"The cure for anything is saltwater- sweat, tears, or the sea." - Karen Blixen
Salt is one thing we virtually always agree on as partners. Whether it's the missing ingredient in a nearly perfect dish or a dip in the Pacific to wash off a bad day; we share a deep love for salt.
Salt is used in innumerable ways. It is said that those trying to count them have exceeded 14,000. Salt is the only family of rocks eaten by humans. The word salary is derived from the fact that ancient Romans were paid in salt instead of money. Salt is both necessary for survival and responsible for death. It is told that it was often used as a method of ritual suicide amongst Chinese nobility who were the only ones who could afford large amounts of the costly mineral. Too little salt in your body can cause Hyponatremia, which was identified as the cause of death for a woman hosting a "Hold your wee for Wii" competition in 2007.
In the middle ages salt was referred to as white gold and like other precious minerals salt has a legacy, a superior level of quality that cannot be bought. Kauai salt falls into this category, as it is not sold. Kauai salt must be gifted and if you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end, you know why this is such a special gift. From what salt represents in the world and the culture of the place we call home, to the flavor it ignites in the most simple ingredients-salt is a foundation from which we build.
This fine rock is similarly an important building block of a good cook. We constantly ask our cooks, "Did you taste? How did it taste? Did you season your food properly?" Properly seasoned food is a hallmark of a confident cook. As young cooks we often under-season our food in fear of making a dish "too salty." Yet with experience, and constant repetition; we begin to understand and recognize that fine line.
Salt protects our home. In many cultures, including Hawaiian, salt is used for protocol and ritual. It wards away bad spirits and cleanses both home and heart. Years ago, my uncle gave me a small bag of pa'akai (Hawaiian sea salt,) to keep in my truck for safe travels. I kept it for years until my buddy used it for a BBQ (Thanks Jeremy).
The best chefs that I have worked for have always stressed, "Less is more." A great steak or fish needs little more than salt, fresh cracked pepper, and maybe some lemon juice. Poke, a local staple here in Hawaii, has dozens of preparations. Most kupuna (elders,) prefer it as simple as possible: limu (seaweed), maybe some sweet onion, inamona (traditional Hawaiian condiment made from kukui nut), and pa'akai (salt). That's it. Great ingredients, impeccable flavor and a solid foundation.
In our writing, we want to share our life through food with you. Whether it's a new technique learned, an old recipe found, or something cool we did with our leftovers, we hope you enjoy reading our musings and rants, as much as we enjoy writing them. We leave you with a late summer favorite, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Pa'i'ai, Kauai Salt.
Heirloom Tomato Salad
12 oz. Pa'i'ai (Hand Pounded Taro), left in the fridge to harden overnight, slice into 6
1-2# Heirloom or Vine Ripened tomato, sliced
2 pc. Shallot, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, torn
4 Sprig Fresh Thyme, picked
2 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
T.T. Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper
T Finish Kauai Salt or any good finishing salt
Lay sliced tomatoes on a sheet pan. Season with salt & pepper, let sit off to the side to macerate.
Meanwhile, bring a cast iron pan to medium-high, add just enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Pan fry pa'i'ai (taro) golden brown on both sides.
Toss tomatoes and all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasoning, divide pa'i'ai on plates, top with tomato salad, finish with Kauai Salt.