To celebrate a BIG birthday of my (vegetarian) husband Julius, we invited 40 friends — some he’s been close to since high school — to a Sunday evening open house.
The menu featured Viana La Place’s Torta di Fungi Porcini and her Salade Russe (luscious potato-vegetable salad in lemon mayonnaise with cornichons and capers); a Marcella Hazen-inspired antipasto with roasted artichokes and peppers, marinated ceci beans and small carrots; Lydia Bastianich’s Poached Fish Salad with Cucumbers; and my Aunt’s Esther’s Fake Smoked Salmon, which is always a hit. And, later, a tower of cupcakes in the colors of FC Barcelona (made to the birthday boy’s specs by the local cupcake shop). The highlight of two-day shopping and cooking project was making a rich egg crust for the mushroom tortas, blind-baked, Julia Child style.
Aunt Esther is no longer with us, alas, but her great, easy recipe, which tastes just like expensive smoked salmon (and which some people might call gravlax), lives on. And for more recipes, please see my “Food from the Garden” page.
Aunt Esther’s Fake Smoked Salmon
1 1/2 lbs salmon filet
1 cup coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp bottled liquid smoke
1 bunch fresh dill
Place half the salt and sugar in the bottom of a glass or Pyrex baking dish. Put salmon on top, skin side down. Place the rest of the salt and sugar on top. Put the whole dish in a plastic bag and seal it. Refrigerate 12-24 hours.
Wash off the salt and sugar. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and rub the liquid smoke into the flesh. Put it back in the dish with half the dill sprigs beneath it and the other half on top. Refrigerate for at least another 12 hours.
To serve, carefully run a sharp knife along the base to remove the skin. Slice fish thinly on the diagonal and present on a bed of dill, garnished with cocktail pumpernickel slices, lemon wedges, capers, chopped onion, or other favorite accompaniments.