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August 3, 2006

Sea salt (Recipe: pizza bianca) {vegetarian}

This post has been updated with new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. Please click here to read the new post.

Seasalt

In The Saltmen of Tibet, a stunningly beautiful 1997 Swiss documentary, director Ulrike Koch follows the incredible physical and spiritual three-month journey undertaken each year by nomadic tribesmen on the Himalayan plateau to harvest salt from the holy lakes of the Changtang region.

For these nomads, sea salt is still the primary currency, just as it was in China and India more than 2,000 years ago.

Salt has been worth its weight in gold, literally, from the days of the Roman Empire through the European spice trading of the 16th-18th centuries, when salt traded one-to-one for a pound of gold. More recently, in 1930, the British government in India imposed a salt tax, and Mahatma Gandhi and thousands of followers walked 240 miles to the sea (the famous Salt Satyagraha, or Salt March) to collect their own salt and protest the tax.

Made by the evaporation of sea water, sea salt is expensive, its high price fueled by popularity, limited supply, and labor-intensive harvesting methods. For example, fleur de sel, considered the best by many professional chefs (but not by me...read on!), supposedly is formed when winds blow in just the right way over the summer sea off the coast of the village of Guerande, in Brittany. It's hand-harvested by workers who comb off only the top layer, the lightest and purest of the evaporate, in a tradition that has not changed for centuries.

Sea salt is a finishing salt, added after cooking to brighten the flavor of food. Though salt is salt (containing approximately 2400 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon), sea salt has fewer crystals per teaspoon than table salt or kosher salt — and, therefore, less sodium.

My pantry holds at least four types of sea salt, but if I had to choose just one, it would be this Portuguese Flor de Sal.

By the way, sea salt, diluted in water, is a recommended healing rinse for body piercings. Just thought you'd want to know.

Pizza bianca

Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 pound pizza dough (storebought or homemade, white or whole wheat)
2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp good quality sea salt

Directions

Preheat to 450°F.

Lightly flour your work surface. Roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thick, and place it on a heavy rimmed baking sheet (jelly-roll pan). Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Drizzle on the oil, then sprinkle with thyme or rosemary, and salt. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until golden, about 15 minutes. The pizza may puff up in the oven and look like bit like a lunar landscape. Don't worry; it will taste salty and wonderful.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

I've recently discovered the joys of sea salt, and have even taken to keeping a small dish of it out to add by the pinch, just like they do on the cooking shows! What a difference from what the grocery store calls "salt". I will have to try the one you recommend. My current favorite is a blend of grey salt and finely cracked rosemary (called Rosemary Salt) that I got at the Ferry Building farmer's market when I was in San Francisco.

Thanks for the pizza recipe, I really enjoy pizza and will try it on the grill.

I just bought some Celtic Sea Salt from Brittany, France. It's a finishing salt and I decided to make an Italian Potato Salad that I just now finished...here it is.

7 med-large red russet potatoes
fine chopped yellow onion (a handful)
olive oil
sea salt
red wine vinegar
Italian seasoning
black pepper, crused red pepper
oregano, garlic powder

Boil potatoes whole, start off in cold water and then, add some kosher salt when the water boils. Let cool and then slice in big chunks.
Add onion, olive oil (to desired taste) and red wine vinegar (to taste).
Add all other spices and mix gently.

This particular sea salt is very tasty. I also have a thyme and sea salt combined and that could work as well.

I like this salad either warm or cold.

You could add some string beans, red bell pepper or something crunchy for another layer of flavor.

Ciao and enjoy,
Pam

Pam, thanks so much for sharing this recipe. Sounds perfect on such a hot day, maybe with some chicken on the grill. Yum.

Hi Lydia,

This is great! The new pepper...I love it! I'll try that Portuguese salt thanks for the tip.

One of my early spring treats is fresh-from-garden lettuce lightly sprinkled with fleur de sel.
Green sparkles in the mouth!

Necton, the small firm that harvests the flor de sal in the photo above, won a Slow Food Award for Defense of Biodiversity in 2002. You can read Corby Kummer's article about Necton here:

http://www.slowfood.com/img_sito/riviste/slowark/EN/25/necton.html


I started importing it a few years ago after realizing that I finished most of my food with olive oil and salt.

Jim

Jim, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. This salt really is my favorite. Pantry readers, follow the link in Jim's comment to learn more about it. Thank you!

Thanks for the tip! I love having a variety of salts around, and right now, I have some Fleur de Sel, some Himalayan salt and some Hawai'ian pink salt. Will definitely have to try the Portuguese salt.

Sara, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I've never tried Himalayan salt, but I do like the pink salt and usually have some in my pantry. Do try the Portuguese, and let me know if you like it.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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