Top Row: Baleine Sea Salt, Japanese Plum Salt, Matcha Sea Salt, Dried Orange Peel and French Grey Sea Salt, Himalayan Fine Pink Salt, Himalayan Pink Rock Salt
Second Row: Japanese Plum Salt, Maldon, Icelandic Black Sea Salt, Fleur de Sel, Himalayan Pink Salt
Third Row: Prussian Blue Salt, French Grey Sea Salt, Icelandic Black Sand Salt, Seaweed Salt, Crystal Sea Salt, Dried Rosemary Salt
Bottom Row:Dukkah, Dried Lemon Peel and Aleppo Red Pepper Sea Salt, Smoked Paprika Salt, Za’atar, Hungarian Sharp Paprika Salt, Italian Truffle Salt
Once we’ve left the limited realm of supermarket salt behind, we tumble down a rabbit hole of salt choices. From the Himalayas to Brittany, France and Iceland to Hawaii, the world of salt with it’s myriad complex deep flavors, colorful trace minerals, and diverse shapes from fine to crystalline is a tasty world tour. Cast overboard are any anti-caking agents or iodine.
Restraining myself from buying every sea salt out there and after rummaging through my salt shelf to see what I already had, I only had to beg Lewis to run over to The Meadow in the West Village (he works a few blocks away) to pick up Prussian Blue and Himalayan Rock Salt. Oh, and some chocolate for everyone for Christmas. The salt came to $12. The chocolate came to $92!!! The 10 beautifully wrapped squares from 10 different cocoa bean farms was $57 alone, however it would only stack up to a few Hershey, PA bars.
Turns out I had quite a few salts hiding in my cupboard. From my son-in-law Eduardo sending me salt from Iceland, my daughter Kendra bringing home Japanese flavored salts, and the tiny, extravagant jar of Italian white truffle salt from our friends Ann and Andre (saving it for my souffle class!), I had a very good start to my salt cupboard. Lacking, however, were the basics. There was a box of Maldon tucked way in the back and since salt doesn’t go bad, we can add that to the list. It’s expensive so I can never bring myself to use it. A quick internet order, a few days in transit, and I was in happy possession of some very fine French grey sea salt and a canister of Fleur de Sel de Camargue.
Now that I am a salt magnet, it’s time to start utilizing this fascinating mineral despite how radioactive the Prussian Blue looks. Let’s start with the 3 basic sea salts I now feel I can’t live without. Some recipes follow for flavored salts and also 3 exciting mixes with seaweed, seeds, nuts, and spices from Japan, Lebanon, and Egypt.
These are the 3 salts that you might want to keep on hand.
SEL GRIS – French Grey Sea Salt or Celtic Sea Salt
French grey salt is very moist and wonderful for cooking and baking. Sel gris comes from the same solar evaporation salt pans as fleur de sel but it is allowed to come in contact with the bottom of the salt pan, where more minerals have settled, which creates the grey color. This is the salt I’m using for all around cooking from now on.
FLEUR DE SEL – Flower of Salt
A moist hand-raked salt harvested in the southern France. Fleur de Sel de Camargue and de Guerande seem to be the most popular. Excellent as a decorative finishing salt with it’s irregular-shaped crystals.
MALDON SEA SALT
This decorative flake salt is harvested along the coast of Essex, England. Use as a finish by sprinkling on top of salads, fruit, vine-ripened tomatoes, and chocolate for a touch of elegance.
There are soooo many recipes for flavored salts. At first I pooh-poohed the idea, thinking how would one get the proportions correct – yes, I’m a bit slow on the uptake. Then the light bulb moment – use it only for finishing salt. Inspiration took over while crumbling dried rosemary, zesting a Satsuma, and grinding coriander and I entered an aromatherapy zen-state. Use as a finishing salt, adding just at the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking, whether simmering, roasting, or grilling and sprinkled on top of finished dishes. If you are applying salt to chocolate, preferably with some caramel somewhere, wait until cooled and use a flake salt like Maldon for texture. Keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Create your own specialty salts, crafted to your personal tastes. Add dried citrus peels, spices, dried herbs, seaweed, nuts, seeds, dried mushrooms, chili peppers, edible flowers, vanilla, coffee, tea leaves, matcha, and wine. At the end of this section I’ve given you some exotic mixtures from around the world with the herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds from each region. The only rule is all of the flavoring ingredients must be dry to prevent the formation of mold. I’ll leave the smoked salts to the experts.
Lemon, lime, and orange zest always brighten the taste of food, however, don’t forget grapefruit, tangerine, Meyer lemons, Key limes, and blood oranges. Fairy dust the rims of cocktail glasses, stir into a carrot soup, or sprinkle over some chocolate dipped shortbread cookies. Quickies – Stir into your favorite base for dips, sprinkle on the inside of sandwiches (especially grilled cheese). Stir into dishes the last few minutes of cooking or sprinkle over the top as a finishing salt. Fabulous on roasted or grilled vegetables, steamed vegetables, french or sweet potato fries, fruit salads, soups and stews, risotto, rice and grains. Stir into mayonnaise, goat cheese, ricotta, sour cream, or yogurt for quick, zingy dressings and sauces.
Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit, or Blood Orange Sea Salt: 1/4 cup sea salt + 2 teaspoons dried citrus zest
Chile-Lime Sea Salt: 1/4 cup sea salt + 2 teaspoons dried lime zest + 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Lemongrass-Chile-Lime Sea Salt: 1/4 cup sea salt + 2 teaspoons dried lime zest + 1 teaspoon ground dried lemongrass + 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Rosemary- Lemon -Orange Sea Salt: 1/4 cup salt + 1 teaspoon dried lemon zest + 1 teaspoon dried orange zest + 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
Lime-Ginger Salt: 1/4 cup sea salt + 2 teaspoons dried lime zest + 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Orange-Almond Sea Salt: 1/4 cup sea salt + 2 teaspoons dried orange zest + 2 teaspoons ground toasted almonds
Orange-Juniper Berry Sea Salt: 1/4 cup sea salt + 2 teaspoons orange lime zest + 1/4 teaspoon ground juniper berry
HERB AND FLOWER SALTS
Herbs and flowers should be dry before adding to salt to prevent mold formation. Start with a tablespoon of finely chopped dried herbs or flowers to each 1/4 cup sea salt. Taste and add more herbs, if desired. Add to oil for grilling and basting.
Rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel. cilantro, oregano, parsley, dill, fennel, chives, garlic chives, lavender, saffron, fennel pollen, chive blossom, signet marigolds, calendula, tea leaves, winter savory, or any combination of fresh herbs – endless!
Any citrus can be added to any herb. Add some zing with a pinch of cayenne, Aleppo dried red pepper, or freshly ground black pepper. Just choose the flavors you love – you can’t go wrong. Taste and adjust as you create your own combinations.
DRIED CHILI PEPPER SALTS
Sprinkle over roasted or grilled vegetables, potatoes, hummus, beans, chickpeas, soups, stews, grains, noodles, pasta, cream sauces, dips, dipping oil, tomatoes, guacamole, cheese, and eggs. Add more chili pepper if desired because some like it hot!
1/4 cup sea salt + 1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes (I love Aleppo dried pepper) or 1/4 teaspoon paprika, cayenne, or smoked paprika
Add your favorite curry powder.
This is a fiery hot finishing salt. Add some lime zest to really ramp up the flavors. Great on fried vegetables, popcorn, eggs, and roasted or grilled vegetables.
Mix the salt and siracha together. Spread on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Turn off the oven and allow the salt to dry out for 3 hours.
PORCINI SEA SALT
Sprinkle over roasted or grilled vegetables, potatoes (baked, smashed, fried, roasted, mashed, riced, or hashed), eggs, vegetables, burgers, french and sweet potato fries, roasted vegetable salads, root vegetable gratins, and popcorn. Add to dips, sauces, and stocks. The mushrooms can be ground up in a coffee grinder along with the salt.
1/4 cup course sea salt + 1 ounce ground dried porcini mushrooms
Matcha is Japanese green tea powder with a brilliant mossy green color. Traditionally used to dip tempura in, this gorgeous salt can also be used for French or sweet potato fries, fritters, eggs, tofu and chocolate.
1/4 cup sea salt + 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder
MIXED NUT, SEED, HERB AND SPICE SALTS
JAPANESE NORI SEASONING SALT
Dip your tempura in this!
1 nori sheet, toasted and crumbled
5 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon poppy seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon dried orange or lemon zest
1 teaspoon fine grey sea salt
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Dip pita in olive oil and then the za’atar. Sprinkle on top of hummus or white bean dip.
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon sea salt
Coat cubes of pineapple or slices of peaches with vegetable or coconut oil and then dip in dukkah and roast for an unusual dessert. Dip bread or pita in olive oil and then dab in the dukkah for the traditional way of using this spice mixture.
4 tablespoons ground hazelnuts or almonds
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons each crushed fennel, cumin and coriander seeds
1 teaspoon sel gris
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
For all of you super-creative types, package up these beautiful salts for gorgeous gifts. Vintage bottles and jars, test tubes, herb jars, and canning jars all make great containers. Stick with glass. Let me know in the comments below what salts you came up with and what dishes you paired them with.
Google images has the most gorgeous photos of salt being harvested by the edge of the sea. The only sea I’ll see in the near future is where the Atlantic meets up with the East River and Hudson and East Rivers in New York/New Jersey harbor. France, Pakistan, and Hawaii will have to wait.
Enough about salt. Did you gardeners get your seed orders in for Spring 2016. This is the most optimistic time of year for me. It’s new (the year) and the deer are hunkered down in the woods, hiding from hunters – except for that one that ran out in front of my “last car” between Christmas and New years. Yes, totaled but no injuries. Animal Lovers: the deer got up and ran away, so you’ll be able to sleep tonight. Luckily Kendra and Eduardo were home for the holidays and babysat my dad (he’s up to 98 now!) while Lewis and I ran around buying our new/old car.
May your 2016 be bright and joyful. And Salty.