Archive for the 'Salt Blocks' Category

Himalayan Salt Blocks

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto generally has to satisfy his penchant for preparing and serving his zany, mouthwatering foods on Himalayan salt blocks with the more modest 8 inch by 8 inch by 1.5 inch slabs of Himalayan pink salt.  These are fine, most of the time.  But, with back muscles aching and biceps tingling, I am elated to announce that we have just finished unpacking a full container of the most unusual new and renewed sizes of Himalayan salt plates, salt platters, salt bricks, and salt cubes.

Extra Large 8 x 16 x 2 inch Himalayan Pink Rock Salt Platter

My favorite by far this time around has to be the imperial super mondo extra big and fancy and fun Himalayan salt platters (it’s tempting to call them Himalayan salt boards, or salt planks, or salt joists…), which measure a solid 8 inches by 16 inches in size, with a thickness of 2 full inches.  They are begging to party.  Some ideas that come to mind:

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Wedding Reception Table Setting with Himalayan Salt Blocks

Jennifer Bitterman’s Himalayan Salt Rock and Wildflower in Vintage Vase table arrangementI just found a photograph I took with my cell phone a year and a half ago.

In the spring of 2007, the editors of the bridal issue of a magazine popular here in the Pacific Northwest asked us to design a floral arrangement and table service.   Jennifer came up with an idea that stunned everybody who saw it, combining in one sophisticated table setting the most ephemeral and delicate of beauties with the closest thing on planet Earth to the eternal.

For flowers, Jennifer found about two dozen different varieties of white flowers, many of them wildflowers we collected ourselves from the forests, streams, and meadows near our house in Portland Oregon.  She arranged them either singly or in small bunches in a variety of unique vintage and antique glass vases from the vintage vase collection in our shop.  For the centerpiece she arranged pale pink dogwood blossoms with very tall, slender white tulips. The effect was one of extraordinary diversity brought into strange and unexpected harmony, as if nature herself had flung together the vases and flowers, and suddenly withdrawn, leaving the fragile petals trembling above the crisp white linens covering the table.

Jennifer then set 8 inch by 8 inch by 2 inch thick squares of light pink Himalayan rock salt plates on white china chargers.  The Himalayan rock salts are 600 million years old.  They just sat there, and glowed.  Way back before there as any developed life on the planet, a great ocean became enclosed by land and slowly evaporated off to form a vast deposit of salt and natural trace minerals.  The luminescent squares of Himalayan salt, effectively the distillate of one of the first oceans to form on the planet, both anchored the table with their solidity and uprooted it, bringing the primordial bed of all life on earth into contradistinction that was simultaneously aesthetic, conceptual, and playful.

The photographs in the magazine were great, but never quite did justice to the amazing delicacy of the white wildflowers and the immutable depth of the salt blocks.  But this picture at least serves as a schematic for the idea.

For any of you–like me recently–still baffled: to get an image out of your cell phone you can email it to yourself.

Super Extra Thick Premium Himalayan Salt Blocks

I’ve been doing plenty of creative cooking on Himalayan Salt Blocks since my last post on the subject, and plenty more less creative things. Mostly, I’ve been working (remotely) with my people in Pakistan on optimizing the cut and grade of Himalayan salt blocks we are importing into the U.S.

The happy day has come: the latest shipment of Himalayan salt blocks has arrived, and now, after horrendous physical labor in the warehouse (my forearms are like Popeye’s, and small children stop and gape), it’s all ready to use.

Thanks to the great work of our supplier, for the first time we have divided our blocks into grades, allowing customers to buy the Himalayan salt block that best suits their expected needs. The bad news is I somehow have not yet managed to snap a photograph of them, but that shall be forthcoming.

There is more detail available at www.atthemeadow.com, but to summarize:

Our larger tiles and plates are thicker than standard blocks, for both added strength and a greater physical appeal. Large pieces such as 8 x 8 x 2 and the new 9 x 9 x 2 are an impressive half inch thicker than standard salt blocks, and the same goes for our extra-huge 9 x 18 platters. This larger size applies to all grades, not just the new premium.

Honkin big piece of cheese.The thick size is extremely cool to look at: it sits at the table like it wants to crush it. It broods. It handily supports the most massive food, from a Tomme de Savoie to a fan of lobster tails. I still have the 1.5 inch thick blocks in my kitchen, but they look a touch puny next to the new big fat boys.

Regular Grade Himalayan Salt Blocks are for serving food at room temperature, or if you have a mind, frozen for a sorbet or that semifreddo service you have been wanting to attempt for all those years. A Himalayan salt block cheese platter, marinated vegetable plate, sashimi plate, butter dishh, centerpiece, etc., will do best with a Regular Grade Himalayan Salt block.

The new Premium Grade Himalayan Salt Blocks™ are painstakingly selected (ever tried to move 200 ninety pound boxes of salt around a warehouse in the middle of July?), for the most versatile use by the most serious-minded cooks. They are the ones I wanted to take home… Fear not, I get all the funky pieces. I am glad to sort though a stack of the premium grade (or the regular grade for that matter) salt blocks looking for anything in particular that might desire.

Architectural Grade Himalayan Salt Blocks™ are the least expensive Himalayan salt blocks. They are pure and beautiful and similar to the regular grade in many regards, but are only sold in large quantities and may contain some flaws that make them less than ideal for culinary uses of Himalayan salt blocks. Starting a new club and want a luminous wall of salt? Building out a wine cellar? Sprucing up a spa? That’s the idea.

Check out Ideas in Food

Chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander TalbotI have been meaning to share a link to a good article by a professional chef on his experience with Himalayan salt blocks.

IDEAS IN FOOD: Improvisation and experimentation in the kitchen, written by Chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, has a huge readership, and for good reason: they are intrepid, clever, and skilled cooks.  Check out their brief experimentation with Himalayan salt blocks here>>

Heating, Cleaning & Storing Himalayan Salt Blocks

I don’t intend to spill an inordinate amount of ink on Himalayan salt blocks at the expense of other fine saline subjects, but there are enough inquiries from customers these days that a short series on the practical side of working with plates of Himalayan salt seems warranted.

There are dozens of ways to use Himalayan salt blocks, as plates, platters, skillets, curing bricks, freezing slabs, and more.  Cooking, however, is an important one to get under your belt as soon as possible.

Detail of burnt Himalayan salt plateAnd by the way, I personally like to use one Himalayan salt block for cooking, and keep a separate Himalayan salt block/plate for room temperature uses such as curing, serving, and otherwise presenting food.  That way, your cooking salt block benefits from the patina and structural changes inherent to cooking, much as a cast iron skillet benefits from careful use and cleaning. At the same time, the purity and simplicity of the unheated Himalayan salt block can be emphasized when used for presentation at the table.

Heating, Using, Cleaning, and Storing Tips for Himalayan Salt Blocks: see the complete article.

How to Relate to Your Himalayan Salt Block

Himalayan Salt Plate after 48 usesThe beautiful thing about cooking with a plate of pink Himalayan salt plates is that the material is about as predictable and well-behaved as a shaved cat in an electrical storm. At least that is how it appears when you first start to use them. Salt is hygroscopic, meaning it has a tendency to drink pure water out of perfectly fine air. Hauled straight out of the mountain in Pakistan, Himalayan salt blocks have varying mineral densities that alter their thermal expansion coefficient, so different parts of the same plate can expand at different rates. At the same time, salt crystals in Himalayan salt blocks are strangely elastic, so the strains of such thermal expansion and contraction can be largely absorbed. Bringing us full circle, fissures and irregularities can appear from rapid heating and cooling, while rinsing andGeorges Braques drying them can fuse them back together again. In short, your Himalayan salt brick or plate or block is a little like The Picture of Dorian Gray painted by Georges Braque, secretly reflecting the vagaries and adventures of your kitchen life in its glowing pink cubic crystals.

The prospect of a kitchen utensil harboring unspoken truths about our private kitchen lives, our sordid failures and glittery triumphs, is upsetting to some people. To them, there may be nothing to say but, “Stick with stainless steel.” Many others are not so much averse to the intrinsic mysteriousness and seemingly endless misbehaviors of salt plates, as they are flummoxed. For the benefit of the latter, I would like to share a recent letter I received from a particularly courageous Himalayan salt block user, and offer some replies as best as I can.

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