From boiling pasta to finishing a steak, a little sprinkle of salt is critical to just about every recipe in our repertoire. Rather than taking it for granted as an invisible helpmate in the kitchen, we're starting to notice the ways in which salt highlights particular flavors in food and brings a sparkle to everything from butter to caramel.
It's no rarity these days to find an ocean's worth of salt varieties on the shelves in even the most basically stocked grocery aisles. Besides table salt, you'll find coarse kosher salt, sea salt, both flaky and fine, Himalayan pink salt, sandy-looking French sel gris (gray salt), and even smoked salt. Each has a distinct flavor profile, and it's fun to experiment with different textures and grinds.
Spiced and infused salts are easy to make yourself and a fun way to further boost the flavors in your cooking. (They're great for gifting, too!). Let your imagination be your guide, and take some inspiration from these ideas as you sprinkle away.
As a basic ratio, use a teaspoon of spice for every 1⁄4 cup of salt. Mix thoroughly in a bowl and store in a tightly sealed jar away from light and heat.
Rosemary Citrus Finishing SaltCombine sweet, citrusy orange peel and warm, peppery, pine-scented rosemary with sea salt and use to flavor chicken, fish and roasted vegetables. You'll love a little sprinkle on a dark chocolate brownie, too.
Spicy Ginger Sesame SaltToss a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with kosher salt, minced crystallized ginger, and toasted sesame seeds to give any dish a little Asian flair. Try it sprinkled over stir-fried broccoli or on simple seared tofu or chicken.
Vanilla SaltScrape the seeds from a vanilla bean and combine with flaky sea salt. After the flavor infuses for a day or two, sprinkle atop roasted sweet potatoes or give delicate seafood an intriguing tropical, floral aroma. This is perfect atop homemade caramels, too.
Louisiana Cajun SpiceCombine smoked salt with Louisiana Cajun spices and see what a difference it makes to a iron skillet-seared steak or seafood. Add a little sparkle to avocado toast or finish off sliced, garden-ripe tomatoes with a kick.
Elizabeth Winslow is a writer, food blogger, culinary instructor and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas. She is a regular contributor to Edible Austin and creates compelling content for brands both large and small. She has an M.A. in Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio and teaches cooking classes with Kitchen Underground. Winslow + co.