Pickled Salmon

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I adore salmon, in just about every way. Hot smoked, cold smoked, raw, grilled – you name it. And I’ve always wanted to make my own gravlax. But then I came across this recipe for pickled salmon recently, and I knew I had to make it first.

It’s from one of my favorite series of cookbooks that I still refer to – the Foods of the World series by Time Life. This recipe is from American Cooking: The Northwest. Sorry for the blurriness.

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Now, this recipe can’t replace gravlax, which is cured salmon. This recipe is pickled salmon, so I’m still promising myself to still make gravlax soon.

I’m typing up the recipe as it is in the recipe book, and I did pretty much follow the recipe. However, instead of a large side of salmon, I used a smaller, frozen filet (thawed first) that was barely over a pound, and crudely adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. I mean, what’s 2 bay leaves divided by 5?

This salmon is super easy to make, and can be enjoyed within one week when it’s stored in the refrigerator, which it must be. I served mine with crackers, quite simply. If you love anything that’s pickled, you’ll love this pickled salmon!

Pickled Salmon
To serve 12 as a first course

2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 small onions, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rings
2 medium-sized bay leaves, crumbled
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 pounds fresh salmon, boned, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt

Combine the vinegar, water, olive oil, onions, bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves, and white and black peppercorns in a 2-3 quart enameled saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.
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Meanwhile, spread the salmon pieces in one layer on a strip of wax paper. Sprinkle the fish evenly with the salt and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
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Then drop the salmon into a colander and run cold water over it to rinse off the excess salt.
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Pat the fish dry with paper towels and pack the pieces tightly into a glass jar.


Pour the hot vinegar-and-spice mixture over the salmon, a little at a time, allowing the liquid to seep down slowly to the bottom of the jar before adding more.
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Cool to room temperature, tightly cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate the salmon for at least 24 hours before serving. Tightly covered, it can be safely kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

Before serving, I poured off the liquid. I didn’t want the salmon to be watery.

I added a little marscapone to the crackers before topping them with the salmon, and it was really nice. The marscapone toned down the vinegary flavor, but the salmon was good.

note: I kept the salmon in one piece to do the salting part, rinsed it and dried it, and then sliced it up. Way easier. I also decided to include a few of the pickled onion rings along with the salmon.

Dipping Oil

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Recently, a girlfriend of mine asked me if I had a recipe for dipping oil. And I was taken aback. I have never made a dipping oil before. I love them – in fact I love when restaurants serve their hot breads with the combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. As long as I don’t choke on the vinegar, it’s absolutely the most decadent treat. But I’ve never served that at home.

I looked up dipping oils on Williams-Sonoma, just for the heck of it, and what I found really shocked me. Now as you all know, I’m a huge fan of Williams-Sonoma, and I’ve probably single handedly built a few stores from my purchases over the years. But these dipping oils are $12.95 for one 8.5 ounce bottle!

Even considering a high quality olive oil as the base for these seasoned oils, I still find these overpriced. Here are the varieties that can be purchased:

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Pesto recreates the bright flavors of the classic Italian sauce with basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and tangy lemon.

Herbs de Provence is a French-inspired blend of herbs de Provence, black pepper, lemon and a hint of Dijon mustard.

Parmesan Garlic is a rich, savory combination of aged parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and Mediterranean herbs.

Rosemary Garlic features a Mediterranean-style blend of rosemary and fragrant garlic, highlighted by tangy lemon and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Sun-Dried Tomato showcases the rich sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes, accented with basil, shallots and spices.

They all sound really good, but the first thing I thought of, not surprisingly, is that they can easily be made at home!

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So I decided to do just that. I started with a clean jar, and then added these ingredients:

Spiced and Herbed Dipping Oil

Good quality olive oil, although any good oil could be used
peppercorns, a nice colorful variety
dried chile peppers
some lavender sprigs
a sprig of rosemary
a couple sprigs of thyme
a few bay leaves
a couple of peeled garlic cloves

Then I shook everything up and let the jar sit in my pantry for 2 weeks. I didn’t add salt, nor did I add cheese. I felt that those ingredients could be added at the time when I serve the dipping oil with bread.

I usually do a separate post for liqueurs and such that take a couple of weeks to “age” properly, but in this case, the oil was ready right before Thanksgiving. So I’ve already played with it, and I am impressed.

I firstly used a funnel with a sieve attached to pour some of the oil into a small dipping bowl.

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And then the tasting began. Or, uh, testing. The taste was spectacular by itself, but I did add some salt.
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Then I added some balsamic vinegar for fun.
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It was a fabulous combination; the vinegar didn’t overwhelm the oil because it’s pretty potent itself.
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I will definitely play with making these oils again. So many different possibilities!
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Pickled Beets

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Fresh beets don’t usually last long in my house. I typically roast them, remove the peels, and add them to salads. I eat salads pretty much every day in the summer.

But I decided it was time to actually make my fresh beets last by pickling them.

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I just started canning last summer, and canning is the perfect way to make these pickled beets last even longer. Normally, pickled beets would only last in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and that’s just not enough time. Especially if you want them during the winter months. So, pickling plus canning equals a winning combination!

I won’t do a canning tutorial just yet, but stay tuned. And if you haven’t canned, try it. It’s incredible what varieties of foods and condiments you can create, and trust me – no one will get botulism if you just follow the rules.

So the recipe is in two parts – one is the pickling water, and the other, the beets.

Pickled Beets

The Beets:

6 beets, scrubbed, ends removed
A 3″ long piece of fresh horseradish, quartered
Bay leaves, about 6-8
Few peppercorns
Few whole cloves

scrubbed and rinsed beets

scrubbed and rinsed beets

Place the beets in a large pot on the stove. Don’t peel them, otherwise you’ll lose too much beet juice.

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To the pot add all of the remaining ingredients, then add purified water until the beets are fully covered by at least 1″ of water.

Bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, count 1 hour on the clock.

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If you want to make sure the beets are fully cooked, pierce the largest one with a cake tester or point of a knife.

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Immediately drain the beets into a colander and let them cool.

The Pickling Water:

2 cups purified water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 smashed garlic clove
A 1″ piece of garlic, sliced into quarters
Few peppercorns

Combine everything in a medium pot. Place over high heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it’s dissolved, remove the water from the stove and set aside to cool.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, gently peel them, and trim away any hard, woody parts with a sharp knife.

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If you’ve never worked with beets before, be aware that they stain everything. Skin included.

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Have jars and lids available that have been washed through a dishwasher cycle or sterilized.

Slice or cube the peeled and trimmed beets and place them in the jars. Today I cubed mine.

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When you’re all done, add the strained pickling water to the jars; the beets should be completely covered. Alternatively, you could include the pickled onions.

I placed a couple of horseradish pieces in two jars, and the star anise in a third. The fourth I left alone.

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I then covered the jars with clean and dry lids, and stored them in the refrigerator. I wasn’t quite ready to begin the canning process, but when I do, I will bring the tightly sealed jars to room temperature before proceeding.

Pickled beets are one of my favorite additions to salad, which I eat often. the one in the featured photo includes avocado, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Beets, pickled or not, go well in salads with salmon, steak, or grilled chicken. They’re also wonderful with red bell peppers, grated carrots, and cucumbers. And don’t forget the goat cheese!

verdict: These beets are delicious. I’m glad I didn’t add any more sugar to the pickling water. The horseradish isn’t very strong. And I love the addition of the star anise. Will make these again.

Szechuan Peppered Steak

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I first learned about Szechuan peppercorns and Szechuan pepper salt from the Chinese Cooking cookbook of the Time Life Foods of the World Series. The pepper salt was made as a “dip” for Szechuan duck. Now, I like pepper and salt, which are the ingredients in Szechuan Pepper Salt, but dipping meat into this mixture might even be a bit too much for me.

But the pepper salt is unique and very versatile in cooking, so I decided it was time I made it again.

Szechuan peppercorns aren’t really peppercorns, but they’re called that because of their resemblance to peppercorns. That’s just an assumption on my part. They’re sort of crinkly brownish-black peppercorn-looking balls the size of peppercorns, which have a very aromatic smell to them that I can’t quite categorize. There’s a sweetness, a smokiness, an earthiness…..

So here is the recipe for the pepper salt.

Szechuan Pepper Salt

5 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns*
1 teaspoon black peppercorns**

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Place the three ingredients in a large skillet and toast everything over moderate heat until the peppercorns just begin to smoke. You will love the smell of these peppercorns – they smell like aromatic smoke from a campfire that you’re smelling while sitting outside in the Alps with hot toddies. Seriously.

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Remove the skillet from the heat, but continue stirring until the mixture is cooled down.

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Place the mixture in some kind of spice blender and grind until finely ground and smooth.

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Using a sieve, strain the mixture. This will catch the skins of the peppercorns and other miscellaneous bits and pieces.

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Place the pepper salt in a jar and seal. Mine always kept indefinitely.

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To test out the peppersalt, try using it for steaks. I coated both sides of two filets with the peppersalt and brought the steaks to room temperature.

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Brown the steaks in hot oil of choice until they are brown on both sides, and continue cooking until rare or medium rare. My steaks were only about 1″ thick, so I didn’t need to use my oven for this result.

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Let the steaks rest, as usual, and then serve. I also sprinkled a little more pepper salt on the cooked steaks. You could also sprinkle pepper salt on grilled veggies instead of the steaks! But I wouldn’t recommend it on everything on your plate because it’s a bit strong.

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verdict: Oh, I have missed you peppersalt!!!

* The original recipe calls for only 1 tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns, but I prefer this ratio. Otherwise everything ends up too salty.

** The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns, but I upped mine to a whole teaspoon. Only do that if you like pepper. But the flavors of the real peppercorns and the faux ones are dynamite!!!