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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Misguided Ambition that Tastes Good

After years of setting out to accomplish all kinds of things, it's finally dawned on me why I never actually get anything done.  It's because I'm ambitious.  Yes.  I'm ambitious and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not always good either.

The other day I was talking with my cousin Gloria, who was on her way to spend a couple of weeks in Florida.  We were talking about how, when we're away from home, we always come up with long lists of all the things we're going to do when we get home.  Do we ever actually get any of that stuff done?  No.  probably not, but it always seems like such a good idea when there's no expectation of getting it done promptly.

It's not that I'm lazy.  I get everything I need to do done.  It's just that I'm easily distracted and I get overly ambitious about all the other stuff.  Especially in the kitchen.

Ted recently bought me a Vita Mix blender.  Actually, to call this thing a bender would be a vast understatement.  It's more of a food preparation system.  The Vita Mix could make a smoothie out of rock and bone and as long as you threw in a banana and maybe a couple of berries, it would taste good.  Needless to say, the Vita Mix has created all kinds of new opportunities for me to be ambitious, including my recent foray into making homemade peanut butter.

Making peanut butter pales in comparison to my weeklong project of making gravlax.  Let's face it, if you want gravlax, it's easy enough to purchase.  Why in the world then, did I decide it was a good idea to spend a week curing my own?

Misguided ambition, pure and simple.

I will tell you this, however.  My home cured gravlax was something special.  It was tender and full of flavor.  Maybe what made it taste so delicious was the fact that I made it myself.  Who knows.  Does it matter?  The fact is that it was a special addition to the weekend's breakfasts.

And, after all, we all need to be ambitious once in a while.

Recipe:  Gravlax
(Adapted from Ina Garten)


3 pounds fresh salmon, center cut
1 large bunch of dill, plus 1/4 cup chopped dill for serving
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons white peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds


Cut the salmon in half crosswise and place half the fish skin side down in a deep dish. Wash and shake dry the dill and place it on the fish. Combine the salt, sugar, crushed peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the piece of fish. Place the other half of salmon over the dill, skin side up. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Place a smaller pan on top of the foil and weight it with some heavy cans. Refrigerate the salmon for at least 2 and up to 3 days, turning it every 12 hours and basting it with the liquid that collects.

Lay each piece of salmon flat on a cutting board, remove the bunch of dill, and sprinkle the top with chopped dill. With a long thin slicing knife, slice the salmon in long thin slices as you would for smoked salmon.

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