Legends of Europe: Prosciutto Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

My mission (should I choose to accept it):  To create an original recipe using Prosciutto di San Daniele from Legends from Europe. Legends from Europe is a 3 year campaign funded by the European Union and launched in the U.S. to increase awareness and celebrate “the legendary quality, tradition and taste” of five authentic PDO products (Protected Designation of Origin) from Europe: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reffiano, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Grana Padano and Montasio.

As luck would have it, these 5 products happen to be some of my favorites. The biggest challenge I faced was not in accepting this mission but deciding which product to feature. Fortunately, the folks at Legends helped me with my choice and assigned me the Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto di San Daniele is named for the region of San Daniele in northeastern Italy where it enjoys a unique micro-climate nestled between the Dolomite Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The ham is left to slow-cure naturally, following a 2,000 year-old tradition introduced by the Celts. Today, Prosciutto di San Daniele is considered a delicacy  with its mild flavor and delicate texture. This week, I will be posting a few recipes I’ve created with Legends’ Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

A small rosemary sprig does double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the figs and goat cheese with its flavor as they bake in the oven. Makes 16 hors-d’oeuvres

8 ripe figs
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices “Legends from Europe” Prosciutto di San Daniele, halved lengthwise
16 3/4-inch rosemary sprigs with stem, plus 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat oven to 375 F. Halve figs lengthwise. Place figs on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix goat cheese and pepper together in a small bowl. Fill the indentation with goat cheese, about 1/2 teaspoon. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around fig. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves. Place figs in a baking dish. Lightly brush prosciutto with olive oil. Bake in oven until prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer figs to a platter. Remove baked rosemary sprigs and discard (they will be brown). Replace with a few fresh rosemary leaves, without stem. Lightly drizzle figs with honey. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve warm.

Cooking for your Health: Healthy Entertaining with Fresh Spring Rolls

Cooking for your Health: Healthy Entertaining with Fresh Spring Rolls

In this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, we’re talking parties. More specifically, we’re talking healthy party food. I can’t think of a better way to have a good time than to have a group of friends over and to feed them. Sometimes this means a sit-down dinner with many courses, other times it’s a bunch of appetizers to call a meal. Either way, finger food is always involved and ideally it will be light, flavorful and nutritious, while being festive enough to be invited to a party. One of my favorite hors d’oeurvres is fresh spring rolls, which you might call a salad roll. They are bright, colorful, bursting with fresh veggies and herbs, and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce with a kick of heat. They are a perfect way to begin a meal: Not only are they delicious, they are healthy, low in calories and won’t leave you with a stuffed feeling – even if you find yourself standing over the tray gobbling them up because they are so darn good.

Fresh Spring Rolls

For a vegetarian option, omit the shrimp. Feel free to mix and match your vegetables to taste and heat preference. Choose between sweet peppers, spicy chiles, jicama, daikon, cucumber, chinese cabbage, carrots, green onions. Remember that the key to a good roll is to have a balance of sweet, savory, heat and salt in the ingredients and to combine a variety of textures for a satisfying bite.  Be sure to prepare all the ingredients in advance, so that when you are ready to assemble the rolls, everything is in place.

Makes 8 rolls.

For the spring rolls:
8 (eight-inch/22 cm.) spring roll wrappers (galettes de riz)
8 large green lettuce leaves, any tough ribs removed, torn in half
4 scallions or spring onions, ends trimmed, halved, cut length-wise in julienne strips
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in matchsticks
1 large red bell pepper or 4 red jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 english cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 large bunch coriander leaves and tender stems
1 large bunch mint leaves
16 medium cooked shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise (optional)

For the Peanut Lime Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Make Spring Rolls:
Pour warm water into a wide bowl. Immerse one rice paper round in water to just soften, about 5 seconds.  Remove and spread on a plastic cutting board.  Let stand for 30 seconds to absorb water. Arrange 2 lettuce leaf halves over the bottom half of the rice paper round.  Top lettuce with a line of green onion, carrot, pepper, cucumber, coriander and mint. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and tuck around the filling to compact it. Arrange 4 shrimp halves horizontally over the crease and continue rolling. Transfer roll, seam-side down to a plate and cover with damp towel.  Repeat with remaining rolls.  (Adjust ingredient amounts to taste and to ensure the roll is plump and full).
Spring rolls may be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Cover with damp paper towels and plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, cut cross-wise in quarters, with one shrimp per segment, or in half.  Serve with Peanut Lime Sauce for dipping.

Make Peanut Lime Sauce:

Whisk  all ingredients except the cilantro together in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning. (Add 1 more tablespoon water if desired). Refrigerate covered until use. Before serving add cilantro.

If you like this, you might enjoy more Cooking for your Health recipes:
Homemade Granola Bars
Salmon Wrapped in Kale with Harissa
Greek Couscous Salad

Ramped Up Crostini with Ricotta and Pea Shoots

~ Crostini with Ramps, Pea Shoots, Ricotta, Mint and Lemon ~

Spring is the time of new beginnings when fresh shoots and early leaves offer a taste of the season to come. Like a teen, these less mature greens are a contrast of nice and naughty – tender yet sharp in flavors that will develop and smooth with maturity. In this simple recipe, chopped ramps add bite and attitude to fluffy ricotta which is smeared over crostini and topped with a jumble of sweet, tender pea shoots.  Little else is needed except a pinch of fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon to shout spring and make these crostini pop.

Note: This recipe is a finalist this week in Food52’s recipe contest for “your best allum.”  Head over to Food52 and check out the contest and all of the other delicious goodies on their site, which just received an award from the James Beard Foundation for Publication of the Year!

Crostini with Ramps and Shoots

Ramps are wild leeks and resemble a scallion. Their long, broad green leaves and burgundy tinged bulb are edible. Green garlic is young garlic and also resembles a scallion. Green garlic may be substituted for the ramps.

Makes 8

8 one-inch thick baguette slices, sliced on the diagonal
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped ramps or green garlic, bulbs and stems only
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Generous handful pea shoots
1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly brush bagette slices with olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake in oven until golden brown on both sides, turning once, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove.
Mix ricotta, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper in a bowl until fluffy. Stir in ramps, mint and lemon zest. Spread ricotta on baguette slices.
Top crostini with a large pinch of pea shoots. Drizzle a little olive oil over crostini, followed by a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle with a few grains of sea salt and black pepper.

Tips and Treats for a Holiday Cheese Basket

Tips and Treats for a Holiday Cheese Basket



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I made this cheese basket for a ghoulish gathering of friends last weekend. Cheeseboards and baskets are fun to make and with a little thought and creativity can easily take center stage at a buffet table. I never tire of arranging and decorating them, using the season and holidays as inspiration. For this Halloween-inspired cheese basket I picked autumnal decorations with a creepy twist. I created a border of spiky, frizzy greens with dark, purplish leaves and black, woody garnishes. The cheese selection was equally ghoulish: ash-rubbed cheese, a moldy blue, stinky and runny cheese and orange pockmarked cheese. The crisps and crackers were dark, rough and seeded, weaving through the cheese like wood in the forest.

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All of the garnishes and decorations are edible and include:
Mustard greens, chicory, purple kale, frisée, miniature red pears, black radishes, burdock root, gourds and baby pumpkins, black olives, pumpkins seeds, dried currants and cranberries.

Crisps and snacks were chosen for color, shape and texture:
Corn nuts, black sesame rice crackers, cranberry hazelnut crisps,  crisp flatbread, and chunks of dense fig and almond cake.

Black slate created the background and lined the basket interior, provided a sturdy surface to cut the cheese while various wooden and black vessels contained wayward runny cheese and little nibbles.

Not only did the cheeseboard look good, it featured a thoughtful selection of cheese that ranged from soft and mild to strong and aged. When you gather a selection, try to balance it in strength, texture, flavor. As a starting point I often include a blue cheese, a creamy white-molded cheese such as camembert, a goat cheese and a hard alpine cow or sheep milk cheese.

Cheese pictured in this basket includes (clockwise from top center):

1.  Cowgirl Creamery Sir Francis Drake washed rind cheese with currants
2.  Sharp white Cheddar with a Purple Rind – selected for color
3.  Aged Gouda Saenkanter – an orange, sharp, nutty Dutch cows milk cheese
4.  Adante Dairy “Nocturne” cows milk cheese with gray mold and ash
5.  Seal Bay Triple Cream – mild, oozing and runny
6.  Gorgonzola Mountain – crumbly and streaked with blue
7.  Petit Brebiousse – a French ewe’s milk cheese with an orange rind

So have fun – enjoy all of the fabulous cheese and remember to save some for the guests. Bon appétit!

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

beef tenderloin tf

This recipe is worth celebrating. Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin has been selected as a winner  in this week’s Food52 contest for Your Best Holiday Roast. And that’s not the only reason it’s worthy of a party. Dried porcini mushrooms blitzed with fresh rosemary sprigs and black peppercorns create an umami-rich rub for the beef, forming a crust that melts into the meat while roasting. It’s stand alone delicious, yet when napped with a luxurious port wine reduction infused with more porcini and rosemary, this dish becomes an elegant dinner worthy of any holiday celebration. So go on, name a holiday – or just call it the weekend. This is a treat that your family and friends will be sure to enjoy. And that’s worth celebrating, too.

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

Salting the  meat in advance ensures juicy results and a crispy crust. A combination of port and red wine is used in this recipe. Red wine may be substituted with additional port. Serves 6 to 8.

For the beef tenderloin:
1 center cut beef tenderloin, about 3 pounds
Salt
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Olive oil

For the Porcini Port Wine Sauce:
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in 3/4 cup hot water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 cup port wine
1 cup heavy-bodied red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Season the tenderloin all over with salt. Refrigerate 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Thirty minutes before roasting remove beef from the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the mushrooms, rosemary, and peppercorns in a spice grinder. Grind to a coarse powder. Rub the beef with olive oil, then coat all over with the rosemary porcini rub.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes, turning as necessary. Transfer the beef to a roasting pan, and set the skillet aside without rinsing for the sauce.
4. Roast beef in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 125*F, about 30 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes.
5. While the beef is roasting, prepare the sauce. Strain the porcini water through an un-bleached paper towel into a small bowl. Reserve the strained liquid. Coarsely chop the porcini.
6. Add 1 tablespoon butter, the shallots, and porcini to the reserved skillet. Sauté over medium heat until the shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the port, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Add the red wine, mushroom stock, and rosemary. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until the sauce is reduced by about half to approximately 1 1/2 cups. Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Strain through a fine-meshed seive into a small saucepan, pressing firmly on the solids; discard solids. Heat the sauce over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep warm until serving.
7. To serve, carve the meat in slices. Serve on warm plates with the porcini port sauce.

Entertaining with Mezze: Recipes for Marinated Feta and Baba Ganoush

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What are mezze? A delightful appetizer tradition integral to the cuisines of the Middle East, Turkey and Greece. Mezze consist of numerous small tasters, often simple and fresh, which are meant to whet the appetite before a meal along with a drink. The word mezze comes from the Arabic term t’mazza, which translates as “savor in little bites.” I can’t think of a more convivial and pleasurable way to begin a meal with a group of friends than with a sampling of mezze accompanied by a drink on a warm summer evening.

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Mezze should always include a sampling of dips, such as hummus or tsatsiki, cruditees, bread and olives. For a more substantial selection add  meat keftas or brochettes, simple salads and dolmas (stuffed vegetables and filled grape leaves.) Keep the portions small, set a table in the sunshine and pour a refreshing drink. Enjoy!

Baba Ganoush

Baba ganoush is a traditional Middle Eastern dip made with roasted eggplant. In this recipe I have added chickpeas to give the dip more structure. Makes about 2 cups.

1 large eggplant
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
2-3 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Pita bread for serving

Preheat oven to 425 F. Roast the eggplant over a gas flame or on a grill until the skin is charred on all sides. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until very soft when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool. Peel away the skin and scoop the flesh into a bowl of a food processor. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Pulse to combine. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight to let flavors develop. Before serving stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves. Serve with pita bread.


Marinated Feta with Lemon
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound feta cheese, drained, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 fresh thyme sprigs
1-2 fresh oregano sprigs

Pita bread for serving

Place cheese in a shallow bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over cheese and gently toss to combine. Fold in thyme and oregano. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight. Before serving remove thyme and oregano sprigs. Serve with additional black pepper and pita bread.

Roasted Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears

If you are looking for a too-easy-to-believe appetizer, then this recipe is the one. Requiring merely 3 ingredients, an oven and less than half an hour to prepare, the finger-licking results belie the ease. This recipe takes advantage of spring’s tender asparagus and salty prosciutto, which is always in season in our home. Baking crisps and coaxes the salt from the ham, while olive oil lightly naps the spears. Be sure to eat these warm straight from the oven – with your fingers.

Roasted Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears
Makes 12

12 asparagus, medium thickness
6 prosciutto slices, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Lemon (ok, that’s a 4th ingredient, but it’s optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)
Snap off the woody stems of the asparagus and trim the bottoms with a knife. Wrap a slice of prosciutto diagonally around the asparagus stalks, leaving the tips and base exposed. Brush the exposed bits of the asparagus with olive oil. Arrange on a baking tray. Roast until the asparagus tips are tinged brown and the prosciutto is crispy,  about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with a little lemon juice, if desired.

Chocolate Pots de Crème with Gran Marnier

Chocolate Pots de Crème with Gran Marnier

Pots de Crème are an entertainer’s best friend. They may be prepared up to 2 days in advance and are very easy to make. With just a little finesse, and some high quality chocolate, you can be sure to wow your guests. Depending on the vessel in which they are served, they are an appropriately small shot of rich chocolate following  a heavy meal, or a moreish serving for the chocoholics at the table. Keep it simple with straight-up chocolate, or dress it up with Gran Marnier. This recipe is a keeper.

Chocolate Pots de Crème with Gran Marnier

This recipe requires refrigeration before serving for at least 6 hours. For best results, prepare at least one day before serving. Makes 6 large or 12 small servings.

1  3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
6 ounces high quality dark chocolate (70-72%), finely chopped
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

Gran Marnier Whipped Cream
Candied orange peel and/or raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Combine cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove and add chocolate, whisking until melted and thoroughly incorporated. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl. Slowly add chocolate to the eggs, whisking constantly. Mix in Gran Marnier if using. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another bowl. Blot foam from the top of the chocolate with a paper towel or skim with a spoon.
Pour chocolate into demi-tasse cups or 3/4 cup ramekins. Cover each cup with foil. Place cups in a large baking pan. Pour boiling water into the pan until it reaches half-way up the side of the cups. Bake until the chocolate is set but still wobbles in the middle, about 40 – 50 minutes depending on the size of the cups. Remove and transfer cups to a wire rack; cool. Cover and refrigerate pots de crème at least 6 hours (or overnight). Bring to room temperature before serving.
Serve with Gran Marnier Whipped Cream. Garnish with candied orange peel or raspberries.

Gran Marnier Whipped Cream:
Before serving, beat 1/2 cup heavy cream in bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners’ sugar and 2 teaspoons Gran Marnier and beat until stiff peaks form, taking care not to overbeat.

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise

Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise is most worthy of the holiday table. Not only is it appropriately elegant and sinfully rich, it may be prepared up to 3 days in advance, allowing you to get on with your Christmas shopping and preparations for house guests.

Also known as a Marquis au Chocolat, this popular French dessert is like eating a truffle in the form of a brick. I first made this recipe as a finale to a cheese fondue party, when I wanted a simple yet rich chocolate dessert with a French twist. I scoured my cookbooks and found inspiration in a recipe for Marquis au Chocolat by Thomas Keller in the Bouchon Cookbook. I  paired the chocolate with orange which proved to be a match made in heaven. Slivers of dark chocolate nestled in a pool of cool orange-infused crème anglaise, studded with Gran Marnier macerated fruit. Not only did the orange add a bejeweled touch, its citrus notes brightened the chocolate, elevating this classic to celebratory status, befitting the holiday table.

Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise and Gran Marnier Oranges
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook

Serves 10 to 12

Chocolate Terrine:
Canola oil
12 ounces (350 g) 70% dark chocolate
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Lightly oil a 1 1/2 quart terrine mold or loaf pan.  Line the mold with plastic wrap.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Add 8 egg yolks to the cooled chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.  Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa and stir into the chocolate mixture.
3. Beat cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form.  Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate until use.
4. Clean the mixing bowl and then beat the egg whites with the 2 teaspoons sugar until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream.
Pour into the terrine mold and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  (Terrine may be prepared up to 2 days in advance.)

Orange Crème Anglaise:
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons finely grated untreated orange zest
5 large egg yolks

1. Combine the cream, milk, 4 tablespoons sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and the orange zest in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, then remove the pan from heat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes to let the flavors infuse.
2. Whisk egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl until thick and light in color.  Whisking constantly, pour one-third of the cream mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes.  (To check if done, run a finger down the back of the wooden spoon.  The line should remain clearly intact without the custard running.)
3. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water.  Cool the custard, stirring occasionally.  When completely cool, pour into a container.  Place plastic wrap over the surface of custard.  Cover the container and refrigerate until use.  (The custard may be prepared up to 2 days in advance.)

Gran Marnier Oranges:
2 navel oranges
2 to 3 tablespoons orange flavored liqueur, such as Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon sugar

Cut away the peel and pith of the oranges with a knife. Slice the oranges crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out the orange segments and place in a bowl. Add the  Gran Marnier and sugar and stir to combine.  Let stand at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. (Cover and refrigerate until use.)

To serve:
Remove the terrine from mold.  Run a knife under hot water and wipe dry.  Slice the terrine in 1/4-inch slices.  Arrange 1 to 2 slices on a plate.  Drizzle the Orange Crème Anglaise around the terrine.  Serve garnished with Gran Marnier Oranges.

Holiday Entertaining: Salmon Gravlax

Holiday Entertaining: Salmon Gravlax

You say Christmas, and I say Gravlax. The holiday season is not complete without executing a recipe for home-cured salmon gravlax. Don’t be daunted. This is an entertainer’s dream. The salmon is easily prepared in advance and stowed in the refrigerator to cure for 2 days. All you need to do is unwrap and remove the spice cure, slice and serve. The results are the essence of Nordic cuisine: minimal and elegant. Fennel, dill and pepper fleck the meltingly soft salmon which tastes of the sea. How can you argue with that?

Gravlax (gravlaks in Danish and Norwegian or gravad lax in Swedish) literally means salmon in a grave or hole.  During the middle ages fisherman would salt salmon and let it ferment by burying it in a hole above high-tide line. Nowadays it’s not necessary to bury salmon in sand, but, rather in salt and sugar and banish it to the refrigerator.  The salmon will cure over several days, during which the salt and sugar will turn into liquid, creating a brine.

Salmon Gravlax

Serves a party.

Salt and sugar are necessary ingredients for curing, while fresh or dried herbs, peppercorns, citrus or spirits are frequently added to the brine for additional flavor. This recipe adds dill, fennel, peppercorns and akavit for flavor and spice. Choose a fish which is very fresh with a firm consistency. I use an Atlantic fish, such as Loch Duart Salmon.

One side of salmon, about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) with skin, pin bones removed
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
10 ounces (350 g) sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup fresh dill sprigs, chopped
1 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
1/4 cup Akavit or vodka

Lightly toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar and finely ground to a powder. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the salt and sugars. Rub the fish all over with the spices mix.

Line a long baking pan or dish with plastic wrap.  Place half of the dill sprigs and half of the fennel fronds over the plastic wrap.  Arrange the salmon, skin-side down on the herbs.  Sprinkle the Akavit over the salmon. Top with the remaining dill and fennel. Cover with additional plastic wrap, sealing the fish.  Place a heavy pan or tray on the fish. Weigh down the pan with cans or bottles.  Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

To serve, remove the fish from refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap. Pour off the collected juices and wipe off excess brine and dill.  Slice diagonally from one corner of the salmon towards the center of the fillet.

Fold a slice of gravlax on toasted brioche bread or white bread.  Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice and smear a spoonful of Honey Dill Mustard on the fish.  Garnish with a dill sprig.

Honey Dill Mustard

1/4 cup honey mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup chopped dill sprigs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify.  Stir in the dill, pepper and salt.