I started importing flor de sal when I realized that everything I ate was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. I had, and still have, a French-made Peugeot cast aluminum salt grinder (salt mills must have ceramic grinders so they don't corrode; pepper mills have metal grinders). I'd fill it with chunks of traditional sea salt and grind some over my food after I'd anointed it with oil.

Then, almost 15 years ago, I read Corby Kummer's article in the Atlantic. Kummer described a culinary salt journey much like mine, moving from the hard square crystals of refined table salt to the pyramind-shaped flakes of kosher salt to the softer, more nuanced, flavor-enhancing qualities of traditional sea salt. He swooned over fleur de sel, the light gray sea salt from the marshes of Brittany, even if the price gave him sticker shock. But he'd just discovered something better, flor de sal, Portuguese flower of salt from the sunny southern Atlantic coast called the Algarve.

It took me about a year to get my first bags of flor de sal from the idealistic young marine biologists who started Necton, the company that harvests salt the way the Romans did when they lived along the same coast. All it takes to make flor de sal are the sun, the sea, and somebody to skim the delicate crystals from the water after they start to bloom. Flaky salts like Maldon and Jacobsen come from boiling the sea water over gas fires until most of the water evaporates.

Only about 10% of the salt in the salina is available as flor de sal. As the crystals grow, they sink to the bottom and are raked out as traditional sea salt. The larger crystals can be used for cooking, where they dissolve, or ground into fine sea salt

We keep a few bowls of flor de sal in the kitchen so it's easy to grab a pinch. Fingers are the best way to add salt, too; bacteria can't grow on the salt (except on the ocean floor near a vocanic vent!). And everything I eat still gets a drizzle of olive oil and a few crystals of flor de sal.