When ancient mineral rocks collide with trendy food practices, the result is nothing short of sublime eats. We’re talking salt blocking. Mark Bitterman’s acclaimed book, “Salt Block Cooking” is loaded with incredible information and recipes to excite your palate. Side note: Mark is a co-owner in the local specialty shop, The Meadow where you can find salt slabs, bowls and cups in hues ranging from ballet pink to salmon-rose.
Himalayan salt is mined in Asia. The chunks weighing up to 500 pounds are thought to be some of the purest salt on earth. After the rocks are extracted they are hand-cut into cooking and serving vessels. Rich in minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc, these earthy flavors are gently imparted to meat, vegetables and fruits in the cooking process.
Appearing like stunning works of art, salt blocks are versatile; think about serving melon with prosciutto on a chilled slab or quietly roasting spears of asparagus on a searing block. Don’t be deceived by a salt block’s pretty looks, it’s a heavy-duty culinary worker. With proper care, it will last for years.
Are you duly intrigued by the idea of fixing a meal on a mineral lump? Here’s what to look for:
- Cooking – blocks that are at least two inches thick with very few crystalline streaks. A nice, muted tone indicates fewer fissures which could crack during the heating process. These blocks are designated “cookware-grade.”
- Serving, chilling or curing – slabs, cups, bowls can be thinner and contain all of the amazing irregularities and swirls of crystal deposits.
Heat the brick slowly on a stove, in an oven or even an outdoor grill. For best results, follow the instructions received with the block. When the cooking process is complete, wash the stone with warm water and a scrubby to remove any food residue. As Mark instructs, don’t put it in the dishwasher. “I closed the door, ran it, opened the door -- there was no salt block.” Dry the block with a clean, soft towel and then allow to air dry.
Shrimp on the ‘cue cooks up quickly, so it’s ideal for a maiden voyage at salt blocking. This summer-infused salad has all the ingredients of a great affair – spicy, cooling and packed with flavor. Char the fresh ears of corn over the coals while the salt slab heats. Then sear the shrimp and toss on some jalapenos loaded with garlic.
Grilled Spicy Prawn, Corn and Kiwi Salad (serves 4)
Adapted from Market of Choice
Needs and Steps:
Start grill (gas, charcoal, wood) and heat salt block, if using.
- Prawns – marinate for 15 minutes in a mixture of 1 tablespoon each olive oil and lemon juice, ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper, one jalapeno diced and one clove crushed garlic. Note: if using the salt block, omit the salt in the marinade.
- 2 ears sweet corn shucked and cleaned. Rub each ear with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill corn over high heat until slightly charred on all sides, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove corn from the grill, cool. Stand ears of corn on a cutting board, and run a knife down the sides to remove kernels. Set aside.
- Dressing – whisk together ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice and salt and black pepper to taste.
- Salad – one head butter lettuce, torn, two kiwis, peeled and diced in ½” chunks, one jalapeño, seeded, finely diced, ¼ c red onion, finely diced, two teaspoons each chives and tarragon, chopped. In large bowl, place all salad ingredients and corn kernels.
Place prawns on the hot salt block or on the grill for approximately two minutes per side until. Divide the salad between four serving plates and place shrimp on top. Shake the dressing and pour onto the salad, as desired.