appetizer

Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon)

Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net
Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net

I have a deep love for smoked and cured salmon. Well, any fish, really. Salmon, though, is my #1 favorite. WhIle some people put tiny cuts of lox on their bagels, I want a mound on mine. Ideally there's a greater salmon to bagel ratio. If I haven't made myself clear, I can't get enough of the stuff. So, when I first learned of gravlax from my mother-in-law, I knew I needed it in my life. Gravlax is a Nordic recipe that involves curing salmon (or any other fatty fish) in salt, sugar, pepper, and dill.  Once these ingredients have been rubbed all over the fish and arranged so that the two fillets are placed with the flesh sides pressed against each other, the salmon is then wrapped in aluminum foil.  At this point, it is left in the fridge, set in a pan with a weight on top of it, for 48 hours. For a number of years, we made it fairly often. While it's not difficult to prepare, it does take some forethought. To have it on Sunday, I'd have to get everything ready on Friday. 

However,  we recently acquired two Himalayan salt blocks, so I thought I'd give it a try using those. Not only were the results delicious, but the preparation was cleaner and faster (it takes less time to cure... closer to 36 hours). Of course, I don't expect people to have salt blocks, so I've included two recipes below. Enjoy this as an appetizer at Christmas dinner or your New Year's Eve party or for a very special Sunday brunch. 

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Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net
Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net
Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon) from A Thought For Food - www.athoughtforfood.net

HOMEMADE GRAVLAX (Using Salt Block)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Tools: baking pan, aluminum foil, 2 Himalayan salt blocks

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs salmon fillet (skin on)
Large bunch of fresh dill
Lemon (optional)

Directions:
Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil. Place one of the salt blocks on the pan and cover the surface of the salt block with a bunch of dill.

Using a sharp pairing knife, score the skin of the salmon with 3-4 incisions. Lay the salmon fillet on top of the salt block, skin-side down. Cover the flesh of the salmon with more fresh dill and place the second salt block on top. Transfer to the refrigerator. Let cure for 36 hours. 

Before slicing, remove the dill.

Slice thinly and serve with bagels or pumpernickel bread.  It is tasty with either cream cheese or butter.  A nice mustard sauce would work nicely as well.  Or just a couple lemon wedges.



HOMEMADE GRAVLAX (Without Salt Block)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Tools: baking pan, aluminum foil

Ingredients:
2 - 1.5 lb salmon fillets (skin on)
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons white pepper
Large bunch of fresh dill
3 tablespoons gin

Directions:
Mix the salt, sugar, and white pepper in a bowl.  Lay out two sheets of aluminum foil that are 6 inches longer than one of the fish fillets on a roasting pan or another rimmed baking dish that is big enough to hold the fish.  Rub the fish with the salt/sugar mixture on both sides of each of the fillets.

Lay one fillet, skin-side down, into the baking dish.  Cover the flesh side with heaping handfuls of fresh dill.  Drizzle with the gin.  Place the remaining fillet, flesh side down, on top of the other piece of fish.  Fold the ends of the aluminum foil over the fillets so that it completely wraps the fish.  Wrap with another two sheets of foil, so it is tightly packaged up.  Place a weight (I use another heavy, but smaller, baking dish and then fill it with oranges and grapefruits) on top of the fish and let sit in the fridge, flipping every 12 hours, for 48 hours.

Before slicing, remove the dill.

Slice thinly and serve with bagels or pumpernickel bread.  It is tasty with either cream cheese or butter.  A nice mustard sauce would work nicely as well.  Or just a couple lemon wedges.

Sweetened Black Bean Dip with Yogurt and Pomegranate

I've never had much of a desire to make black bean dip.  If I'm going the bean route, it's going to be hummus. Rich and creamy hummus. I haven't met one that I didn't like. However, my views on this have recently changed and I have Bon Appetit to thank for that.  Driving down to New Jersey for Thanksgiving, I started flipping through the pages of the November issue and I came across a little piece about ways to improve on bean dips. And there were some suggestions I'd never thought of... like adding a drizzle of maple syrup on top. So, before the big feast I served a white bean dip with maple. And it was a HUGE hit. Never again would I make one without the inclusion of something sweet. 

I started thinking about what else I could do. I thought about the often forgotten black bean dip and how I could spruce it up. In my mind, I began to build the bowl. The dark puree on the bottom contrasted with some tangy yogurt. Some maple and pomegranates. And a sprinkle of parsley to finish it off. 

SWEETENED BLACK BEAN DIP WITH YOGURT AND POMEGRANATE

SOURCE
Inspired by the November 2016 issue of Bon Appetit


INGREDIENTS
1, 16 oz can black beans, drained of liquid and beans rinsed
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
Salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Pita chips

DIRECTIONS
Using a food processor, puree the black beans, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cumin. With the machine running, drizzle in 1 tablespoon of water to thin out the dip. Puree until smooth.

Transfer black bean mixture to a serving bowl.  Make a well in the center of the black bean mixture and scoop in yogurt. Drizzle maple syrup on top. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top, followed by chopped parsley. 

Serve with pita chips.

Oysters with Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Mignonette

I keep trying to rack my brain, but I honestly can't remember the first time I consumed raw oysters. It's quite possible I had one as a teenager, but I'm pretty sure I was in my twenties (maybe after meeting Eric) that I had my first experience with these bivalves. Now, however, I'd list them as one of my favorite foods. Some of my favorite food memories revolve around oysters. Being served the Oysters and Pearls at The French Laundry (paired, of course, with a glass of Champagne) when we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and Eric's 30th birthday. Or the Kumamoto oyster with cucumber mignonette at O Ya (during my birthday dinner). But, mostly, I prefer my oysters treated with a little squeeze of lemon, maybe a small spoonful of mignonette. Ideally, a platter will be consumed outdoors, overlooking a body of water. However, that's not always possible (As I type, it's snowing. Hello winter!) and we've taken to shucking them at home, often slurping them down over the kitchen sink. It's not elegant, but it does feel intimate. Sometimes that's how romance is, right? :-)

While oysters are wonderful on their own, there are some simple ways to accentuate their robust ocean flavor. A little acid does a lot to make them pop. For this mignonette, I've combined two types of seasonal citrus, grapefruit and Meyer lemons, to make a simple dressing to spoon on top. 

Oysters with Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Mignonette

YIELD
12 oysters

INGREDIENTS
12 oysters, shucked
1 large red grapefruit, segmented
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh chive
Coarsely ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Chop the segmented grapefruit sections into small pieces and transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add the Meyer lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, salt, chive, and black pepper. Give it a quick whisk to combine.

Before eating, top an oyster with the grapefruit and Meyer lemon mignonette.