Growing up, I was blessed in having a mother who loved to cook. Aside from a few, well… one dish earned the name “dud-muffin,” and was never attempted again… but almost every meal was a home-run. Fresh, organic vegetables composed the vast majority of our meals. A brilliant cut of meat or fish, along with brown rice or potatoes were also present. One essential element to cooking was missing.
Now granted, from a health perspective, humans should not consume vast quantities of salt. Our bodies will ever react when too much has been consumed (do you ever wonder why you sometimes wake up with puffy eyes and hands after eating a meal the evening before at a restaurant?) Often times, restaurant meals can be over-salted.
But an even greater crime, in the culinary world?
No salt whatsoever.
Be still my heart.
Entering the doors of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, I was a chef instructor’s dream student. I had zero culinary experience. I had never worked a day in a restaurant. Aside from fine-dining, I had no ‘salt’ palate developed.
No bad habits to break.
While the familiar adage, “an old dog can’t learn new tricks,” is most certainly false, it can be said that it is harder to break aged habits… though not impossible if the passion and desire to change are present.
While in Paris, I developed the “proper” palate for seasoning food. How much was not enough… how much was too much… and how much was “just right.”
When I moved back to the US, I encountered smoked sea salts for the first time. Since I live in a high-rise apartment in downtown Dallas, I am unable to have a grill on my balcony. However, by experimenting with smoked sea salts, I am able to impart brilliant, smoky flavors to meat, fish, roasted/sautéed vegetables, eggs, etc.
There is an absolute plethora of “flavored” sea salts available on the market today: bamboo leaf, bitterman’s chocolate fleur de sel, black truffle, lemon flake, pinot noir, soy, saffron, cherry plum, rosemary flake, vanilla, habanero… to name just a few.
Believe me, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Flavored sea salts impart a subtle, yet ample amount of desired flavor into foods when used in appropriate manners. The can be used in place of regular salt, simply to add another dimension to food. For example, with a habanero sea salt, this will add a kick of flavor and “heat” to your dish. The added spice will not be as potent as using a real habanero when cooking, but it will be subtle enough that you will notice a slight hint of a kick.
For example, habanero sea salt would be brilliant to season quinoa with cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, onion and scallions. It would aid in elevating any white fish. A smoky habanero sea salt would pair brilliantly with any dark meat (lamb comes to mind!) Roasted asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes… truly anything that you desire a subtle, yet flavorful salty heat.
Experiment. Grow in confidence. So often, we hear that “the only way to truly learn is through failures.”
But is it truly a failure, if the result is that we learned, grew… matured?
I found several photos of my “early” plates in my culinary career. I remember being so proud of myself when creating the meals… the lamb was cooked properly, the vegetables were seasoned to the perfect manner… but compared to what I am able to create now… well, there is no comparison. I have been able to develop flavors more now, simply because I have more of a passion for cooking, love to challenge myself and am willing to experiment with products that I have never used (flavored sea salts, being one!)
“Allow yourself the freedom to be great.” - Yours truly.
Love y’all! ♥