One of the things I am most annoyed by is under-salted food, especially when that food is presented in a restaurant that charges a pretty penny for its food. There is nothing that ruins a dish more than lack of salt and nothing that improves it more that adding just enough salt to make the flavors pop.
Last week I had dinner with friends in a restaurant that I'd been dying to try because every time I passed by it was packed with diners. Well, I should have read the Yelp reviews first because while most people praised the atmosphere (inviting) and the drinks (delicious), people were uniformly dissatisfied with the food. It wasn't that the food was bad, it just was so under-salted that nothing about the dishes sparkled. Equally annoying were the lack of salt and pepper shakers on the table which I find utterly pretentious. When the waiter asked how our dinner was, I let him know that the food was lacking salt and he said he would tell the chef. He returned to our table a few minutes later to let us know that the chef said, "That's how we cook the food here." Well if that's the case, then I certainly won't be back. I never ever salt my food at the table (in fact, we don't keep a salt shaker on our own table), but I found myself adding sprinkle after sprinkle of salt to just about every dish. (BTW, Whole Foods deli is also guilty of not salting their prepared items enough. The food always looks good, but tastes horrible. Blech.)
There is no more important ingredient in my cooking arsenal than salt, and as for so many lessons she taught me about cooking, I need to thank my mother for teaching me about the importance of salt and how different salts have different flavors. Yes, flavors.
I grew up with my mom using Hawaiian salt (rock sea salt) for just about all her cooking. We had a salt grinder which she filled and we used that when we needed finer salt. She also used fleur de sel long before it every got to be trendy and now ubiquitously found topping caramels and cupcakes. In her cupboard now you can find at least 10 different salts including roasted and smoked salts. Each has a different purpose. Two salts she never used even to this day: regular table salt (Morton's) or kosher salt. Both salts were too tangy and bitter, especially in the case of kosher salt. Taste them and you'll see. Compared to sea salts there is definitely an off flavor with both. At least to me.
When I cook I have two salts that I turn to most often: pink Hawaiian salt (which is pink because of a naturally-occuring clay) and Celtic grey salt. I honestly think these salts have a "saltier" flavor so you end up using less. I love the finer fleur de sel also, but the Celtic salt is cheaper and just as good. Plus, I just love the way it feels when I crumble it over salads or into sauces. (P.S. Don't use wet salts in a salt grinder, you will ruin it.)
I use coarse Hawaiian salt in all kinds of ways: to season all steaks, roasts, chicken, and fish. It also seasons my soups, stews, roasted veggies, and my pasta cooking water. I use the finer salt in salads or to sprinkle on fresh cut oranges or watermelon. (A trick I learned from my Italian aunt: Always salt a salad first THEN add vinegar and toss to melt the salt THEN add the olive oil. Try it!) For baking or in oatmeal I use the third salt in my arsenal: very fine sea salt (Himalayan, for example). The last salt I use is truffle salt. Oh how I love it. This is one salt I will bring to the table. My girls sprinkle it over softly scrambled eggs, over their steak, roasted vegetable or baked potatoes. It packs such an earthy, flavorful punch.
Compared to European sea salts, Hawaiian salt is much cheaper, especially if you get it in Hawaii. And since you always know someone going to Hawaii, ask them to toss a bag of it into their suitcase for you. In Hawaii it's available at every market and even at Long's. Hawaiian salts are also great for scrubs: make a paste with olive oil and scrub your body with it. Heavenly!
So there you have it. That's my rant on salt. Don't be afraid to salt your food!