Back to Basics

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In her New York Times bestselling cookbook and Netflix series, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat boils good cooking down to four elements: Salt enhances flavor, fat provides flavor and texture, acid balances and heat transforms. 

We asked three local chefs to weigh in on how these basics shape their dishes.

Photo by Angela Hopper-Lee

Roberto Leoci

Leoci’s Mercato Italiano

This is a popular dish from Sicily known as pasta con sarde, and it typically uses sardines. I substitute seared Ahi tuna and finished with squeezed lemon. saffron butter spaghetti with broccolini and heirloom cherry tomatoes is topped with toasted pine nuts, golden raisins – a Middle Eastern influence in Sicilian cooking – and Calabrian chile peppers. A secret ingredient adds saltiness: a hint of anchovy.

SALT: anchovy  |  FAT: saffron butter  |  ACID: lemon  |  HEAT: sear


Spicy barbecue oyster by Andrew Wilson. Photo by Angela Hopper-Lee

Andrew Wilson

Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market

I wanted to create a spicy barbecue oyster to honor the Southern coastal region’s tradition of oyster roasts. This dish balances the natural brininess of the oyster with the acid of bourbon and lemon, the fat of butter and the heat of chipotle peppers. We round out the recipe with plenty of garlic and a bit of brown sugar for the sweet component of barbecue.

SALT: oyster brine  |  FAT: butter  |  ACID: bourbon and lemon  |  HEAT: grill


Bryce Knott’s soft-shell crab and papaya salad. Photo by Angela Hopper-Lee

Bryce Knott


The soft shell crab season is so short, and they’re always in high demand. Every spring I make sure my seafood guys have them on reserve for me! The papaya salad is dressed in a salty mixture of soy and sesame. There’s acidity in the sweet chili vinaigrette, tempura fried crab is loaded with fat, and pickled Fresno peppers add spice on the back end. 

SALT: soy sauce  |  FAT: oil  |  ACID: rice vinegar  |  HEAT: deep fry