procurement. For instance, Fleur de Sel consists of very fine crystals (only of the top layers of naturally dried sea salts, harvested by human hands in the Guérande region of France) and has a delicate flavor which makes it a great finishing salt for sprinkling on a dish immediately prior to being served. On the other hand, the medium-sized crystals in Sel Gris (grey sea salt, also from France usually) and its unique mineral content perfectly enhance the flavors of baked goods.
Experimenting with the vast array of gourmet salts from around the world is a fun way to enhance your favorite recipes, but if you want to take it up another notch, we recommend going for the gold: cooking with salt blocks. We guarantee an immensely impressed look on the face of whomever you choose to invite over to witness your culinary prowess—though it’s not as difficult as it might seem. Salt conducts heat and can be used as a cooking (and/or serving) surface. By cooking directly on a salt slab, you infuse your ingredients with its unique flavors.
Here are few ideas to get you started. Have fun experimenting with your newest double duty cooking utensil/ingredient and let us know how it goes. From our table and salt slabs to yours—Buon appetito!
Hot and Sunny Egg
1 t. unsalted butter
1/2 t. chives, chopped
1 T Cheddar cheese, shredded
Red pepper flakes
- Preheat salt slab on cooktop for 10 minutes on each side. Place butter on slab, spreading evenly as it melts. Crack the egg and pour into the middle of the slab.
- Season the egg with red pepper flakes and add the chives. Cook approximately 4 minutes or until the egg white is opaque.
- Remove egg from the salt slab, transfer to serving dish and sprinkle Cheddar cheese on top.
Seared Asparagus with Orange Marsala Reduction
1/2 pound asparagus spears
2 T fresh squeezed orange juice
1 T butter
1 T Marsala cooking wine
1 T shallots, sliced thin
1/2 t. orange zest
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
- Preheat salt slab on cooktop for 10 minutes on each side.
- While the salt slab is preheating, melt butter in small saucepan and add shallots. Cook for 1 minute over medium low heat. Add orange juice and Marsala wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in cayenne pepper.
- When hot, oil the cooking surface of the salt slab with olive oil. Arrange the asparagus across the top and sear, turning occasionally as needed to ensure even cooking. Remove from slab when done and re-oil for the next round of asparagus. Repeat until all your asparagus is cooked.
- Plate asparagus, pour the heated orange Marsala sauce over the top and serve.