I follow a number of food blogs. One of them is Edible Aria, which I admire for its approach to eating healthfully and in an economically feasible manner. The blog promotes eating sustainable fresh whole foods. The blogger, Ren, obviously knows what he is doing in the kitchen and posts not only imaginative recipes, but provides links and information to other websites and events promoting responsible food production and consumption. But I hate to limit Ren with that description. Visit his blog and find out what he is all about. I think you'll be impressed.
I love the whole idea of eating well and eating responsibly. I try to buy whole foods as much as possible; processed foods will rarely sneak into the house and I have to banish them sternly, telling them in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome. I also try to buy organic, locally grown fruits, vegetables and proteins as much as I can afford to. I am fortunate to know many people who farm and raise their own grass-fed beef, chickens, bees, make their own goat cheese, and the like. I love knowing where my food comes from and I especially love knowing that my food was grown and handled with care, integrity and respect.
Ren inspired me recently when he posted a recipe for gravad lax, a Nordic preparation of fresh salmon cured with dill, sugar and salt. Quite coincidentally (or maybe because I am prescient) I had purchased a fillet of wild sockeye salmon, one of my favorite seafoods. I came home that evening, opened my email browser and saw Ren's July 29th post for Dill Pollen Gravad Lax.
I knew what I must do.
Ridiculously easy to prepare, Ren's recipe is challenging only from the perspective that if you lack patience to wait for the curing process to occur, then you'll be a bit antsy while you wait to taste the finished product. I was. It was 107 degrees outside and I wanted my gravad lax NOW. This isn't a spur-of-the-moment kind of food. You have to plan ahead. Which is what makes waiting for it so worthwhile. If you've mastered delayed gratification, that is.
I didn't have the dill pollen called for in my pantry (which is a shame because I have fennel pollen, grains of paradise, kolonji, berbere spice, zatar and so many other obscure seasonings) so I used dill weed. You can get dill pollen here. I also used fine flake kosher salt because I had just received a large bag from Penzeys Spices. And, incidentally, Penzeys is soon to open a new store in Austin and then I may have to grieve the loss of my almost 20-year mail-order relationship with that lovely company. On second thought, maybe I'll keep ordering that way. I love the personal notes on the invoices!
But I digress. The salinity of kosher salt is sometimes up to 50% less than other kinds of salt. So you can adjust the amount to taste if you haven't any sea salt around as Ren calls for in his post. I used Ren's proportions and got a delicately briny, silky product that seemed to melt in my mouth. In my future renditions of gravad lax, I intend to experiment with various salts, but sea salt would of course be the most authentic.
I didn't trouble myself with removing pinbones before I cured the salmon fillet. I wondered if I would regret that but they were so soft and flexible that there was no unpleasantness at all in the salmon's texture. This has always been true for me when I have grilled or roasted wild salmon.
The heat index in Central Texas makes cooking and eating a chore right now. But slicing into that cured salmon, its cool, moist, coral flesh falling gracefully from my knife, I was soon enjoying one of the most lovely and delightful summer suppers that I can remember in some time.
Here's how I ate the salmon: I softened some organic cream cheese and added a little local wildflower honey and some orange zest. I toasted some soft pumpernickle toast points. I thinly sliced some red onion. I opened a jar of nonpareil capers. I layered everything on top of the toast points. Heaven, if there is one, must have a little pearly sidewalk cafe that serves food like this.
Then I opened a bottle of Pierre Sparr Alsace One, an Alsatian white wine that is a crisp, dry lively blend of five different varietals. Alsace One is very affordable; ask your wine guys at Spec's to steer you in the proper direction, or look for it near the French whites. This wine is a lovely match with the salmon and its accompaniments. Find another review of this wine here. Alternatively, you could try the Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris, which is just a few bottles down the row on the same shelf. It's dry but full of depth from the flavors of fruit and honey and a lot rounder than other renditions of this wine. This grape varietal has been referred to as a "chameleon." Bottled by the Italians as Pinot Grigio, it is light and fruity; by the French--particularly in Alsace--it has a flinty minerality and golden honey-kissed richness. Find a review of the Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris here. Expect to pay a little more for this wine, but it's still under $20.
In this heat, may your tastebuds recline on a chaise lounge and be indulged. Oh, Cabana Boy?