Thursday, July 17, 2008

gravlax & grapes

For those of you that follow me on twitter, I know you havbeen salivating while awaiting my new salad recipe. This one was a little taste from bizarro world. We cook the grapes and leave the salmon raw. Or rather, we don't cook it, not with heat at any rate.

I found a recent recipe in a magazine for gravlax, a cured salmon developed by the Scandinavians. Read about it, it's interesting. The recipe I found didn't require digging a hole on the beach though. Basically, you take a good size hunk of atlantic salmon (don't bother using any better, oilier species for this, save them for the grill), I used a about a one chunk of a fillet that was basically an even inch thick and 7 inches square. Coat both sides liberally with salt, fresh dill, black pepper and I used some ground coriander as well. Very tightly wrap it with cellophane and place it in the fridge on a plate with several layers of absorbant paper underneath. Flipping every 12 hours, leave it in there for between 48 and 72 hours. It will shed a lot of water during this time and you may need to change out the towels. When that time has elapsed you just rinse it in the sink and eat it up. It's best sliced very thin across the grain and served with complementary flavors and textures.

So, for the salad I was on the lookout for such flavors and textures. Luckily I caught a recent episode of Jamie Oliver's excellent new show, Jamie at Home, and he was making a pukka strawberry salad. What really caught my eye though was these hunks of halloumi cheese. I've used it one time in the past, it's akin to a heavy brie, but the magic is that you can cook it or grill it. Jamie took some fresh basil leaves, pressed them into cheese, and browned them on that side in a nonstick pan with a little oil. It crisps the cheese but the leaf remains green and winds up looking like some strangely delicious little fossil.

The other bit of cooking here is real easy, after removing your cheese just throw a few handfuls of red seedless grapes in the same pan and crank the heat. Add just a little water so they steam as it burns off, then let them crisp just a touch on one side. While they're doing their thing start assembling the salad. Place your crisped cheese on the side a salad plate, take a handful of rinsed and dried red leaf lettuce in the center of the plate, and lace in a couple few slices of the gravlax. Top with the hot grapes and sprinkle just a little balsalmic and your good extra virgin across the top.

The buttery texture of the cool gravlax, the crisp and sweet lettuce, the rich flavor of the cheese all played off the warm and juicy grapes. Holey moley, my mouth is watering as I recall it all. I made about 10 of these all at once and served them as an appetizer. I think this dish is best served this way. I can't wait to try this one out again with more friends.

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