Photo by Sally Schneider
At the end of an impromtu dinner party, my friend Josh served a chocolate cake with herbes-de-Provence salt his wife Ellen had made. To accompany it, he had whipped some extraordinary bio-dynamic cream from a farmer friend, and I popped a spoonful in my mouth, sans cake, to savor it.
Perhaps it was the bowl of sea salt in my sight lines, or the conversation we'd had earlier about using an herb salt instead of regular salt in the cake that gave me the idea: I sprinkled a few grains of salt onto another spoonful of the whipped cream. And there, in an instant, was a completely "other" notion of whipped cream; the salt brought out the cream's sweetness and nuance, without being salty, a perfect counterpoint to the rich cake. It was a revelation, and one I'd use with future desserts.
Throughout my cooking life, this kind of fortuitous collision of two or three unexpected elements has often occurred often in the kitchen and at table. Sometimes, it is simply when two elements happen to be in my field of vision, like the whipped cream and salt. Or when, during one late-night foraging in the fridge for something sweet, I spied organic chunky peanut butter next to a jar of dulce de leche, a thick caramel from Argentina.