You may think you know salt, but you don’t know salt the way Mark Bitterman knows it. Here is a man who lives, breathes, and most definitely eats salt. Sel gris to rock salt, Cyprus flake to Japanese shio - to call it an obsession is an understatement.
Like most people with a deep love for something good, Bitterman can’t help wanting to share his passion. The Meadow, a specialty store that he and his wife opened in Portland, Oregon, has become a mecca for salt-lovers across the nation. His recently published book, Salted: A Manifesto On The World’s Most Essential Mineral, takes things one step further.
Writing a book all about salt is a bold, and perhaps brave, move given the concerns currently being raised by the health industry about the amount of salt in our diets. But as the subtitle indicates, Salted is quite literally a manifesto. Bitterman’s intention is to show readers that salt has a natural and proper place in our diets, especially when you move beyond the industrialized salts and begin exploring artisan salts.
In the first section of the book, Bitterman takes us through the history of salt production, the science of salt and its role in our bodies, and finally, the craft of salt-making itself. From there, he moves deeper into a guide to salts. This section gives an overview of salts by type and then goes into descriptions and origins of specific salts. He defines terms like fleur de sel and rock salt that have become confused and misused over the years, and includes boxes that consolidate information into quick reference guides.
The cookbook section occupies the second half of the book and is a tribute to the many ways that salt can be used to enhance food. The recipes themselves are mostly very basic, like the easy goat cheese appetizer we give below. But it’s in simple recipes like these that fine artisan salts really shine and show their true characters. We are most intrigued by the section devoted to cooking on salt blocks, a technique we’ve only seen used in restaurants.
Bitterman writes in an engaging and authoritative voice, and we tore through the history and science section in one afternoon sitting. There is so much good information to take in and absorb. There are some points in the book where Bitterman’s passion seemed to push over the top, as when he says, “Think of industrial salt as you would think of open-heart surgery: use it only if your life depends on it.” We understand his point that salt is better economically and is more healthful, but statements like this felt more intimidating to salt novices like us than encouraging.
In the intimidating world of artisan salts, Salted is our new road map and companion. This book is a trove of good information and we will certainly return to its pages again and again.
Check back later today! We'll have an interview with Mark Bitterman with more details on his salt manifesto.
• Find the Book: Salted: A Manifesto On The World’s Most Essential Mineral, With Recipes by Mark Bitterman. Published by Published by Ten Speed Press, 2010. ($23 on Amazon.com)
Chèvre with Cyprus Black Flake Sea Salt and Cacao Nibs
Serves 8 as an appetizer
1 cup unsweetened cacao nibs
1 (8-ounce) log fresh goat cheese
2 three-finger pinches of Cyprus black flake sea salt
1 (8-ounce) baguette
Spread the cacao nibs in a single layer on a sheet of foil. Roll the log of goat cheese carefully in the nibs so that cheese doesn’t stick to your fingers. Once the cheese is well coated, roll the log with a little more pressure to embed the nibs into the cheese. Place on a serving plate.
Sprinkle the cheese with salt, allowing the crystals to tumble across the plate.
Cut the baguette into thin slices and arrange them around the cheese log or place them in a basket to serve alongside.
To show guests how to serve themselves, cut a round of cheese from the log and place it on a slice of baguette; top with a few of the scattered chunks of black salt.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
Reprinted with permission from Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Photo credit: Jennifer Martiné © 2010