Salt Blocks for Serving, Cooking and a Few Recipes

Salt blocks and other salt mediums such as bowls and cups are a unique means of serving and preparing all kinds of recipes such as beverages, desserts, salads, grilled veggies, meat and fish. There are six techniques you can use with your salt blocks; serving, warming, curing, cooking, chilling and drinking. Mineral richness and amazing thermal properties bring wonderful depth of flavor to food and  brings presentation to new heights – the possibilities are endless! I even have a mortar and pestle to grind up my own spices when I want to impart a little salt into the mixture.

They are also useful cold for serving and make lovely vessels  for cheese, salads, mozarella and tomatoes or even sushi. I wanted to first show you the easiest way to use these salt blocks and that is for serving. Add drama and beauty to your table side presentation with these stunning, natural slabs.

Instead of making my own sushi I decided to do a little shopping at one of my local grocers where the selection is unbelievable. Below is what I came up with: vegetable wraps with avocado, cucumber and lettuce with a sweet chili sauce; tempura shrimp with rice topped with a spicy sauce and finally volcano crab with a sriracha sauce.  I refrigerated the salt block overnight – a couple of hours would have been fine. I used a non-stick oil spray on the block and beet leaves underneath the crab for extra color.

You won’t believe how beautiful the sushi was presented on these salt blocks – hard to capture the full effect. I served little bowls of Sriracha, Thai sweet chili and soy sauce on the side – a peanut butter sauce would be delicious too! I am not into raw fish so my sushi will never include raw tuna or salmon – it’s just not my thing.

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Salt blocks can be refrigerated or frozen and used to serve cold desserts You can grill, bake, sear, and saute a wide variety of foods such as pizza, seafood such as shrimp, salmon or lobster,veggie skewers, thinly sliced beef or even a hamburger. Infuse delicious flavor into your grilling with these beautiful, natural slabs of salt in various colors of pink. You can also cook things on your burners; you will need a heat diffuser if you have an electric stove top or if your burner does not go low enough.

Baking is not recommended by Mark and I second that as there is a danger of the salt block exploding and ruining your oven! You can use your oven but I would become very familiar with all of the do’s and dont’s first. Personally, I am not even going to try, at least for now. Grilling I will try first and see how that goes…

Besides your salt blocks you will need a couple of other things if you are planning to heat them. You need a heavy duty pair of mitts as the salt blocks can get very hot. How do you know when your salt block has reached the proper temperature?

You need to invest in a laser thermometer if you are going to heat any of the salt blocks , bowls or cups. There are a lot of products available at reasonable prices. I purchased a Lasergrip 630 Infrared Thermometer by Etekcity. This will allow me to determine when my bowl for black bean dip on top of the stove is ready (200°F) or on the grill for my shrimp  at 450°F. Really a neat and necessary device if you are planning to heat your blocks!!!

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The salt blocks will disintegrate over time because they are made of 100% natural salt. With repeated use it will show signs of wear. If a portion breaks off use it to grate over dishes as a finishing salt. That’s why I will have one salt block for presentation and one to cook with.

Below is my small collection which includes a couple of bowls, a couple of glasses, mortar and pestle, a rectangular salt block with a metal tray and a round salt block; oh, and three cookbooks  (Salted is not pictured) 🙂

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I have two cookbooks by Mark Bitterman, who is a leading expert on gourmet salt, chocolate and cocktail bitters. One is “Salted, A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral With Recipes”. The other one is “Salt Block Cooking“. Mark has pioneered new frontiers, leading the charge into the culinary adventures of cooking on Himalayan salt blocks. There are lots of good ideas and recipes and detailed explanations covering all aspects of salt blocks. I highly recommend his  books not just for the recipes but also the care and how-to-do-it.

Where do these salt vessels come from?  They are carved from solid pieces of iridescent pink crystal mined from the foothills of the Himalayas, where nutrient rich marine salts  from prehistoric oceans formed fossilized crystals. This mineral deposit is located in the rugged Punjabi landscape in Pakistan.

I bought a few items from Saltworks  who said “Salt deposits in the Himalayan Mountain Range, crystallized more than 200 million years ago during the Jurassic Era. Ancient sea beds were covered by volcanic lava, protecting the salt from pollution and lending to the belief that it is the purest mineral salt on earth”.

So, what do you do with salt blocks? All kinds of fun things and I have given you a few ideas and recipes below. I am still experimenting and hope to do more now that Spring is finally here, the weather is getting warmer and I will crank up my grills.

Caramel Cashew Brittle

Caramel Cashew Brittle, Adapted from Mark Bitterman:

  • Round or rectangular block of Himalayan sea salt
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup (Karo)
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped

Cool the salt block in the refrigerator for at least an hour; I did it overnight. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray and set it aside as you make your caramel. Spraying the salt block is a must as the brittle just lifted right off with a spatula.

Place the sugar in a saucepan and set over medium high heat. I shake the pan to distribute it evenly over the bottom. Start counting the minute you turn on the heat. Let the sugar melt completely stirring occasionally until it becomes a deep amber color, 8 to 10 minutes. It was under 8 minutes for me using a heavy duty all-clad saucepan.

Add the corn syrup and baking soda; watch carefully as the mixture will bubble up while stirring. I used a tall wooden spoon and a wide saucepan to make this brittle. I did not want any of the caramel to splatter on me; it is very hot!

Immediately add the nuts while it is foaming (I waited a bit too long) and pour the mixture onto the salt block, spreading it as quick as you can – it hardens fast. It did crackle a couple of times when the hot mixture hit the cold salt block. It was a little difficult to distribute the nuts evenly I found. Once cool it can be lifted with a spatula and broken into pieces. Enjoy!

COMMENT: Treats such as this are perfect for salt blocks due to the presence of fat. Salt is not fat soluble and there is less interaction between the salt and the brittle.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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Mint Julep

Mint Julep, Adapted from Mark Bitterman:

I changed Mark’s recipe to adapt to my two 2 oz. glasses. Instead of a simple syrup (1 cup water +1 cup sugar) I made a minted simple syrup. Also, I found it was easier to make a small pitcher of mint juleps and pour over shaved ice.

  • 4 oz. salt cups (I only have 2 oz. glasses so I split it between two glasses instead of one)
  • 1 tbsp. minted simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • shaved ice
  • 1/4 cup bourbon equals 4 tbsp. or 2 ounces (I used Four Roses Small Batch – a good Kentucky bourbon, or so I have been told)
  • water (optional)
  • mint leaves to garnish

Minted Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch of mint (to taste)

Mix the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the mint leaves and steep for 15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. The mixture will keep for a week refrigerated.

Chill the salt cup in the freezer for at least an hour.

Fill the cup with shaved or crushed ice, 1 tbsp. minted simple syrup and pour in the bourbon. Add some water if desired. Add a straw, a mint leaf; stir and enjoy!

COMMENT: Remember liquid dissolves salt quickly and can become briny if it sits too long. These cups would be good with tequila or other fiery liquors! Personally, this is not the drink for me as I prefer wine and do not care for liquor too much.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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MORTAR AND PESTLE:

Think about different spices/herbs/seeds that you would like to grind together along with a little salt. Or, how about making some pesto?

The picture on the left are seasonings for my Bangala Garam Masala I used in a shrimp curry and the picture on the right are spices I used in Juniper and Jalapeno Jelly-Glazed Lamb Chops.

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BOWLS:

I have two bowls; one I used for a black bean dip and the other I used for chocolate fondue.

For this first recipe I heated the bowl and used it for a hot black bean dip. The dip is just excellent and one of the best I have ever tasted. This dip could also be made in a slow cooker/crockpot. I did change a few of Mark Bitterman’s ingredients and directions.

Warm Black Bean Dip

Warm Black Bean Dip, Adapted from Mark Bitterman

  • 1 (2 to 3 cup salt bowl)
  • inside coated with nonstick oil to minimize the salt going into the dip
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, cored, peel removed and cut into medium dice (dice some extra to garnish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (15-1/2 oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed, drained and mashed (you can also used 3/4 cup dried beans, cooked)
  • 1 chipotle chile
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. adobo sauce from the chipotles
  • enough water to get the right consistency (optional and I do not recommend)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend or a cheese of your choice
  • fresh cilantro (optional – I am not a big fan so I never add)
  • jalapeno, diced to garnish as well as more diced tomatoes to garnish
  • unsalted tortilla chips for dipping

Lightly spray the inside of the salt bowl with non-stick spray and place on a small burner over very low heat to warm to about 200°F, just about 30 minutes. It did take  that amount of time to reach that temperature on my stove top. Use a diffuser if you have an electric stove top. It is very important to take your time heating the medium to get the best results and a longer life out of your salt bowl.

The only way you will know if your bowl has reached the correct temperature is with a laser thermometer. These gadgets are really cool and fun to use – be sure to point at the bowl and not the flame! Never point it at anyone either!!!

In a skillet add the olive oil and saute the onion for about 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, garlic and cumin and saute another 3 minutes; stir in the vinegar. Add the mashed black beans, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, black pepper and enough hot water (optional – I did not add) to get a good consistency.

COMMENT: I made this dip twice (it is so good). Changes: I oiled the inside of the salt bowl so not as much salt would come through; eliminated the water and used only 1/2 tbsp. oil to saute the onions. I also added extra cheese, more tomatoes and some minced jalapenos.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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Chocolate Fondue with Strawberries

Chocolate Fondue with Strawberries, from Mark Bitterman

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pint or quart capacity Himalayan salt bowl
  • 1 dash old-fashioned bitters (I used gin barrel aged Orange Bitters)
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips, 60% cacao or darker is preferable (I used 53%)
  • fresh juicy strawberries
  • other fruit if desired, bananas are good for dipping

Remove the cream from the refrigerator so it loses it’s chill.

Place the salt bowl on a stove burner over low heat and allow to warm for 30 minutes. When it reaches 125°F add the cream and heat for about 3 minutes, or just warm to the touch. Add the bitters and stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. When it is mostly melted stir in the remaining 1 cup of chocolate until totally melted.

Prepare your fruit and arrange in a bowl or on a plate.

Using oven mitts, remove the salt bowl from the heat and place on a trivet. Serve the fruit with skewers for dipping.

COMMENT: This was the last recipe I tried and I have to admit the chocolate did not melt good at least for dipping. It seized up on me probably due to overheating. There was no water introduced to the chocolate! It turned into a grainy, clumpy mess and of course at that point can’t be fixed. It was only 53% cacao so maybe that was a factor. Also the laser is a little tricky to get use t as I had trouble getting the right temperature. I need to work on this recipe as it is perfect for entertaining. The bowl is very heavy and will not tip over and no flame or cords to worry about as you would have with a traditional fondue pot.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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Salted Chocolate-Cashew Bark

Salted Chocolate-Cashew Bark, from Mark Bitterman

  • 8 x 12-inch x 2-inch thick Himalayan salt block
  • 12 oz. semisweet or milk chocolate , roughly chopped or use the chips
  • 1 cup whole toasted, unsalted cashews, roughly chopped

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until it is smooth . Stir in 3/4’s of the cashews.

Pour the chocolate mixture onto a salt plate. Use a rubber spatula to spread out the chocolate mixture into a 1/4-inch thick layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cashews on top.

Let the cashew bark sit on the salt plate to cool and firm overnight at room temperature. When ready to serve, break off the pieces and enjoy!

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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The next recipes I plan to make will be on my grills when the weather is warmer  and also when the watermelon is the freshest here in Michigan. I also want to try a cucumber salad, seared pineapple and so on…

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Skewers

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Skewers, from Williams Sonoma:

  • 2 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chives
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Thread 4 or 5 shrimp onto each skewer and place in a large baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, chives and red pepper flakes. Pour over the shrimp skewers; cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes but no longer than 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Place a salt plate on a grill and preheat to medium-high heat. Slowly preheat the salt plate over a period of 45 minutes, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The internal temperature should be 450° to 500°F.

Brush the preheated salt plate with oil. Place the shrimp skewers on the salt plate and cook, turning once, until the shrimp are pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove immediately and serve as a delicious appetizer along with a cocktail sauce.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay, Adapted from Williams Sonoma:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • zest of lime, freshly grated
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. Asian fish sauce (see comment – I used BLis)
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 lb. skinless, chicken breasts cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • lime wedges for serving
  • I will use my 8-by 12-inch rectangular salt block with a holder

Place the salt block on the cooking grate and turn on the grill to low heat. Cover the grill and warm until the grill reaches 250°F, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and heat until the grill reaches 400°F, about 15-20 minutes longer.

In the meantime, whisk together the peanut butter, ginger, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and 1/4 cup water until smooth. The mixture will be on the thick-side.

Thread the chicken evenly onto skewers and place in a large plastic bag. Marinate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place the skewers on the salt block, cover the grill and cook on the bottom for about 5 minutes until lightly charred. Turn the skewers over and cook another 5 minutes. Serve right away…

Comment: I saw this product on Food 52, BLis – small batch bourbon barrel aged fish sauce.  Barrel aging gives the sauce a uniquely sweet and smoky taste that mellows out the fishiness and adds a nuance of unami to any dish. This is worth buying!

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

Watermelon, Feta and Mint

Watermelon, Feta and Mint on a Salt Block, from Mark Bitterman:

  • 1/2-inch thick watermelon slices, cut in small slices
  • 3 oz. feta, crumbled
  • mint leaves, slivered

Chill the salt block in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Arrange the melon slices on the salt block, overlapping slightly. The more you overlap the less salt will be imparted to the melon. You can also spray the salt block with non-stick oil spray. Scatter the feta and mint leaves over the top and serve. For added pop, allow the dish to stand 20 minutes before serving.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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I’m sharing these natural salt products and some recipes to try with Angie at Fiesta Friday #113, Sonal @ Simply Vegetarian and Laurie @ Ten Times Tea.

64 thoughts on “Salt Blocks for Serving, Cooking and a Few Recipes

  1. Holy moly (there goes that term I use again) but wow, what an incredible collection of salt block recipes! Now I am so intrigued with these vessels/slabs. Your photos are absolutely fine in my eyes. 🙂

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  2. I knew, very vaguely, about the existence of salt slabs, but until seeing all these different shapes and sizes and applications, I never realized how many things they could be used for! Drinking from salt cups (this still sounds a bit surreal to me)! Cooking on salt blocks! The colour is gorgeous, they really do make amazing serving platters.
    This is a fabulous guide Aunt Juju, and such a great and varied collection of recipes.

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    • Thanks Laurie – The salt cups were not my favorite – however Angie had a great idea to use them for hard-boiled eggs! Wish I would have thought of that. Salt dissolves quickly in liquids so the drinks were almost like shots – drink them fast! Fun to use though and I can’t wait to try more recipes 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. How interesting Judi! I have never thought about using salt blocks, but you have peaked my interest. I had to idea you could cook on them. Thank you for sharing this and all the delicious recipes 😀

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    • What a great idea to use as egg cups – beverages become salty too quick! Mark Bitterman has an online site http://themeadow.com/ and a store. Lot of nice things including those cups. Sur la Table sells blocks and shot glasses and there are other online sites such as Amazon.I have been having lots of fun with these blocks and my laser gun!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow wow wow and I can’t stop saying more wows aunt juju…
    What a fabulous post.. Exploring salt blocks, types, uses and so many recipes… A beautifully detailed share!❤️
    Thanks for bringing it to FF!

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    • Thanks so much Sonal – once I started to make recipes using these salt vessels it was hard to stop. I just wanted to try more as it was a new experience for me and I truly enjoyed it. Plan to get the grill going before too long … 🙂 I’m glad I could share with everyone!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a delicious selection of dishes! We saw salt blocks on sale for the first time last weekend – I just love how many uses they have. Gorgeous photos… I must make me some chocolate bark! 🙂 Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday 🙂 Have a great weekend.

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  6. I didn’t know salt could be used as serving dishes!! I am very intrigued! I got my daughter a lamp made from the same type of salt, and she loves it. Thanks for sharing!!

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    • Thanks Liz – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Salt products for serving and cooking are definitely a lot of fun and can be a challenge 🙂 The mortar and pestle is very handy as it only adds a tad of salt to your spices.

      Like

  7. Judi, Those salt blocks and bowls are spectacular! What a treat all your photos and recipes are! I learned so much from this post as well. I want to get my hands on those salt bowls now!

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    • Thanks Sandhya – I’ve had these products/books for some time and I finally decided to give them a try. I read a lot and did some research so I was prepared. It’s been too cold or I would have posted results of some grill recipes. Heating the blocks will be a challenge 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow Judi, I had no idea salt blocks were so versatile. I saw your post featured on FF and rightly so. I missed it last week. Amazing! So many varieties of recipes too in all those different salt blocks/bowls/cups. They probably weigh a ton do they?

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  9. Very interesting, Aunt Juju. I have never encountered such lovely stuffs and it’s pretty that the uses are so many. Wonderful post, photos and recipes. 🙂

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  10. wow! I have never seen anything but slabs! I clearly need to go shopping! What a collection of recipes and I love the idea of a bowl to serve a dip in! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    • Thanks Petra – I had a great time trying different recipes with the different vessels of salt. Heating the bowl for the black bean dip worked perfectly but the chocolate fondue seized up on me – did not have the right temperature. it’s fun but a challenge too which I love 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, Judi…this post must have been exhaustive! Such an undertaking with all of the delicious food you’re sharing! You’ve opened my eyes to a whole new world…I never knew salt blocks had so much versatility. LOVE this post, and I can guarantee I’ll be back to it for further education…Thank you!

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  12. Pingback: Salt of the earth… | Retired? No one told me!

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