Cook in the Moment: Gravlax

Gravlax with Rye Bread and Mustard-Dill Sauce (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Remember when I said I was having a Nordic moment in the kitchen, back in the beginning of June? Well, I guess that moment has turned into a full on obsession that led me to making my own gravlax. In case you missed it, check out my step-by-step gravlax tutorial on Food52. Gravlax is a Scandinavian technique for preserving raw salmon with salt, sugar, and other ingredients for flavor. In its simplest form, the cure is salt, sugar, and dill, but you can get creative with spices like juniper, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds, or layer on grated beets for their earthy flavor and magenta color. A few drops of Aquavit or other clear spirit (gin, schnapps) infuses the salmon with a clean, spiced flavor.

There’s no better time to make gravlax at home than summer, since wild Alaskan salmon is in season from May to September. I used two wild Sockeye fillets because it was within my budget (King was out of my price range), and I like the leaner, clean-tasting flesh with its intense red color. After the pin bones are removed from the flesh and the cure is sprinkled over, the salmon goes in the fridge for a couple of days to do it’s thing (cure). Another great part of making gravlax in the heat of summer is you get to stay cool- no oven, no stove, no grill, no heat!

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Squid with Tomatoes and Basil

Grilled Squid with Tomatoes and Basil (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This year more than any other, I’ve been reveling in summer. Time passes so quickly, it’s easy to blink your eyes and realize you’ve let a whole season go by without stopping to enjoy it. I’ve been working hard and playing hard lately. After working through the weekend trying to meet deadlines, I decided to spend an hour this afternoon lying by the pool, just to remind myself it is summer, after all. It’s important to do that, you know. To stop, to slow things down a bit and take a look around, savoring the season. Don’t take it for granted that you’re going to get another summer. Life is so fragile.

Photo above taken by photographer James Anderson

I’ve made a little list of what summer is to me, and I would love for you to share what summer is to you in the comments section.

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Cook in the Moment: Rouille with Frites

Rouille with Frites (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Garlic week at la Domestique has certainly been, well, pungent. I poured through my cookbook collection looking for fresh and interesting recipes with the goal of truly celebrating this stinky bulb in all its glory. Each day the husband arrived home from work to be greeted at the door not by my smiling face, but by the heady aroma of garlic wafting from the kitchen as I tested recipes. This morning I woke up with the taste of garlic still lingering on my palate. You can probably smell me coming a mile away. That’s ok with me. I’ve long ago surrendered to the idea that my perfume is not Chanel No. 5, rather, it’s the story of time spent in my favorite place – the kitchen. Some days it’s garlic, others cinnamon, always memorable and unmistakably me.

It’s almost impossible to imagine NOT cooking with garlic. A crushed garlic clove seems to be the base for just about any savory recipe: soups, stews, pasta sauces, etc. We’re more hesitant to cook recipes calling for raw garlic. Is it because we’ve been turned off by the acidic, bitter flavor of perpetually available garlic in the grocery store? Is it because we’re afraid to be bold, to offend guests with the brashness of raw garlic? Our fear of using aggressive flavors in the kitchen is a metaphor for how we live our lives: trying to be normal, to fit in, to be liked by everyone. In our efforts not to upset the herd we can become blander versions of ourselves, even boring. Listening to The Avett Brothers’ album, Four Thieves Gone, I’m encouraged to live a little bolder when they sing, “Be loud, let your colors show!”

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Cook in the Moment: Shrimp Madras Curry with Raita

Shrimp Madras Curry with Raita & Naan (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This week the husband and I celebrated our birthdays – mine on July 10th, and his on July 11th. The two birthdays meld into one big birthday, and it’s great fun to share the festivities with my best friend. He was born and raised in Ireland, and each year I go on a mission to round up his favorite treats from across the pond. The list includes HP Brown Sauce, Tayto crisps (aka potato chips), Guinness beer, blood sausage (still haven’t found a source for that one), and Madras curry powder. The husband loves curry, whether the powder is sprinkled over hot chips (potato fries) or stirred into a stew. He had barely opened his Irish gift box before I snatched the tin of Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder from his hands and headed into the kitchen.

Madras is a type of curry powder named for the city in southern India where it’s made. The aroma of this burnt mustard colored powder is so intense, I could smell it before even opening the tin. A balance of pungent, herbal, earthy, and sweet spices, Madras is one of the hotter curries. It’s a combination of coriander seed, turmeric, dried red and green chillies, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, anise, and mustard. Take some time to get to know Madras before you go crazy with it. The spice infuses stews with a slowly building heat that may seem puny at first but will have you sweating by the time your plate is clean.

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Cook in the Moment: Apricot Frangipane Tart

Apricot Frangipane Tart (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

My favorite part of a meal shared with friends is that magical moment when the dinner plates have been cleared and the table is littered with empty wine bottles and wrinkled cloth napkins. It’s time for dessert! The husband makes a round of coffees and I dig up a bottle of brandy or maybe a tawny port. The tone of conversation at the table changes as we run out of chit chat. It shifts to talk of dreams, worries, and  plans for the future. We listen and share. Time seems to slow down. Though we’re all tired and full, none of us wants the night to end. I grab a stack of dessert plates and everyone gets a slice of Apricot Frangipane Tart. The room is quiet as we savor this sweet end to the meal. It’s a cakey tart with a baked almond batter and a buttery crust. The apricots are a surprise, hidden under the deep-brown caramelized surface. Discovered upon first bite, the tart and juicy fruit is a delight, a reminder that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

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