World Chefs: Mark Bitterman on cooking on salt blocks

Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:04am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pink Himalayan salt blocks don't come from the Himalayas and won't stay pink after they are put to their best use, grilling.

Those are just two of the surprises revealed in Mark Bitterman's latest cookbook "Salt Block Cooking: 70 Recipes for Grilling, Chilling, Searing and Serving on Himalayan Salt Blocks."

Part cookbook, part how-to guide for using the alluring kitchen tool, the book is an ode to the luminous blush squares that can be used on the grill or in the oven and have begun turning up in gourmet kitchen stores and in top restaurants.

Bitterman, whose previous book "Salted" won the James Beard Award and who owns The Meadow, a specialty food store in Portland, Oregon, and New York City, spoke from Portland about the cooking sensation that's nearly as luscious to look at as the food prepared on it tastes.

Q: Is the idea of cooking and serving on salt blocks new?

A: It's less than a decade old. Its discovery is a little shrouded in mystery. I think there was some opportunistic cooking maybe on salt stones in ages past. But in terms of salt-block cooking the way we think of it now, all evidence I have is that it's an American invention.

Q: In your book, you explain that Himalayan salt is actually from mines in Pakistan. How did it first come to the United States?

A: It was big with the health food movement in America, which likes it because it's unrefined. It was ground up and used as a culinary salt or a bath salt. It was also carved into shapes and used as salt lamps. They were pretty and there was a belief that in lighting these things up, they shoot ions into the air.   Continued...