Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mango (or Pineapple) Pork (or Chicken)

This recipe has gone through many iterations over the years and has now evolved as one of those either/or recipes that you can fix one of several ways. At our house, Hubby is very fond of mango and he loves this made with pork. But it can be made with chicken as well.

Adding to the flexibility of the recipe is the fact that you can use mango juice or pineapple juice or a combination of the two. In fact, there are several tropical juices that would work well, including passion fruit juice…it works best with high acidity juices, although I don’t recommend citrus juices.

The meat in this dish is braised, a way of cooking the meat with moisture to prevent it from drying out, a common complaint with pork chops and chicken breasts. This keeps pork chops (or a pork loin) and chicken breasts moist and juicy while infusing them with the flavour of the cooking liquid. At the end of the preparation, you cook down the liquid to create a sauce to pour over the meat and which can be used on accompanying rice or potatoes.

It’s a low maintenance dish, meaning you can let it simmer on the back of the stove while you prepare the rest of the meal. This is a household favourite!

Mango Pork/Pineapple Chicken

4 lean, boneless pork loin chops (or four deboned chicken breasts) (I use pork chops)
1 tbsp olive oil
½ onion finely chopped
3 roasted garlic cloves, mashed
1 cup mango, pineapple, and/or passion fruit (granadilla) juice (I use mango)
½ cup white wine
1 tsp pulverized or finely grated fresh ginger
¼ to ½ tsp chili powder
1 to 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Salt to taste

Trim all fat from edges of pork.

Heat oil in bottom of heavy skillet (make sure this skillet has a well-fitted lid).

Sauté onions until soft. Move the onions to the side of the pan and add the meat. Cook on high heat, searing the meat to seal in the juices. Using tongs, turn the meat and also sear the sides.

Once meat is seared, add remaining ingredients. Bring to a full boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, turn meat and cook another 10. Now pierce meat with fork and watch for juices…if they are clear, meat is done. If they are pink, cover and cook another 10 minutes.

Remove meat to heated plate and turn fire up full. Stir pan juices constantly and allow the liquid to boil off until juices become thick and sticky. Pour over meat and serve.

Photo by Ninjapoodle, Flickr

Egg Flower Soup

If you are looking for something light and delicious but easy to prepare, this is the choice for you. This soup makes a great appetizer, it goes well with a sandwich for lunch, and is even a great dish to serve someone in bed with a cold. There are abundant variations, as well, so you can make the soup as delicate or as hearty as your needs demand.

Left over and microwaved the next day in a mug, it makes an excellent alternative to coffee as a hot drink during your breaks at work.

Egg Flower Soup

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, consommé or boullion
1 fresh egg
¼ tsp dried parsley flakes

Break egg into measuring cup (with spout). Whisk egg thoroughly.

Bring parsley and broth to the boil on the stove. As the soup boils, whisk it vigorously with one hand while slowly pouring the egg into the boiling soup.

Turn off heat immediately (overcooking will make the egg bits rubbery) and serve.

Add 1 tbsp grated carrot to boiling broth, cook for 5 minutes, then whisk in egg
Add 1 tbsp minced chicken to boiling broth, cook for 5 minutes, then whisk in egg
Add 1 tsp thinly sliced green onion tops to boiling broth, cook for 5 minutes, then whisk in egg
Add ¼ tsp garlic powder to boiling broth, cook for 5 minutes, then whisk in egg
Add ⅓ cup thinly sliced cabbage to boiling broth, cook for 5 minutes, then whisk in egg
Add ¼ cup fresh bean sprouts to boiling broth, cook for 5 minutes, then whisk in egg

Pinch of onion sprouts
Sliced fresh green onion tops
Chopped parsley or other herb
Carrot curls
Cheese curls
Small dollop of plain yoghurt
Float a thin slice of avocado on top

Photo by noonch, Flickr

Monday, July 27, 2009

Steak Soup

Something for the guys…if you like steak then this soup will doubtless appeal to you. And if you are watching your calories, this can be an especially good choice for a meal.

The trick is to grill an extra steak the next time you bbq (braai). It doesn’t have to be a big steak, but you do need to make sure it has plenty of char on the outside, and don’t baste or season it with anything. Just a piece of your favourite steak thrown on the grill and fired up very nicely. You can refrigerate the cooked meat up to three days or freeze it for up to 6 months and still get that delicious grilled steak flavour in the soup. Leftover soup microwaves well, so it is great for lunches the next day. It also freezes very nicely.

Scrumptious Steak Soup

Up to ½ lb (250 g) grilled steak of your choice…the more char the better
1 tbsp olive oil
One onion, cut coarsely
1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
3 (or more) garlic cloves, crushed (roasted garlic is excellent here)
2 tsp dried mixed herbs or 1 bouquet garni
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup brown or portobellini mushrooms, sliced
4 large ribs celery, including the tops and leaves, sliced across the grain
1 cup red wine
1 can crushed tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or beef stock
4 carrots, cut bite sized
1 cup turnips, scrubbed and cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
½ cabbage, cut into 1” chunks
Your choice of starch (optional…omit to keep calorie count down)
---1 cup cooked and rinsed rice
---4 med potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces
---1 cup small pasta, cooked and rinsed
Salt if necessary (stock will have salt in it)

Trim fat away from meat and cut away from bone. Remove any gristle or inedible bits. Cut meat into small pieces, no larger than ½ inch cubes.

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a very deep pot and add onion and meat. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, until onion begins to caramelize and turn brown. Reduce heat and add garlic, mushrooms, celery, mixed herbs (do not add bouquet garni here, add it after the liquid is in the pot), cumin and bell pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until celery slices begin to soften.

Add wine, stock, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add carrots (and potatoes if using them) and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, then add cabbage and turnips. Remove cover and allow to cook for another half hour. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Just before serving, add rice or pasta, if using them, cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes for rice/pasta to heat up.

Serve with a bit of grated Parmesan or Roman cheese, garnish with fresh parsley or sprig of celery leaf

Photos by TomHarpel and Wordridden, Flickr

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Potato Pancakes

This is a savoury dish that gives you some variety in your potato side dish at dinner. It’s also a lovely accompaniment to a breakfast, particularly with a fried egg perched on top of the potato pancake.

Potato Pancakes
4 large potatoes, peeled
½ cup milk
1 onion, minced fine
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp minced parsley (optional)
⅓ cup flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp butter

Grate potatoes coarsely. Place in a bowl and cover with milk. Refrigerate for 2 or more hours.

Remove potatoes from fridge, pour off and discard milk. Add onion, egg, parsley and salt and mix. Sprinkle with flour and mix gently to distribute flour throughout.

Melt butter in bottom of heavy skillet.

Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ⅓ cup of mixture and place mixture in hot butter. Flatten to ¼” with spatula and fry until golden on one side. Flip and fry second side until golden, drain on paper towels and serve More than one pancake can be cooked at a time in the skillet, if it is large enough. Add butter to pan as needed.

Photo by ScottFeldstein, Flickr

Friday, July 24, 2009

Luscious Lamb

I don’t think most Americans eat lamb that often. I know that it was never served at the table when I was growing up, and as an adult, I prepared and served it perhaps a half dozen times in my life before moving to South Africa. South Africans love lamb and will eat it cooked in just about any way you can imagine. I, however, find it rather greasy and gamey and that put me off…until I discovered mint jelly.

Now, ordinarily I detest any kind of sweetness with meat. I can’t even stand a little pancake syrup meeting up with my sausages or bacon, so I have my pancakes on a separate plate to prevent any chance of the twain meeting. But mint jelly is somehow different…there is something about it that counterbalances the lamb’s gaminess and cuts the greasiness, all without masking the essential taste of the lamb. It’s genius…and delicious, too.

Lamb is actually a rather delicately flavoured meat and easily overwhelmed by strongly flavoured side dishes like broccoli. I like to serve it with steamed asparagus (dressed with a little lemon butter) and baked or roasted potatoes. My husband, who grew up eating both lamb and mutton (ew! gross!) grins broadly when I announce that we are having lamb for dinner, so it looks like I have mastered this one!

Luscious Roasted Lamb, Leg or Rack

1 kg (2 lb) deboned leg of lamb (or rack of lamb)
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup fresh chopped rosemary
1 tbsp minced or crushed garlic
Mint jelly

Early in the day, mix olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Place lamb on a sheet of plastic wrap, slather with oil mixture, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Remove lamb an hour before cooking and allow to come to room temperature (or near to it).

Preheat oven to 325F. Spray roasting rack with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Remove lamb from plastic wrap and place on roasting rack, fat side up. Insert meat thermometer in thickest part of roast, positioned for easy reading.

Place in centre of oven and roast for 1 hour. Check thermometer for doneness: 140F is medium rare. Because you will allow the roast to “rest” for five minutes before you carve it and it will continue to cook during that time, remove the roast when it is about 5 degrees cooler than the temperature you wish to serve it. If the roast is not yet done enough, return to the oven, checking every 10 minutes until desired doneness is achieved.

Because you will have your oven hot, this is a good time to roast some garlic or bake potatoes, using energy and the oven’s heat more efficiently.

Allow lamb to rest for 5 minutes before carving and serve with mint jelly on the side.

Photo by freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monkey Bones (Peanut butter dog biscuits)

There is little that dogs like more than peanut butter. I once had a dog that loved all things peanutty so much we used to call her “Monkey.” I spread some on her favourite bone-shaped dog biscuit one day and she was over the moon…it became her favourite treat. But spreading peanut butter on dog biscuits can get tiresome after a while, so I fiddled around until I came up with some homemade dog biscuits with peanut butter right in the mix, and Monkey Bones were born. If your dog loves peanut butter, too, what can be better than peanut butter dog cookies made by your own hands? Healthy ingredients, no preservatives, and the perfect gift for your favourite pup!

And for the pooch that is always sniffing at your chocolate bars…we all know chocolate is toxic to dogs but our little doggie darlings don’t…you can add carob chips. Carob tastes like chocolate but is safe for dogs. Try these for your favourite dog and don’t be surprised if you have to make a second batch right away!

Monkey Bones
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup oatmeal
⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ peanut oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup water
½ cup carob chips (optional)

Set oven to 325F.

Mix all ingredients except carob chips together to form a dough. Turn out onto floured board and roll about ¼ inch thick. Cut with bone-shaped cookie cutter or into strips 1” wide by 2 ½ inches long.

Place on ungreased baking sheet and stud cookies with a few carob chips. Bake at 325F for 15 - 20 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cookies in oven until cooled. Store in airtight container.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yankee Pot Roast

I lived in New England for a few years and I learned a lot of good recipes there. I was young and poor at the time, so fancy recipes weren’t exactly my cup of tea…solid, nutritious food that didn’t put much of a dent in my pocketbook was the order of the day.

Among the recipes I learned that were filling, nourishing and inexpensive was the good old pot roast. Cheap meat is often tough, but cooked slowly for a sufficient length of time, the meat turns tender and succulent. Add inexpensive winter vegetables and the right combination of seasonings and you have a deliciously thrifty meal! If saving money isn’t one of your objectives, you can use more costly veg, better cuts of meat and a finer wine, but the frugal recipe below tastes so good, it really isn’t necessary.

This is a particularly easy recipe to prepare. Unlike most pot roast recipes, this one is prepared in the oven and requires no monitoring to make sure the liquid hasn’t boiled away, burning the contents of the pot. Inexpensive, delicious and easy, too…what could be better?

Yankee Pot Roast

2 lbs (1 kg) chuck roast
6 large carrots
6 large potatoes
2 medium onions
2-4 garlic cloves, minced or put through garlic press
3 ribs of celery (optional)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 cup Knorr Brown Roux granules (optional)
¼ cup mixed dried herbs
2 cups cheap red wine (or vegetable stock)
Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste

Set oven to 325F. Prepare a 13” x 9” x 3” baking pan by lining with a piece of foil large enough to line the bottom of the pan and extend enough to fold over and seal the dish.

Sprinkle Roux granules on bottom of pan and spread out. Centre meat on top.

Cut carrots into sticks approximately 3 inches long. Split the thickest pieces. Cut potatoes into chunks no bigger than 3 inches square. Peel onions and cut into eighths. Slice mushrooms thinly. Cut celery into sticks approximately 3 inches long. Split the widest pieces.

Arrange onion and vegetables around the meat and dot surface with garlic. Shake 5 to 10 shakes of Worcestershire sauce over the surface, pour in red wine/stock, then sprinkle with dried herbs. Salt to taste.

Fold foil down to cover and seal the dish. Put in 325F oven and cook for 2.5 hours.

Test for doneness: remove from oven and carefully open foil. Pierce the meat with the tines of a fork and twist. If the meat flakes easily and comes away, it is ready. If the meat does not flake when the fork is twisted, fold down the foil and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Repeat this test until the meat is tender.

Serving: Remove the meat to a warmed platter and surround with vegetables. If you used the Roux, you will have a gravy in the bottom of the cooking pan: pour it into a gravy boat and serve with the meat and veg. If you did not use the Roux, pour the liquid into a shallow pan, bring to a boil, and make gravy the way you usually do.

This is excellent with biscuits, which can bake in the already heated oven while you are plating the roast and vegetables and making the gravy.

Photo by uberculture, flickr

Friday, July 10, 2009

Shrimp Creole is King!

I discovered this dish when I was 14 years old. My boyfriend took me to a family dinner and his grandmother was visiting from Louisiana. Out in the kitchen was a pot of the most fragrant red tomato sauce…not at all Italian in scent…and beside the stove was the biggest heap of shrimp I had ever seen. I was handed an apron and a bowl of shrimp and quickly initiated into the rites of peeling and deveining shrimp…and the kitchen camaraderie of women.

The finished dish was delicious…that was back in the days that I could eat bell peppers without distress…and the spiciness was not quite enough to make me sniffle, but enough to make my lips tingle. You can adjust the spiciness to be whatever you want, but I still like it this way. Hats off to Grandma Smith and the fabulous Shrimp Creole that inspired my version of it, below.

Shrimp Creole

2tbsp oil
1 cup fresh or frozen okra, sliced (discard tips)
1 cup fresh celery, sliced across the ribs
1 cup fresh onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through garlic press
1 bell pepper (green) seeded and chopped coarsely (optional)
¼ tsp (or more) chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
3 14oz (410g) cans crushed tomatoes
2 tomato cans of water
1 cup white wine
Liquid pepper sauce
Salt to taste
1 lb (500g) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup raw white rice

Heat oil in bottom of deep pot. Sauté onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, okra and seasonings until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, water, wine and liquid pepper sauce (3 shakes of bottle for mild…more if you can stand it!). Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly as liquid reduces by half.

Begin cooking rice according to package directions.

Taste sauce and add salt as needed. When tomatoes have lost their bright redness and the sauce no longer smells primarily of tomatoes, continue cooking until your desired thickness is achieved. At that point, turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and stir to cover shrimp with the hot sauce. The residual heat will cook the shrimp without toughening them.

Spoon a bed of rice into a shallow bowl or deep plate and make a bit of a hollow in the centre. Fill hollow with Shrimp Creole and garnish with a sprig of celery leaf.

Photo by tvol, flickr

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jambalaya! Oh me oh my oh!

This delicious, spicy rice dish has been recently added to my repertoire. Jambalaya, a Creole and Cajun dish, is thought to be a New World version of the Spanish dish, paella. Before America acquired the Louisiana Territory from France in 1806, it had belonged to Spain, so foods of both French and Spanish heritage evolved there.

In Cajun cooking there exists something called “The Trinity.” It consists of onion, garlic and bell (green or red) peppers, chopped and sautéed together and used as a base for a dish. I have difficulty with bell pepper (I like it, but it doesn’t like me) so I omit it. But it is included in the recipe to add to its authenticity. The proper sausage to use in Jambalaya is andouille (pronounced ahn DWEE), but it can be difficult to locate. When he couldn’t find andouille, my late husband used to make a killer Jambalaya using kielbasa or chorizo, but you can use milder sausages if you prefer…spicy does not have to be synonymous with hot!

My thanks to IndigoWrath for the recipe I used as a base for the following dish, a meal that my husband pronounced a “winner” and requested for dinner a second night in a row!

Jambalaya Ingredients:
¼ cup butter
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 celery sticks, sliced thin across the grain
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
½ lb sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp Cajun Spice Mixture (if you can’t buy a Cajun spice mix, add the following)
--½ tsp ground cumin
--¼ tsp red chili powder
--¼ tsp ground black pepper
3 shakes red pepper sauce (more if you like it spicy)
1 cup long grained rice (Basmati rice works well)
1 14oz can of chopped tomatoes, including liquid
1 cup vegetable stock, white or rose wine
1 cup water
¾ cup fresh carrots, cut small
2 smoked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ lb fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
½ cup frozen baby peas
Coarsely ground sea salt to taste

In bottom of deep pan, melt butter and sauté onion, garlic, peppers, celery and spices. Add chicken and sausage and cook until sausage is browned. Add rice and stir around to fully coat rice with butter.

Add tomatoes, stock/wine, and water, cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add carrots. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until rice has absorbed all of the liquid.

Turn off heat, taste and salt as necessary. Add shrimp and peas, stir to cover shrimp with rice. Cover and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes…the residual heat in the rice will cook the shrimp without toughening it.

Serve with crusty French bread and garlic butter.

Photo by The Marmot, Flickr

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Caprese Salad or Sandwich

If it is summer in your part of the world, fresh vine ripened tomatoes are part of your reality. And there is nothing I like better for a summer salad than a fresh Caprese salad.

This is amazingly simply to prepare and delicious beyond description. Just think…fresh tomatoes bursting with sun-ripened flavour…fragrant fresh basil…smooth, flavourful Italian cheeses…the piquant bite of balsamic vinegar…is your mouth watering yet?

The interesting thing about this salad is that it also makes a great sandwich! See the variations at the end for details!

Caprese Salad

2 large or 4 small fresh ripe tomatoes, chilled
1 sweet onion, (Vidalia or Maui are best) cut in paper thin slices (optional)
1 cup of fresh basil leaves, uncut
8 slices white Italian cheese (fresh, soft mozzarella is divine, but Provolone is great!)
½ cup balsamic glaze or the dressing below
Salt to taste

Select the four largest basil leaves and make a chiffonade*. Set aside for the garnish.

Wash tomatoes and slice into generous slices. Select the best 8 slices for the salad.

Slice the cheese into 8 slices. If using fresh mozzarella, make the slices thickish.

Bruise the basil.

There are two ways to assemble the salad.

Method 1
Cut all ingredients into quarters, then place in a salad bowl and toss with dressing (below).

Method 2
Place a piece of cheese on a plate and slice of tomato on top of it; salt the tomato to taste. Push the centre section out of an onion slice and place on top of the tomato slice. Put a few bruised basil leaves on top and drizzle with balsamic glaze or dressing. Garnish with a bit of the chiffonade. These little stacks can be arranged individually on a plate or arranged to overlap each other (like crackers on a cheese plate). If overlapping into a row or ring, add glaze or dressing at the end, then garnish.

* chiffonade: select four or more large basil leaves and stack one on top of the other. Starting at the pointed end, roll the stack of leaves toward the stem end, like a cigar. Using a sharp knife, diagonally slice the tube into thin ribbons.

In a bowl whisk together ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic or wine vinegar, ½ tsp dried Italian seasoning. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer, then whisk again and immediately pour over the salad.

Caprese Sandwich:

1 panini roll or small baguette, split lengthwise, or slices of sour dough bread.
1 large tomato, sliced
2 slices white Italian cheese (recommend Provolone)
1 paper-thin slice of sweet onion (optional)
6 large fresh basil leaves, bruised
1 tbsp balsamic glaze (or vinegar)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

Whisk oil and balsamic glaze together. Brush half of it on the cut side of the bottom piece or bread.

Put cheese on bread, followed by onion, and tomato slices. Salt to taste, then brush on remaining oil mixture. Top with basil leaves and top slice of bread.

Photos by cyancey and aokettun, Flickr

Saturday, July 4, 2009

French Onion Soup

My late husband’s mother was born and raised in Paris and did not come to America until she was in her mid-twenties. While I was not impressed with a lot of her cooking, she did have a few dishes that were so good, they were practically a religious experience to eat…and this very authentic French onion soup was one of them!

French Onion Soup
(serves 8)

4 large yellow or brown onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (not margarine)
6 cups beef or vegetable consommé/broth
½ cup paper thin mushroom slices (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley (optional)
Salt to taste
1 baguette, sliced into 10 pieces (discard the end bits and keep 8 pieces)
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (any Swiss cheese will do, but smoked Gruyere is best)

Peel and cut onions as shown in photo or into thin (⅛ inch) slices to make rings.

Heat butter and oil in bottom of deep pot. Add onion and cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until onions are limp and caramelized. Immediately add garlic and mushrooms and cook for 1 more minute, then add broth. Bring to rolling boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste soup and add parsley and salt. Simmer another 30 minutes and taste again, adjusting salt if necessary.

Heat top element of oven (turn on broiler, if gas) and set oven rack near the top.

Prepare a baking sheet, preferably one with turned up edges, by spraying with cooking spray.

Ladle onion soup into 8 ovenproof dishes or ramekins and place ramekins on baking sheet.

Float a slice of baguette on top of each ramekin, then cover with cheese.

Place baking sheet and ramekins in oven and broil until cheese melts and browns.

Remove from oven and serve hot…remember to use oven mitts to handle the ramekins!

Photos by Lukekb, Flickr

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gravlax, Sweet or Salty

Gravlax is a dish that has reached cult status as a gourmet appetizer. But its origins are humble, as was my introduction to it.

Pronounced “GRAH vlox,” the word is a shortened form of the original Swedish word for “buried salmon.” There is some dispute as to whether that refers to the salmon being buried in the earth to ferment (like pemmican) or if it simply refers to the salmon being buried in a salt-and sugar mixture. Whichever it refers to, my grandmother simply called it “cured salmon” to differentiate it from the kipper-like smoked salmon she made in the little smokehouse out back, and I didn’t realize our humble cured salmon had another name…or had moved up the social ladder…until I saw a chef preparing it on TV on Cooking at the Academy.

If you can find gravlax at a gourmet boutique deli, you are going to pay through the nose for it. But you can have not only gravlax but an endless array of epicurean variations, all for little more than the price of the raw salmon itself, if you just follow the recipes below!

Gravlax (Base recipe)
1 salmon fillet, skin on (buy the tail end to save money)
1 oz (shot) good quality vodka or aquavit
For sweet gravlax: 2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup salt
For salty gravlax: 1 cup granulated white sugar
2 cups salt

Fresh salmon can have parasites, most notably roundworms. To make sure your salmon is free of them, use only commercially frozen salmon or freeze your fresh salmon to at least -10°F (-23°C) for seven days or longer. Freezing kills any parasites that might be in your fish Make sure you thaw the salmon completely before you begin.

Check the salmon for bones both by sight and by touch. If you find any bones, they can be pulled out with needle-nosed pliers. Drape the salmon filet over your hand like a towel, cut side up. This will force the tips of the bones stick up, making it easier for you to grab them with the pliers.

Mix the salt and sugar together. Pour half of the mixture in the bottom of a glass or ceramic dish large enough for the entire piece of salmon to flat in. Add the vodka and spread the mixture out evenly to cover the bottom of the dish.

Lay out the salmon, skin side down, on top of the salt/sugar mixture and cover with the remainder. Make sure the entire salmon is fully covered with the mixture.

Cover the mixture and salmon with a sheet of plastic wrap, pressing it down to cover the entire contents of the dish. Place several heavy objects on top of the plastic to press down on the salmon (I use large cans of tomatoes or fruit). Place in refrigerator.

Wait 24 hours and remove from refrigerator. Remove cans and plastic wrap and set aside. Gently pour accumulated fluid down the drain, turn the salmon to show the skin side, and make sure the salmon is packed, top and bottom, with the salt/sugar mixture. Cover with plastic, add cans, and return to the refrigerator.

After another 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator. Rinse the fish under running water and pat dry with a paper towel and place on a wood cutting board.

Starting at the narrowest end of the fish, slice paper thin at a 45° angle, lifting the slices away from the skin.

Serve with mild cheeses like mascarpone or cream cheese, chopped fresh herbs, and textured breads like pumpernickel or rye, or coarse crackers, and thin lemon wedges.

Instead of plain vodka, use one of the following:
Your favourite flavoured vodka
A spicy gin (like Bombay Sapphire)

In addition to the vodka, add one of the following:
¼ cup beet juice
¼ cup cranberry juice

After placing the salt/sugar mixture on top of the salmon, put one of the following on top and then cover with plastic wrap:
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
½ cup coarsely chopped dill
¼ cup thin strips of lemon and/or orange peel
¼ cup thin slices of fresh ginger
½ cup fresh herbs, chopped

Photo by Bruce_Lee, Flickr