Gravlax

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In January, after I posted on a soup recipe from the cookbook Back to Square One, by Joyce Goldstein, I was told in a comment that the Gravlax recipe in the same cookbook was the best.

Sandra, an Aussie known to many of us bloggers as “lady red specs,” is the one who left the comment. Her blog, Please Pass the Recipe, is one I’ve followed for years, and I trusted her recommendation.

Sandra claims that the recipe for gravlax has the perfect ratio of salt, sugar, and booze, which is why she continues to use the recipe. Having never made gravlax, I decided this was a perfect recipe to use for my first experience.

The whole salmon thing is a bit complicated, with basic grilling or baking, but also smoking, curing, and brining.

There’s hot-smoked/cooked salmon, which I make in my stove-top smoker, there’s brined and cold-smoked salmon, or lox, that retains a sashimi-like texture, and gravlax or gravdlax, which is the Scandinavian name for brined and cured salmon. All are considered cooked, although via different cooking methods.

The gravlax recipe in the book calls for Scotch, which Ms. Goldstein chose to use with her Scottish salmon. Makes sense, but I’m not fond of any of the brown liquors. Fortunately, Sandra recommended vodka.

She also recommended that I use lemon zest and lemon thyme, instead of the traditional dill weed.

Fortunately I’d just planted lemon thyme.

So here’s what I did.

Home-Made Gravlax
based on a recipe in Back to Square One

1 salmon filet, about 1 1/2 pounds
4-5 tablespoons vodka
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt
Lemon Zest
Leaves of lemon thyme

Clean and dry the salmon if necessary, and remove any pin bones. Place the filets in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle the vodka over the flesh.

Mix the sugar, salt, zest and thyme leaves together, then rub the mixture into the salmon.


Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and weigh it down.

Refrigerate the salmon for no more than 3 days. To serve, gently wipe the salmon filets with a paper towel, but don’t rinse the mixture off. Thinly slice the salmon across the grain.

You can serve bagels, crackers, crisps, bread, or blini.

One can also serve the traditional lox goodies like cream cheese, chopped hard-boiled egg, chopped purple onions, and capers.

Treat the salmon just as you would lox, although the texture is firmer.

I probably could have sliced the salmon even thinner if I’d been more patient, but as it was it was translucent.

verdict: I am not a gravlax expert, but I can’t imagine another tasting any better than this one. The flavor is surprisingly mild, even with all of the lemon, salt, and sugar. And full disclosure, my salmon cured for four full days because I had to leave town. The texture was firm, but the flavor exquisite. I know I’ll be using this recipe again!

Salmon, Bacon and Potato Hash

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When I hot-smoked salmon while back to make the wonderful layered salmon spread, I cooked 2 extra salmon steaks. To me, leftover salmon is so handy.

You can put it in scrambled eggs, in salads, on pizzas, in soups, crêpes, rice, make burgers, and so much more.

Since I was about to have overnight company, my leftover salmon made me think of potato hash with bacon and eggs for a breakfast offering. Hash isn’t terribly pretty, and I don’t even like the word “hash,” but boy, is it good made with smoked salmon and bacon.

Options for eggs include serving poached or fried eggs with the hash, or cooking the eggs inside the hash, like you would with shakshuka. It all works, and it’s all good!
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This hash is really yummy with leftover lox or grilled salmon as well.

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Potato Hash with Bacon and Smoked Salmon
Serves 2

2 salmon steaks, hot-smoked or grilled
2 Russet potatoes
4 slices bacon, diced
2 shallots, finely chopped
Salt
Pepper
2-4 Eggs
Chopped green onions, chives, or parsley

Remove the skin from the salmon and break it in to small pieces; set aside at room temperature.
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Scrub the potatoes. This is the brush I use; I prefer unpeeled potatoes.
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Coarsely grate them and place on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
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In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, begin to cook the bacon. Add a little olive oil if the bacon isn’t extremely fatty. After a few minutes, add the shallots.
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When the bacon and shallots have mostly cooked, add the potatoes. Lift them gently with a non-stick spatula to gently mix the potatoes with the bacon and shallots. Season well with salt and pepper.
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Raise the heat to brown the bottom of the grated potatoes. Cook them for at least 5 minutes.

Using the spatula, turn over the potato hash until the raw part is on the bottom. Season again. It doesn’t matter that you’re tossing the hash around. This isn’t a rösti that will come out in one piece.
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After the potatoes have browned, lower the heat slightly to ensure cooking the potatoes all the way through.

Stir in the smoked salmon pieces and heat gently. If desired, place raw eggs in holes created in the hash, lower the heat, cover the skillet, and steam-cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

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This is a bit more tedious, but it’s a pretty presentation. Alternatively, poach or fry eggs separately.

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Serve the eggs hot with the hash.

Season again, if necessary, and sprinkle with green onions.

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I can guarantee that as long as your guests enjoy salmon, they will love this hash. And served with eggs it’s a hearty yet delicious breakfast or brunch dish.

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Layered Salmon Spread

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One day I was searching on Epicurious.com and came across a recipe that got my attention. The recipe is “Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.”

The name befuddled me at first, because when I think of layered dips my mind goes directly to Mexican-inspired dips with beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and so forth. Although I have presented a Mediterranean version of a layered dip on my blog. But still, smoked salmon?

Furthermore, it’s not lox in this dip – it’s hot-smoked salmon. I was truly curious.

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Before I could put the spread together, I hot-smoked salmon steaks. My Cameron stove-top smoker is so useful for salmon. In fact, it’s primarily why I use it.

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If you want to know how I hot-smoked salmon with this smoker, please refer to the post here.

You can change up the wood you use for the smoke, but it’s essential to not overcook the salmon. Like in the tutorial, I smoked these steaks for 15 minutes, timed from when the smoking begins.

Here is the recipe as I adapted it:

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Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip

2 salmon steaks, seasoned with salt and pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 small cooked beets
2-3 tablespoons creamy horseradish, depending on your taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 radishes, trimmed, finely chopped
Drained capers, about 1/3 cup
Chopped green onions
Zest from 1 lemon
Pumpernickel bread

After smoking the salmon, remove it from the skin, flake it, and divide in half. From the beautiful photograph of this spread online, it’s obvious that the salmon was more finely chopped. It’s another option.

Beat together the cream cheese, goat cheese, and butter in a medium bowl; set aside

Make the beet horseradish by combining the beets, horseradish and sour cream in a small blender. The texture should be spreadable.

Have the radishes, capers, and green onions on hand. I had intended on including shallots but I simply forgot.

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This spread could be made in a springform pan lined with plastic wrap and flipped over when ready to be served, but I simply used the 6″ greased form without the bottom to mimic a ring mold. Place the form, if you’re using one, on a serving plate.

Spread half of cream cheese mixture evenly inside the ring mold, smoothing surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the cream cheese with half of the salmon.

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Scatter the radishes and capers over the salmon. Drizzle half of the beet horseradish sauce over the top.

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Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture and salmon. I poured the remaining beet horseradish sauce over the salmon.

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Scatter on more radishes and capers.

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Sprinkle the green onions in the middle, and for a little color and zing, I added lemon zest.

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Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, simply slide the springform mold up. I would suggest leaving the spread at room temperature for at least one hour before serving.

The layered spread is absolutely vibrant.

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I served with the spread with pumpernickel triangles. Bagel crisps or pita chips would also be good.

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The spread can be made the morning of, but I wouldn’t make it the day before serving.

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Grilled salmon would work just as well as hot-smoked.

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Note: In the original recipe, the feta-cream cheese and the beet horseradish were all blended together, which made the spread very pretty, but I wanted more actual layers, so I kept those elements separate.

Croxetti with Smoked Salmon

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Last April when my husband and I visited New York City for my birthday, we went to Eataly. I could have spent much more time there, but my “other half” has limited patience shopping. We checked out the whole place, which requires a map if you want to do it in an orderly fashion, and then ate an incredible lunch.

My husband convinced me to shop online at Eataly.com instead of dragging groceries back home in my suitcase. In retrospect I think it was a trick to keep me from really shopping, but nonetheless I did grab a few Italian goodies.

One was Croxetti, a beautiful embossed pasta that I’d never seen before. I have since learned that the spelling can vary, but these “pendants” are Ligurian in origin.

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Over the many years of Croxetti development, the “traditional” designs have varied. The following photo is an example of a wooden stamp used for embossing, taken from the blog A Path To Lunch.

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I highly recommend reading the blog post I highlighted above. The blog’s authors, Martha and Mike, describe and photograph a meeting with the craftsman Mr. Pietro Picetti, who custom designs croxetti stamps in his workshop in Varese Ligure, Liguria.

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For the croxetti, I chose a light cream sauce with smoked salmon, hoping it would be a delicate enough sauce to not destroy the integrity of these delicate pasta discs once cooked.
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No real recipe is required. The pasta is cooked according to the package directions.
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I sautéed a few minced garlic cloves in hot olive oil, just for a few seconds, then added cream to the pot. Pour enough in the pot to lightly coat the pasta, about 12 ounces of cream for the 1.1 pound of croxetti.

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Julienne thin sliced of smoked salmon or lox, and add them to the cream. Heat through.

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Gently add the drained pasta discs to the cream and let sit, stirring once or twice as necessary to allow the cream sauce to coat the croxetti and get absorbed.

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Serve warm and sprinkle with capers, if desired.

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If you would prefer a thicker sauce, consider adding a little Marscapone or ricotta to the cream.
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Other options for this simple recipe would be to use butter instead of olive oil, and one could include clam juice with the cream for a fishier yet less rich sauce. Also, lemon zest would be a nice touch.

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If you happened to have fresh dill, a few leaves would be pretty on the pasta, but I only had dried dill leaves.

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The croxetti actually didn’t end up being as delicate as I assumed they would be. Of course I treated them gently as well. They were really fun to eat!

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Hot Smoked Salmon

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I own a Cameron’s stovetop smoker. I’ve used it for all kinds of proteins, but my favorite one to smoke is salmon. One evening recently I was having a girlfriend over for dinner, so smoking a salmon fillet was an easy choice. Besides, it was an excuse for me to have salmon, because my husband won’t eat it.

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The smoker does all the work so it’s really easy to do while your company is with you in the kitchen.

Sprinkle your choice of wood chips in the bottom of the smoker; I used maple chips today.


There’s no preparation necessary for the smoking process, other than to have a freshly rinsed filet of salmon, of uniform thickness, ideally. Mine was just over a pound. Then make sure it’s dry.

Place the salmon on the foil-wrapped pan and season. I simply used Old Bay seasoning because it works so well with fish.
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There is a rack that comes with the smoker, but since the skin was on the bottom side of the salmon, I didn’t bother using it. The rack allows the smoke to go underneath whatever is on it.

Close the lid, then turn on the heat underneath to medium. Once the smoke starts coming out, turn the heat down; you don’t want the salmon to cook too fast because you’re cooking it and smoking it. I smoked this particular filet for 25 minutes, over the lowest heat setting.

The photo below shows the salmon after 15 minutes.

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Once the smoking is over, slice and serve.
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I really like mine smoky, but you can adjust the amount of smoke intensity by how much of the wood chips you use. Cameron’s has a huge variety of chips that you can buy, so you always have a choice.
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As long as the heat is low, the protein won’t overcook. Hopefully from the photos you can tell that the salmon is tender and moist.
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Because it’s fall, I served the smoked salmon with Brussels sprouts drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt.


Hot-smoked salmon can be served any time of the year. With asparagus in the spring, with a green salad in summer, and in winter – with a mash, of course!
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Ricotta and Smoked Salmon

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Smoked salmon is one of my top favorite indulgences, along with steak tartare and foie gras.

I love smoked salmon served in the traditional manner, alongside cream cheese with a generous amount of capers and diced purple onions. Warm, toasted bagels are the best, but for me, just about any bread or toast will do, because it’s mostly about the salmon itself.

To serve smoked salmon this way, you need to have a trustworthy source, because there is smoked salmon that is inferior in quality. If I’m having a party or get-together of sorts and want to put out a traditional smoked salmon spread, I buy mine from a company called Mackenzie. I prefer their Scottish salmon.
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What bothers me the most about buying smoked salmon is that it is typically sold in 4 ounce packages. Who needs just 4 ounces of salmon? I most often need somewhere between 4 ounces and a whole 2 pound side of smoked salmon, but no one seems to care about my opinion.

Well speaking of little packages of smoked salmon, I happened to have a couple of them leftover from the holidays. They seem to keep forever if you freeze them. My plan is to dice the smoked salmon and use it in a spread, mixed with the fresh ricotta I made recently.

I’ve made many different kinds of spreads using smoked salmon – my most favorite is a warm dip that utilizes both cooked and smoked salmon. It’s absolutely divine. But today I’m just making a rustic spread that highlights the ricotta and the salmon.

This wasn’t the best smoked salmon in the first place, but I had to buy it locally for some purpose back in December, without time to place an online order. Thus my leftover 4 ounce packages.

But I tested it out and even after freezing and thawing, is tastes exactly the same as it did originally, which isn’t great, but it will do for this spread. You could also add some of this diced salmon in a quiche or pasta, but I’d never use this variety for bagels and lox presentation. It’s just doesn’t compare to the real stuff.

So here’s what I did to make this ricotta and smoked salmon spread. It’s more of a guide than a recipe, because it depends how much you want to make. The way I make it, without diced onions included, it will store in the refrigerator until you want to serve it again. I don’t personally feel that chopped onions keep well, but you could sprinkle the spread with freshly chopped onions or chives if you wish.

If you make this spread and have some left over, add it to hot, cooked pasta. Then there would be no waste!

Ricotta and Smoked Salmon Spread

Home-made ricotta or store-bought, at room temperature
Whipped cream cheese or regular, at room temperature
Smoked salmon, diced
Capers, well drained
Diced purple onion, optional
Chopped chives, optional

Place about equal amounts of the ricotta and whipped cream cheese in a medium bowl.
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Beat it together with a spoon until combined.

Dice the salmon and add it to the cheeses. I used this salmon.
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Then add the capers.

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Gently mix everything together until evenly distributed.

Then you have a choice. You could fill up a pretty crock or bowl with this mixture, or mold it in a bowl lined with plastic wrap for a prettier presentation (although I usually add a little butter to these mixtures so they mold better). In this case, I simply grabbed the whole mixture with my (clean) hands and formed a ball with it. I placed the ball on a wooden board.

Then I sprinkled chopped chives over the top.
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Today I served torn up pieces of naan with the spread.
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I also included a few garlic-stuffed olives for fun.

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I served a sauvignon blanc along with the spread and bread, nice and chilled.

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Any kind of bread or toasts, or even good crackers could be substituted for the naan.

An important thing to note is that this spread must be served at room temperature. If the spread needs to be refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature prior to serving. Flavors are just enhanced at room temperature, plus it makes the spread smoother for spreading on the bread.

note: This post is not a tutorial on smoked salmon. There are so many different varieties of hot- and cold-smoked salmon, and their resulting textures are very different. Then there’s lox and gravlax, which are also different. Just taste them all and figure out which ones suit different purposes, because they all have a place.

White Bean Mash

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A friend of mine gave me a lovely bag of cannellini beans for Christmas, one of many items in a gourmet gift basket, and I decided right after New Year’s to cook them up.

I did them in a rather basic way, with the common aromatics plus lots of parsley. No specific flavors happening – certainly nothing Mexican- or Southwestern-inspired.

But then I decided to process the cooked white beans into a mash for a prettier bean presentation. I was actually inspired by my own re-creation of a potato mash topped with salmon that I’d had in Edinborough, Scotland. I posted about it here. If you can mash potatoes, you can certainly mash cooked beans! It’s done all the time with black beans; it’s essentially what I do if I want refried black beans. There’s no frying involved, I simply use a food processor.

So why not mash white beans as well?

So here’s what I did with the cooked white beans. This would also work really well with canned beans, as long as they’re very well drained – I just wanted to use these wonderful cannellini beans from Italy.

1. Here are the cooked white beans. If I’d known I would end up “mashing” the beans, I wouldn’t have included the carrot dice; I would have preferred a whiter bean mash.

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2. Place the desired amount of white beans in the food processor.
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3. Process just a little; there should still be some whole beans.
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4. Scrape down the bowl of the food processor and process a little more with little pulses. You don’t want mushy baby food – there should still be some texture. This would also be a good time to taste the beans and make sure they’re well seasoned.
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5. Fill up one ring mold with the bean mash, and smooth the top.
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6. Slide the mash onto the plate, and remove the ring. Beautiful. But see how you can see the carrots? Mistake. Because the orangey color doesn’t contrast well enough to the smoked salmon. Just a personal color thing for me.

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7. Decorate the mash with strips of smoked salmon, and include a little chopped parsley for color.

8. Then drizzle the concoction with a little good olive oil, and some balsamic vinegar. I also added freshly ground black pepper.

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note: I should mention that the bean mash and the smoked salmon were at room temperature. The bean mash would also have been good with smoked salmon dice incorporated as well, but I don’t think it would have been as pretty.

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verdict: Smashing. My lunch was way better than my husband’s!