Gravlax is a beloved staple in Scandinavia and in Jewish households that wouldn’t serve anything else but lox with their bagels and cream cheese. This simple fish curing technique is based on the idea of preserving salmon with a combination of salt and sugar. It’s super easy and only requires a little foresight because curing takes a couple of days.
I hadn’t made homemade gravlax (which involves some dill along with the salt and sugar) but once I saw and tasted a lovely beet-cured version of the dish at French restaurant Zola in downtown Palo Alto, I was hooked. Zola paired the silky, colorful salmon with little cornmeal blini and horseradish cream, which is quite a delicious combo. Naturally, I created my own recipe.
The beauty of this recipe, I discovered, is that the curing process opens up the fish to receive subtle hints of the other ingredients in the cure, like the citrus zest and spices I used. I serve a little salmon topped with a squeeze of lemon on a corn blini with a dollop of horseradish cream (creme fraiche with horseradish and salt) and a garnish of dill.
The salmon is so pretty and delish that it’s great all on its own as well. Or serve it with bagels and cream cheese!
Beet-Cured Salmon Gravlax
2 lb. piece salmon; cut off the thin belly strip and use for another purpose
2-3 medium-sized raw red beets, peeled and quartered
zest of 4 citrus (lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime or desired combination)
5 tablespoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons demerara sugar (or regular sugar)
1.5 T vodka
teaspoon each (or more) freshly ground coriander, fennel, black pepper
1/2 teas. freshly ground allspice (or other spices of your choice)
one lemon (Meyer recommended)
Leave skin on salmon. Don’t forget to cut off thin belly strip. It’s removed because it tends to get salty due to its lack of thickness but if you don’t mind salty, you can leave it on. Make sure salmon is very fresh and is in one piece. Remove pin bones (small needle-nosed pliers work great for this). Grate beets (food processor is easiest/fastest) and mix with other ingredients except for lemon and dill. Spread on both sides and all around salmon, then wrap fish tightly in plastic wrap or foil, put in shallow container that will hold fish and weight down with cans or other weights.
Leave in fridge for two days, turning once or twice. Remove wrapping and quickly rinse off coating under cold water. Pat dry. Slice thinly, leaving skin behind. Should keep for several days wrapped in fridge. Squeeze a little lemon on the fish right before serving to perk up the flavors.
½ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 cup corn kernels, frozen or fresh
1/4 onion, roughly chopped
1 egg beaten
4/5 cup plain Greek yogurt (I recommend Fage), adding milk to make a cup in total
4 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing griddle
Put flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Grind corn kernels and onion to a rough purée in a food processor, then add egg and yogurt/milk, and pulse to mix. Remove from processor and put in bowl. Add flour mixture and stir together until just mixed to make a somewhat thick batter. Stir in 4 tablespoons melted butter. Set aside for 5 minutes. Thin with a little milk if necessary. (Batter may be prepared several hours ahead.)
Cook on a lightly greased griddle on low to medium heat. Make blini small (2 inches wide). Turn when bubbles begin appearing. Pancakes may be cooked in advance and reheated.
To assemble, put a piece of salmon over which you’ve squeezed a little fresh lemon on a blini either over or under the horseradish cream. The fish is so pretty that you want it to show. Garnish with dill.