Did I tell you my big news? It's a bit colder, but also kinda steamy, with beer and brats mixed in. You guessed it yet?
If you found yourself thinking "Madison, Wisconsin," you would be correct! If you thought "crazy cool camping trip in the North Cascades," you would be, sadly, quite awrong. As many of you may know, I hail from Michigan and my a-little-bit-less-than-quarter-life crisis involved me moving out to Seattle on a relative whim. I only visited the city once before moving here but the mountains, water and 50 to 75 degree no-humidity days did me in. I was hooked. I love Seattle more than any city I have ever lived in, made some life-long friends and know how successfully navigate from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne during rush hour without hitting a lick of traffic.
I'll miss Seattle and see myself coming back here a few times a year, but I love adventures and Madison is a new one. What's crazier is that I have never been to Madison. I am actually moving to a city I have never seen. With a guy. If you thought I went bonkers before you don't know what's coming. "A" accepted a job as a hydrogeologist with the USGS, my internship at Edelman ended and the timing stars aligned.
So friends, readers, anyone in the Universe… as I have never been to Madison, I also don't know anyone there. If you want to meet up for coffee (Seattle got me hooked), just know this, I make a mean cookie. Who wants to hang out? I'll be the one with the curly red hair and box of friendship cookies. And maybe some of that salmon below.
But you don't want to hear about me pleading for a friend date and my 2,000 mile move back to the Midwest. You came here for the food, dangit! I think I have mentioned before that "A" is half Swedish (half German), translating to we eat lots of berries, pancakes and fish. But we wanted to dive into Swedish food a bit further and make our own gravlax, i.e. Swedish cured salmon.
Pretty much since the dawn of dating him, he has told me about the little-used bottle of Aquavit in his freezer and an urge to cure his own salmon. That's basically how he wooed me. The gravlax itself is quite easy to put together with the most time consuming segment being mixing the spices together… and I guess that whole "curing" part too. To make things bit easier, when I went to the market to buy salmon, I told the fish monger exactly what I was planning on doing and he gave me two one-pound sections that fit together. If you don't have access to a monger, I recommend buying two equally sized tail cuts (no bones!) that fit nicely together.
I'll just leave with with the recipe as I now have peanut butter all over my keyboard (lunch fail) and have a bit of scrubbing to do.
Spicy Gravlax with Aquavit
Adapted from Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad
- 2 one-pound salmon fillets, skin-on
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 2 teaspoons aniseed
- 5 juniper berries (India Tree makes some dried juniper berries that should be available at most markets)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons Aquavit
- Rinse the fillets in cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Crush the caraway seeds, aniseed, juniper berries, red pepper flakes and black peppercorns using a mortar and pestle. Or place the spices on a cutting board or other hard surface and crush them with the underside of a heavy skillet. Combine with the salt, sugar, and dill.
- Place one of the fillets skin side down in a deep dish just big enough to hold the fillets. Rub the fillet with half the spice and dill mixture. Rub the other fillet with the mixture and place it skin side up on top of the first.
- Pour the aquavit on top, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and place a heavy weight, such as two heavy plates or a saucepan, on top of the fish. Refrigerate for three to four days, turning the fish every 12 hours and basting it with the brine that accumulates in the dish.
- To serve, dust off some of the spices and slice the fish into thin slices with a sharp thin knife. The flesh from the tail will be leaner than the flesh from the belly. Serve with mustard sauce and dark rye bread, for open-faced sandwiches - see pictures for picnicking proof!