ColumnBecause sometimes ingredients are meant to go together.
To say that I am obsessed with sea salt could be an understatement. In fact I recently made a commitment to tweak any recipe that I come across to incorporate sea salt, because when it comes down to it, just like cardamom, food sounds sexier when there is sea salt involved.
Although sea salt and table salt have the same nutritional value, when it comes to taste, for adding flavor to many dishes, sea salt is superior and has become the darling of food lovers. It’s flakier, crunchier and has a larger surface area which means you need less of it to flavor your food.
Sea salt’s popularity is nothing new, it has been making the food trend lists for the past several years, but what we’re doing with it is. No longer a simple seasoning, it’s now the finishing touch to everything from your appetizer to your dessert. This much was clear to me when a couple of friends and I topped off a foodie-centric dinner [note to self: always put arugula on pizza] in San Francisco last fall with a panna gelato topped with olive oil and sea salt.
In a food induced haze I remember hearing something along the lines of “we should put sea salt on everything,” come out from someone’s mouth. The path to sea salt obsession is a very slippery slope. One minute you’re gingerly crushing some sea salt on to your salad and the next minute you’re putting it into cakes.
Somewhere in between the salad and the cake situation lies flavored salt making. Because nothing says, “I’m fancy and I love food,” like whipping out a small jar of homemade Sriracha Salt. Citrus Salt, Roasted Garlic Salt, Lemon Salt with Fennel and Chili… you can make just about any type of salt that your heart desires. Feeling extra crazy? You can even buy Merlot Infused Salt. All of which got me thinking about chocolate sea salt.
There’s no doubt that chocolate and sea salt is the food pairing du jour. Chocolate and sea salt bars grace the shelves of even chain supermarkets. Just type in “chocolate sea salt” into Google and see what happens. I can assure you that you won’t leave your computer for hours, and you’ll come out with a weird hunger pang and 18 recipes bookmarked in your “Food” folder. What you won’t find however is a recipe for chocolate sea salt itself.
If chocolate and sea salt are so good together, why is nobody combining them into one delectable seasoning? Someone should do something about that.
So I did. Because there’s nothing difficult about chopping up a bar of chocolate; that would probably make it into chapter 1 of Intro to Foodieism.
Enter an afternoon of chocolate sea salt brainstorming that resulted in asking, “do you think you can sprinkle chocolate sea salt on kale chips?” Laugh all you want, but let’s remember two things about cooking in the Foodie Underground kitchen:
1. We’re here because we love food. Chances are you love kale chips, sea salt and chocolate. Why not put them together?
2. This is not Julia Child’s kitchen. “Quick and classy” is my motto – if it can’t be done in under an hour, it’s probably not worth doing (macarons obviously being the exception).
Given that criteria, if you can whip up a batch of kale chips and douse them in chocolate sea salt you obviously should. Just like you should quickly blend together some hazelnut butter with sea salt, otherwise known as “homemade Nutella that will impress your friends.”
As I have quickly come to learn, sometimes the best way to come up with a recipe is to start with a problem. In this case: if you make Chocolate Sea Salt, what are you going to do with it? Yes, First World Problems are easily found in the kitchen.
The beauty of it is that Chocolate Sea Salt already combines the sweet and savory worlds, meaning that you can use it on pretty much anything. Sprinkle it atop Rosemary Walnut Scones? Yes. Raspberry Almond Tart? Yes. Arugula salad? Yes.
Chocolate Sea Salt might just be the foodie dream seasoning. Bottle it up and give some to your friends, because you’ll want to have some on stock from now on.
Chocolate Sea Salt
- 100% cacao, unsweetened baker’s chocolate
- Flaky sea salt
- Finely chop the chocolate.
- Combine equal parts chocolate and salt and store in an airtight container.
Rosemary Walnut Scones
- 2 cups flour (make this a gluten-free version with 1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour and 3/4 cup coconut flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled + cut into cubes
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and rosemary. Add cold butter and mix together until it resembles coarse meal. [Easiest way to do this is in a food processor, but using your hands to do the job works just fine]
- Whisk egg in small bowl and pour half of it into a measuring cup. Add milk until you get 1/2 cup. Add to flour mixture and mix until dough forms large curds.
- Make two round balls and flatten on greased pan. Cut each round into eighths. Add a tablespoon of milk to other half of egg and brush over scones.
- Preheat over to 450F, bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with Chocolate Sea Salt and let cool.
Hazelnut Spread with Sea Salt (adapted from orginal recipe on The Kitchn)
- 1 cup roasted hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Chocolate Sea Salt
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 tablespoons canola oil or hazelnut oil
- Put all ingredients in food processor and mix until a spreadable consistency – note that it may be slightly runny but will firm up when you put in refrigerator.
- Pour into an airtight container and store in refrigerator.
Raspberry Almond Tart
- 1 1/4 cups almond meal
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup raspberries
- Beat together eggs and sugar. Mix in dry ingredients. Melt butter and add to mixture.
- Pour batter into a greased 9.5 inch round baking pan.
- Evenly place raspberries on top of batter.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F, or until golden brown.
- Let cool and sprinkle with Chocolate Sea Salt
That’s only the beginning. Chocolate Sea Salt on panna cotta? Yes. Chocolate Sea Salt on Coconut Ice Cream? Why not. I’ll let you take it from here.
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.
Images: Anna Brones