Media Review: Salt

A day late again! Eventually I’ll get back on track… in the meantime, I’m glad it’s only by one day.

Quite a lot has been written about salt in recent years – from Mark Kurlansky’s best-selling book, Salt: A World History, to New York City’s proposed “ban on salt“. Despite the public’s mixed feelings about salt (specifically, sodium), chefs and home cooks alike are increasing their use of  specialty salts finishing salts, flavored salts, smoked salts, blended salts, etc. My local Whole Foods has a self-serve salt bar that has at least a dozen varieties of salt in a spectrum of colors and textures, and several dozen more pre-packaged options, not including the basic iodized variety. In this week’s New York Times, Florence Fabricant writes of a fennel salt in Salt With Extra Seasonings that I am looking forward to trying.

This week, Amy Reiley of Life of Reiley ( wrote about her experience tasting her way through a huge variety of salts. ( Click for Amy’s salt article.) While I was in LA, I had the pleasure of joining her for a round of tastings that included a collection of salts from around the world (varying in color, texture, and minerality) and a few flavored salts, including one that Amy cold-smoked herself (much more delicate & appealing than most commercial varieties). The weirdest was a chocolate sea salt. The most interesting was an almond-cardammom flavored salt.

Personally, I use Diamond kosher salt for almost all my cooking except when fine sea salt is more appropriate. I like using finishing salts, especially one my sister brought back from Ibiza that has local chiles mixed in with a crunchy snow-white sea salt, and Maldon salt (flat, crispy squares that remind me of snow flakes).

I feel quite strongly about salt’s role in cooking and in the enjoyment of a meal. I also feel strongly about eating “real” food – natural, whole (or at least minimally processed) foods most of the time. By knowing how to cook and how to select ingredients by season, ripeness, and quality, the “dangerous” levels of sodium found in processed foods can be avoided. Salt can then assume its role as an essential nutrient and as a flavor enhancer, increasing the enjoyment of a meal.

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