Throughout the past decade, cooking shows have exploded across various cable TV channels, with some networks entirely devoted to food and the art of preparation. Offering a diverse array of chefs and their custom-crafted recipes, these programs draw in millions of viewers each week.
The key to understanding this phenomenon is really quite simple.
We all like to eat.
Moreover, we all like to sample new food items prepared in different ways.
One of the most popular food prep trends is cooking and serving over Himalayan salt blocks.
Salt block cooking has taken off in large part due to its eco-friendly nature and its uniqueness. Unlike new types of ovens or cooking utensils, salt blocks represent an entirely new approach toward the preparation and serving of food. Food cooked over salt blocks can be prepared in a variety of ways, including browning, crisping, roasting, curing and even freezing. Regardless of the manner of cooking employed, salt blocks interact naturally with each food item depending upon the levels of moisture, fats, sugars/starches and nutritional composition.
Along with the culinary advantages, salt blocks also provide a colorful, visual experience for diners during both food preparation and serving cycles. Salt block colors vary with heating and may range from nearly transparent to bright oranges, reds and deep blues. Food served on salt blocks take on an entirely new appearance when compared to traditional plating techniques.
All salt blocks originate from Asia near the Himalayan mountain range. Most of the salt blocks available today have been extracted from ancient mines in Pakistan. Once the blocks have been mined, they are typically graded depending upon their mineral characteristics. Food-grade salt blocks are usually labeled as either “tableware/serving”, for cool temperature use, or “cooking/cookware”, for use on stovetops or grills.
Himalayan salt blocks are available from a variety of retailers and online merchants. Locally, they can be purchased from Salt MedSpa in Hendersonville. Prices range from $15 to $80, depending upon the size and grade of the stones. Salt MedSpa also carries the best-selling salt preparation cookbook, Salt Block Cooking, by Mark Bitterman. This book contains dozens of scrumptious recipes that are certain to make any chef want to expand their cooking skills into the salt world.
To further entice you to give salt block cooking a try, we are proud to offer up a special seafood recipe that is sure to please.
Salt Block Scallops with Grilled Peppers
1 medium-size (10-12-inch perimeter) square Himalayan salt block
1 pound jumbo scallops (typically 10-12 scallops per pound)
2 large bell peppers
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
1. Slowly heat the salt block on a burner or grill until the temperature approaches 500 degrees on the top surface of the block (verify with a non-contact food thermometer).
2. Dry off the scallops and set them on a plate until they achieve room temperature.
3. Chop the bell peppers into bite-size pieces and set aside.
4. Coat each of the scallops lightly with olive oil and place each one on the salt block, being careful not to place them to close too each other. Note: Be sure to use high-temperature oven mitts and kitchen tongs.
5. Add in the bell pepper pieces. Note: Depending upon the size of the scallops, food preparation may require cooking the meal in batches.
6. Cook the scallops for approximately 2 minutes until they start to turn brown on the outside. Flip the scallops over on the salt block and cook for an additional 1 to 1/2 minutes until they have a light crust.
7. Add salt and black pepper as desired.
8. Remove the scallops and peppers and place on serving dishes. Note: For additional visual appeal, serve the salt block on a table and serve the meal directly from the block.
Recipe Book: Salt Block Cooking
Author: Mark Bitterman