Naomi Duguid’s “The Miracle of Salt.” Richard Jung/Artisan Books

Naomi Duguid returned from Tbilisi in time for the launch of her newest book, “The Miracle of Salt,” and she’s excited. After over two years staying put in Toronto, the author, photographer and cook has finally been able to return her most prized title back to her name card: traveler.

The Georgia trip wasn’t for book research. Duguid leads intimate group tours to places she loves and has written about, partnering with local food-focused friends to do what she calls “immersing through”: approaching other cultures through food, informed by an intense drive to understand how things work.

Destinations have included Thailand, where much of her classic book “Hot Sour Salty Sweet,” co-written with ex-partner Jeffrey Alford, is based; and Georgia, one of the Caucasus countries featured in her “Taste of Persia.” On an upcoming trip to Japan, she’ll delve into sweet and salty shio koji, for what she calls “salt and rice magic.”

The former geographer and lawyer starts from a place of not knowing. “In travel, I think about what’s fruitful to explore, as opposed to what I know,” she says. “I don’t go looking for specific answers. It’s better to keep my eyes open so I can stay present to the human landscape.”

“The Miracle of Salt” brings together the elements that readers love about the James Beard Award winner: endless curiosity, respect for other cultures, a spirit of experimentation and fearlessness in the kitchen. “I want to unintimidate, while at the same time generating a sense of wonder,” Duguid says.

Why salt, when there are so many places still to discover?


“Salt is a forever subject,” Duguid says. “To say that we need it to live means that it goes back to the earliest humans.”

Unlike her other books – this is the third she has written three on her own and six with Alford – “The Miracle of Salt” is the first with extensive non-travel research. Duguid complemented pre-pandemic visits to Morocco, Japan, England, Italy and Peru with explorations of academic papers and books about salt archaeology and production, older cookbooks and “a zillion online rabbit holes.” The result is an artfully photographed, resource-rich 400-page book replete with history and essential information about cooking and preserving with salt. And, of course, recipes.

“In all the other books, I wrote about things I’d seen myself,” she says. Duguid never looks at photos of places she’s about to visit, because she doesn’t want those pictures in her head. “I’m too literal minded to take anybody’s word for anything. I was a complete beginner in the land of salt.”

Duguid was initially perplexed about how to structure the book, ultimately deciding to break it down into two major sections. The Salt Larder explains the types of salt, how to determine the salinity and preservation approaches. There are also instructions for making some staples, including flavored salts, kimchi, preserved lemons and corned beef. The second section, From Larder to Table, uses these salt-preserved ingredients in recipes.

An improviser in the kitchen – fish sauce with olive oil remains her go-to seasoning for pretty much everything, she confesses – Duguid again draws on her myriad influences in these recipes. “I like the notion that there are solutions to similar food preservation problems in different parts of the world. Everyone just goes about it in different ways,” she says. She loves the juxtaposition of Korean kimchi jjigae and Polish kapusniak in the book, a lush photo of the two fermented soups taken in her own kitchen, side by side.

At root a home cook happy with simple meals, Duguid recommends the potato, Brussels sprouts and salt pork (or pancetta) dish in the book as an easy starting point, or bucatini with bottarga. It’s the ice cream recipes that really surprised her, though. “I’m not an ice cream person,” she says. “But when I developed the tamarind-miso one with chocolate chips, I thought: This is something I would eat.”


Another departure from her usual flexible approach in the kitchen, “The Miracle of Salt” nods to the need for precision when preserving. Duguid suggests readers use a jewelry scale for small amounts, and a regular kitchen scale, with the comforting admonishment, “You’ll find it relaxing to be able to rely on exact measurements.”

Some of the recipes in the larder section require time more than anything else: homemade miso, Georgian ajika and salt pork aren’t exactly fast food. What if those experiments fail? Duguid recounts telling herself, “Well, there will be a bit of food wasted. But I’ll have learned something, and I’ll be able to pass it on.”

Ivy Lerner-Frank is a former oratorio singer and Canadian diplomat, now a food and travel writer based in Montreal.

Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Salt Pork.  Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Salt Pork

45 minutes

3 servings (as a side) 6 servings (as a main)


This recipe from cookbook author Naomi Duguid could be served as a side or a weeknight main.

In her cookbook “The Miracle of Salt,” Duguid says this dish as a great weeknight main dish. She describes it as “a style of dish that dates back to a more frugal time in Europe, when a small amount of meat was used to give depth of flavor and succulence to whatever vegetables were on hand.” We think it also makes a good side.

If you want your potatoes to retain their shape when they are tossed with the warm Brussels sprouts and crisp salt pork, allow them to rest at least 5 minutes before peeling. Buy the largest sprouts you can find, so they will retain some crispness after cooking.

In place of the Brussels sprouts, you could substitute sliced cabbage or coarsely chopped bok choy. Rather than salt pork, consider pancetta or thick-cut bacon. Duguid recommends adding a tablespoon of butter to the skillet before sauteing the sprouts. This makes the dish a touch richer but isn’t essential because of the rendered fat from the salt pork.

Storage: Refrigerate up to 4 days.



1 1/2 pounds new or red bliss potatoes, scrubbed

2 teaspoons fine salt, plus more as needed

6 ounces salt pork, diced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)

1 medium shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds


1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

12 ounces large Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise through the stem

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)



In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, add the salt and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, re-cover and set aside in the pot to firm up.

Meanwhile, place a cast-iron or another heavy, lidded skillet over medium-low heat, add a few of the fattier pieces of meat and cook briefly until the fat has rendered. Add the remaining meat, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a plate and set aside, leaving the fat in the skillet.

Increase the heat to medium, add the butter, if using, and toss in the shallot, fennel seeds and cloves. Cook, stirring, until the shallot is translucent, about 3 minutes; then toss in the Brussels sprouts. Cook, turning them frequently, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them, cut into bite-size pieces and transfer to a wide, shallow serving bowl.

Increase the heat to medium-high, add the water, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the sprouts are barely tender, about 4 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high and boil hard for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to low, add the reserved pork and cook until the flavors meld, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste, and season with more salt and/or black pepper if you wish.

Transfer the contents of the pan to the serving bowl and toss until the potatoes are well-coated with fat. Serve hot.

Nutrition information per serving (1 generous cup), based on 6 | Calories: 326; Total Fat: 23 g; Saturated Fat: 9 g; Cholesterol: 24 mg; Sodium: 832 mg; Carbohydrates: 24 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 3 g; Protein: 6 g

Trim and thinly slice the Brussels sprouts lengthwise through the stem. Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

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