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Salt is the “in thing” now. Salt blocks at Whole Foods. Salt stores. Salt books. It’s a new path in our culinary lives.

Or, maybe not so new. In 1999 Michele Anna Jordan wrote this tight little book Salt and Pepper, 135 Perfectly Seasoned Recipes. There are two spices here, salt and pepper. And there are two books here, histories/stories of salt and pepper. And then the recipes, the 135 perfectly seasoned recipes.

Salt, of course, comes from mines or from the sea. Getting it ready for us is a matter of processing. And processing can be as much “art” as “industry.”

Pepper comes from plants, so the entire cycle of production is different. There are concerns for purity, flavor and avoiding contamination. Pepper was central to the spice trade that was the inspiration for men like Christopher Columbus. Entire empires, Venetian and Spanish and Portuguese and Dutch, have had pepper as a central element in their creation and expansion. And their crash.

To the recipes. They encompass the full chain of our meals:

Appetizers: Fresh Soybeans in Sea Salt, Pineapple Slices with Black Pepper, Shrimp Roasted on Rock Salt

Soups: Black Pepper Soup, Ginger Beef Noodle Soup

Pasta and Rice: Dried Gnocchi with Lemon, Pepper, Basil, and Ricotta; Risotto with Zucchini, Green Peppercorns, and Basil

Mains: Snapper Fillets Bake in Salt, Lamb Loin Baked in Salt Crust

Sides: Green Beans with Salt Pork, Black Pepper Zucchini

Salads: Spicy Banana Raita, Citrus Salad with Black Pepper

Desserts: Chilled Pear Soup with Black and White Peppercorns, Pineapple Granita with Black Pepper, Dulce de Leche with Whole Black Peppercorns

Beverages: Black Pepper Vodka, Spicy Mulled Cider with Crush Sichuan Peppercorns

There are other spices and herbs in the recipes of course. Cinnamon and nutmeg and lavender do appear, but the recipes are definitely salt and pepper driven. It’s interesting to see how an “entire” dish can be fashioned so markedly from those two ingredients, ingredients we take for granted. This book reminds us of the power of salt and pepper. That power will never decay and will always be part of our culinary portfolio.

Yes, Michele is still very active. Visit her website.