of all things, salt

some days the science of health tells us one thing, then, given time, it presents the reverse. same old same old. to salt or not to salt. it's really bad for you. oh no, your body needs salt. a fair amount. a low salt diet surely will kill you. so, low salt, no salt, a lotta, it's like the t-shirt wisdom: 'eat good food, exercise a lot, eat no salt, exercise some more, die anyway.'

salt, like so many other things, has not escaped the endless churn of food fashions. nor that of the health industry. beneficial or harmful? only some few years ago any salt would surely kill you. now it has become requisite for a well functioning body.

but what to do? me? i eat what i crave. rarely canned food. a pretzel without the bite of salt is just a bunch of la-la elbows. a baguette sans sel simply an italian. i can't imagine soup without salt. french fries, beans, pasta or crunchy caramels. and what would angelina jolie, the spy, be without that dash of salt? granted she'd improve with a good grind of pepper. there is a lovely saying that a pinch of salt brings out the sweetness in sugar. that works for me. that pinch certainly rounds out flavors in foods, making them more intense, more balanced.

take a tomato, eat it sliced, fragrant of that umami. now add a sprinkling of fleur de sel, pure and unrefined. and pronto, you'll dine, likely devour the whole thing in an instant. same with a lusciously ripe, buttery pear, say an anjou, peeled, as desert. grandfather did that, much to the chagrin of minaele, my grandmother, who'd chide him: but hannes, all the vitamins are in the peel. he'd look up at her, shake the cellar over his pear, push the peels over and say: minaele, you eat them.

it is the season to make red sauce. romas, san marzanos, if you can find them, or brandywines are at their best now. i cook them down to a virtual paste. passed through a chinoise or not, how to best salt them? i use anchovies, any chance i get. grinding basil to pesto? whisking up a mayonnaise? i love those little fishies, packed in salt, though mostly those jammed in olive oil. two or a few, depending, in my red sauce a whole jar. talk about flavor, my sauce makes those tomatoes into paradise. incidentally, in vienna this is what they call a tomato: a paradiser...

with all the talk about salt, today i'm doing a striped bass baked in salt.

this from the times, adapted from a recipe by daniel massé. i happen to have a large box of sea salt and the procedures are simple. look it up at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/dining/croute-de-sel-de-lile-de-re-recipe.html?ref=dining

now granted, this is portland and by no means that happy, sunny south west coastal town in france called st.clément des baleines. but, believe it or not, portland hasn't seen rain in months, not since may and this is like almost september. of course i would be hard pressed to find saline deposits around here. little cute pink ribboned packages aside, its hard enough to get actual fleur de sel, excepting via fedex and amazon.

after all was done, egg whites, fennel and thyme, sea salt, baking the fish, and, what a mess, nothing like breaking the crust. i'm a volatile guy, no worries if you are the gentle kind, but for me the salt crust flew all over the kitchen, the oven, the chopping board. it was fun to do. would i do it again? well, the fish was moist, it had that south of france kind of taste, but really, unless you own a salt mine or want to mess with a shirtless saunier reading balzac on the side, in other words, if it is in your kitchen, no, i wouldn't and for all my love of salt, won't. wishing for a similar fish, properly seasoned, tasting like the above, i suggest to do the thing al cartocchio, in parchment or foil.

as for the salt, i haven't gotten around to put it on my bunnies' tail yet, but you can see what i cherish, even that comes in the box of the little umbrella girl.