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Archive for November 13, 2016

GIFT OF THE DAY: Chukar Cherries Snack Packs

Chukar Cherries Snack Pack

Cherry Cluster

[1] Grab-and-go cherry and nut mixes for the person who wants—or should want—better-for-you snacks (photo courtesy Chukar). [2] Cherries on the branch (photo courtesy 2020site.org).

 

If you want to gift someone a better-for-you sweet treat, we recommend these grab-and-go bags of Triple Cherry Nut Mix from Pacific Northwest cherry specialist, Chukar Cherries.

There’s no sugar added; just the national sweetness of dried Bing, Rainier and tart cherries mixed with heart-healthy pistachios and almonds.

A cloth sack with 12 bags of Triple Cherry Nut Mix is $39.95 Get yours here.

There are many other treats at Chukar.com.
 
FUN CHERRY FACTS

Cherry pits have been found in Stone Age caves. Perhaps our earliest ancestors, when not busy trying to run down wooly mammoths, also had an appreciation for the cherry and benefitted its antioxidant properties, including an abundance of vitamins A, B, and C. Perhaps they even enjoyed it with freshly spear-hunted boar or wild fowl.

Their descendants—us—have been known to particularly enjoy cherries with duck and pork dishes, and snack as often as we can on the cherries, fresh or dried.

Russians traditionally sweeten their tea with cherry preserves.

Germans distill cherries into brandy (Kirschwasser).

Iranians mix it into rice.

Many nationalities use cherries in cakes and pies, over ice cream, tossed into salads, skewered as a cocktail garnish, sprinkled over soft cheese, garnish on pancakes, in the center of an indulgent chocolate bonbon, and of course, to make jams and preserves, salsas and relishes.

Then, there are drinkable cherries, from juice to liqueur to wine (cherry fruit wine).

The question isn’t what you can do with cherries—but what you can’t.

 
WHERE DID CHERRIES COME FROM?

The ancestors of today’s domesticated cherry trees originated in the Caucasus Mountains, which extend from southeastern Europe into Eastern Asia, between the Black and the Caspian Seas. They run through modern-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey.

Cherries slowly spread through the Mediterranean and then headed north, but didn’t become widespread in Europe and Britain until the 15th century. By the 17th century, cherries were so popular that English emigrants brought stock to plant orchards in America, along with apples, peaches, pears and plums.

Here’s more about cherries and the different types of cherries.

 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Gravlax

It’s easy to look at gravlax and think it’s smoked salmon. Both have that bright pink-orange color, both are served in thin slices.

The differences: One is smoked over wood, the other is cured in brine; one requires a smoker, the other is cured in the fridge. Another distinction: Gravlax is always cured with fresh dill. Consider it as dill-cured salmon. Another: Gravlax tends to be more pale in color; but the color of smoked salmon varies and depends on factors from farmed vs. wild to diet of the fish.

Our first introduction to gravlax was in college. Invited to a dinner party, we arrived early to help, and were proudly shown the first course: gravlax. It had been cured for three days in the fridge, under a brick!

It looked like smoked salmon, a favorite of ours; but the taste was so much more delicate. Without the infusion of smoke, a more pure salmon quality came through.
 
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GRAVLAX

During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand on the beach above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word gräva/grave, to dig; and lax/laks, salmon.

Today fermentation is no longer used in favor of brining. The salmon is “buried” in a dish in the fridge, in a dry marinade of salt, sugar and dill. In three days, it’s cured. That’s it!

Some people like to add grated beets, to color the gravlax red.

Don’t toss the brine produced during curing: Use it to make a sauce for other seafood recipes.

Beyond salmon, you can use this technique to cure any fatty fish, such as arctic char, black cod/sablefish, butterfish/pompano, Chilean sea bass, Florida pompano and mackerel. For an interesting first course that’s full of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Here’s a list of (fatty vs. lean fish.

RECIPE: HOMEMADE GRAVLAX

Wild salmon is the most delicious, but you can use any salmon, fresh or frozen, with the skin on (but remove any scales and small bones). If frozen, defrost it first, ideally overnight in the fridge.

If you’re concerned about eating raw fish, freeze the salmon before preparing it. This kills any harmful bacteria.

If you want to take this recipe for a test-drive, halve the ingredients. You can also make two half batches, testing different curing times (12 hours versus 48 hours, e.g.).

Ingredients For 10 Three-Ounce Servings

  • 2 pounds salmon (skin on, defrosted if previously frozen)
  • 1 bunch of dill, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • Optional: 2-3 raw beets, grated, for a red color (see photo)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-ground black pepper
  •  
    Variation

    Some recipes add vodka and citrus zest.

    Preparation

    1. MAKE a few cuts in the skin so the marinade will better penetrate.

    2. MIX all ingredients except the salmon in a bowl until you have a gooey paste. Cover each piece of the salmon’s flesh side (not the skin side) with a thick layer of paste. If using two fillets, sandwich them together, flesh-side to flesh-side, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap to keep out any air.

    3. PLACE the salmon on a tray or plate (we used a glass baking dish) and let it marinate for 2-4 hours at room temperature. Then place it in the fridge with a very weight on top of it. If you have a couple of bricks, great: Stick them in plastic bags and use them as weights.

    4. CURE for 12-36 hours, depending on how cured a taste you want. Turn the salmon occasionally.

  • 12-24 hours is a light cure that will yield a very fresh tasting gravlax.
  • 48 hours will yield a gravlax with sharper flavor from the seasonings.
  • Slice off a small piece and taste it. If you want more flavor, rewrap the salmon and put it back in the fridge.
  •  
    5. TO SERVE, wipe off the extra seasoning, rinse the fillets and pat them dry. Using a sharp knife, slice the gravlax vertically, cut into thin slices without getting too close to the skin. Serve it with your choice of ingredients; see the list below.
     
    RECIPE #2: MUSTARD SAUCE FOR GRAVLAX

    You can serve horseradish cream with the gravlax, Swedish mustard sauce, or both.

    We adapted this recipe from Sweden.se.

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
  • 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper*
  • 1 cup olive or other vegetable oil
  • Chopped dill
  •    

    Salmon Fillet

    Gravlax

    Gravlax Plate

    Gravlax Eggs Benedict

    Gravlax Tartine

    Beet-Dyed Gravlax

    [1] Turn this salmon fillet into [2] gravlax (photo #1 courtesy Seabee Salmon; photo #2 courtesy Sweden.se). [3] Gravlax can be served plain or fancy, as in this first course from Eataly | Chicago, or [4] Gravlax Eggs Benedict (photo courtesy Jarlsberg). [5] You can serve a simple open- (or closed-) face sandwich, or an elegant presentation like this one from C Chicago. [6] Beet-dyed gravlax with some of its traditional accompaniments (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco).

     
    Preparation

    1. MIX the mustard, sugar and vinegar together thoroughly; season with salt and fresh-ground pepper.

    2. POUR the oil in a steady, thin stream, stirring constantly. When the sauce reaches a mayonnaise-like consistency, mix in the chopped dill.
     
    ________________
    *The recipe called for white pepper, a popular ingredient in Swedish cooking but not often used by American home cooks. We used black. Peppercorns are the fruit of a vine, Piper nigrum. White pepper is a conventional peppercorn with the black husk removed. While much of the piperine—the compound that gives pungency to the peppercorn—is in the husk, French chefs of yore chose to remove it to avoid black specks in pure white dishes like white sauces and puréed potatoes. Frankly, we like the specks and the extra flavor from the husk, and use black peppercorns universally. Here are the different types of pepper, including pink peppercorns, green peppercorns and dozens of others, none of which is Piper nigrum.

     

    Gravlax With Mustard Sauce

    Horseradish Sauce

    Prepared Horseradish

    [7] Swedish mustard sauce from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [8] Horseradish sauce (photo courtesy Food Network), made with [8] prepared horseradish (photo courtesy Koops).

     

     
    RECIPE #3: HORSERADISH SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons prepared (jarred) horseradish
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Extras virgin olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the sour cream, horseradish and lemon grated horseradish and lemon juice from in a small bowl. Mix well, season with a pinch of salt and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

    2. COVER and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

     
    WAYS TO SERVE GRAVLAX

    Gravlax is a mainstay of the Swedish smorgasbord. You can serve it that way with some of the ingredients below; or use it as you would smoked salmon. Yes, it works on a bagel, a sandwich, a canapé, Salmon Eggs Benedict, etc.

  • Blini or other savory pancakes
  • Capers
  • Crème fraîche
  • Cucumber salad
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Potatoes, boiled and dressed with parsley and/or dill, or in a vinaigrette
  • Radishes, sliced (look for candy-stripe of watermelon radishes)
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Sauerkraut (look for an artisan/probiotic brands)
  • Watercress
  •  
    Plus

  • Lemon wedges
  • Horseradish cream
  • Mustard sauce
  • Rye bread (dark and/or light rye)
  • Optional: unsalted butter
  •  
    Optional: Other Seafood

  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Mackerel gravlax
  • Sardines
  •  

      

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