Photo by Kate Oakley / Adorned Photography
Salt. We can't seem to get enough of it. We sprinkle it on our food for flavor, use it to enhance the sweetness of our sweets, rim our cocktail glasses with it, and add a dash to make our boiling water even hotter. Heck, we throw it over our shoulders for good luck. While too much salt in your diet can have adverse effects on your health, just the right amount can help with muscle cramps, low blood pressure, balancing the body's pH levels and, weirdly, hydration (disclaimer: we never said we were nutritionists). We decided to dive a little deeper into this seasoning that delights our tastebuds and take a look at all the ways there are to add a little excitement to the pantry staple that has become an artisanal craft full of body and depth. (Such an exploration obviously includes a yummy recipe for a popular Mexican beverage in honor of Cinco de Mayo, so keep reading!)
Image credit: Jacobsen Salt Co. Vial Set via Williams Sonoma, a collection of Oregon Sea Salt infused with Smoked Ghost Chili Peppers, Lemon Zest, Stumptown Roasted Coffee Beans & Vanilla Beans
Sure, plain old table salt is fine enough. But where's your sense of adventure? Just like Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) taught us all the possibilities when it comes to crustaceans during his famous monologue in Forrest Gump (pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad... what a great film), the options for salt are seemingly endless, even when it comes to color. There's fine salt, coarse salt, Kosher salt, sea salt. Pink Himalayan salt, gray Celtic sea salt, and black Hawaiian lava salt infused with activated charcoal. There's smoked salt, flake salt, and salt married with all sorts of ingredients, from the usual suspects like onion, garlic, truffle and rosemary to more surprising pairings like pinot noir, cocoa and aged Balsamic, which all lend earthy, sweet notes to your cuisine. In fact, the more gourmet-food flavors, the better.
Take bacon for instance. Bacon lovers swoon for the cured meat's salty-sweet-savory taste, so what could be more genius than smoked bacon chipotle sea salt or maple bacon salt to dust literally anything with? Or maybe it's not only the punch of the salt you're looking for but also heat. Luckily, Jacobsen Salt Co., available at Williams Sonoma, makes salt infused with fiery smoked ghost chili pepper flakes and a spicy habanero salt sure to turn up your quesadillas and Bloody Mary mix.
Image credit: Wild Oregano and Sage Salt via Crate & Barrel
Or stroll into Crate&Barrel and you'll find Bella Cucina Artful Food's Aromatic Savory Salts made with fragrant wild oregano and crushed sage leaves—the perfect complement for roasted veggies or a rustic loaf of freshly baked bread. Because after all, it's not only the taste we're after, it's the scent too, since cooking should be an experience that engages all of the senses. Then there's something called fleur de sel, a paper-thin crystal that's harvested off the coast of France and extremely hard to come by, making it super expensive and known to many as the caviar of salts. (Think of it as an embellishment for fine meats or artisanal chocolates and caramels. Yeah. Our mouths are watering too.)
Image credit: Himalayan Salt Plate with Holder & The Salt Plate Cookbook via Williams Sonoma
And, ah, the phenomenon of the Himalayan salt block. Cooking on one using the right techniques (mainly, slow and steady, though you can serve food on a chilled block as well and even cure meats while you're at it), makes the most of those health benefits we mentioned and adds a certain complexity to the flavoring of your meal. The Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen has a cookbook that offers 24 recipes covering apps, entrees, side dishes and even desserts, from Coconut Curry Shrimp Skewers to Beef Teppanyaki to Smashed Potatoes & Chimichurri, and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies. Plus, it will give you some tips and tricks on how to use and care for your salt block.
Image credit: Himalayan Salt Ice Cubes & Shot Glasses via Williams Sonoma
OK, so you're not exactly Ina Garten in the kitchen. No worries! You don't have to stick to cooking on a Himalayan salt block. You can drink out of one instead. Forget the salt chaser—simply take a swig of tequila right out of rosy shot glasses like these or cool your Bloody Mary with Himalayan salt ice cubes that won't water down. They're the salty version of the sweet coffee ice cube craze—the answer to the prayers of all the purists out there.
Image via Williams Sonoma Taste
Not into tequila or Bloody Marys? (If you say so...) Perhaps you'd prefer the refreshing taste of a Paloma as a way to make a switch from the common margarita this Cinco de Mayo. The one shown here was born in the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen, who jazzed up the traditional recipe with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice in lieu of grapefruit soda:
Coarse sea salt for the glass
1 lime wedge
1 1/2 oz. white tequila
3 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz. sparkling water
1 thin slice grapefruit
(Find full directions here.)
Photo by Kate Oakley / Adorned Photography
And of course, you'll need a way to store and serve all of your gourmet sweet and savory salts. Real talk: seasonings just taste better when they've come right out of a gorgeous marble cellar or, as evidenced from the image above, an adorable little bunny face with cute bunny ears that conveniently sticks to your refrigerator thanks to the magic of magnets. Whether you're a foodie, mixologist, design junkie or all of the above, getting creative with your salts will bring your kitchen from drab to fab in a pinch. Pun intended.
Image credits clockwise from top left: White Marble Salt & Pepper via Pottery Barn / Hayes Marble & Wood Salt & Pepper Shaker via Crate&Barrel / Wood + Copper Salt Cellar via West Elm / Mini Magnetic Salt & Pepper Grinder Set via The Container Store