Monday, January 20, 2014

Cooking and Presenting Food Using Salt Bricks or Tiles

In the cheese kiosk where I work, besides cheese, there are many types of bowls and flat bricks or tiles made up of beautiful, translucent Himalayan Pink salt.

All of the above lend a nice mild salt flavor to whatever food you place in it, but the most useful, I think, is the cooking tile.

Fish, meat or vegetables are great for cooking on a salt brick or tile.  Prepare the food with a little olive oil coating while the cooking tile heats in the oven or on a gas stove. These may be used on outdoor grills as well. The trick, particularly when a tile is new, is to first heat the tile in the oven or on the stove (raised above the burners, not directly laying on them). Start slowly heating the tile on low, after 10-15 minutes bring up to medium, then after another 10-15 minutes, high. The tile should be heated to about 550 degrees before using it to cook. Be very careful to make the heating gradual always, but particularly the first time you use the tile.

The food is placed directly on the tile over two burners or one burner if using a smaller brick - put something heat-proof under the tile to lift it about an inch above burners if cooking on an electric stove. Once the tile is gradually heated to its optimum temperature, you may also place it on the top of the prepared outdoor grill if you desire. The wonderful mild saltiness is transferred to the food you are cooking, imparting an exceptional flavor.

After food is cooked let the tile cool down totally. It is very nice to present the food arranged on a large salt tile used just for presentation. After the cooking tile is completely cooled (you can even wait until the next day), scrub the stuck, cooked on food under running water and wash the entire surface of the block with water -- this type of cleaning is just like that used in the old clay cookers -- soap is not recommended. The cooking tile will initially turn whiter, then may gradually, with more use, turn back to almost the original color. It will retain a patina from the heating and cooking and, with further use, expect to see some fissures form and some roughness to the surface. This is completely normal.

Enjoy your cooking tile and you can be adventurous with some of the other salt vessels. Shot glasses with tequila and lime, mortar and pestle imparts a mild salt flavor to herbs, hot vegetables or salads tossed in salt bowls, etc. The originality and beauty of using these also gives a pow! to your meal when entertaining.

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