Being of Greek descent, I adore Greece’s national liqueur Ouzo. Sipping it slowly with a simple meze might be traditional, but today, I’d like to break that tradition and up the ante slightly by “cooking” with it. Ouzo Cured Salmon, or gravlax, is on the menu today, and I’m providing a little twist on how to best enjoy it.
There’s just something intoxicating about the flavour and aroma of licorice that makes my senses seem more alert. The long strands of licorice sold at the corner shop were always my first choice when choosing lollies or candy. When my taste buds discovered fennel, I thought I had hit the foodie jackpot! It cools me down in the summer as I enjoy it sliced raw with a little lemon juice, and in winter, I enjoy it roasted. So once I discovered Ouzo, an anise flavored liqueur, I just knew that it would play a part in my future kitchen endeavours.
When cooking with Ouzo, I look for similar, harmonious flavours. I’m after balance without overdoing any particular ingredient. There’s fennel and dill in this recipe, which pair perfectly, as well as a little lemon zest and juice for fragrance and tang. Dried chili flakes add a subtle heat, and for a little earthiness, I’ve finished it off with toasted ground allspice. To serve it up, I’ve gone all “New York” and put it in a bagel with some whipped feta cheese. Different? Yes! And absolutely delicious! The feta is whipped with some cream cheese, a little dill and some lemon juice to make this delightful snack the star of any buffet table.
Ouzo Cured Salmon
Tools: deep baking dish, casserole dish (or other heavy object to act as a weight)
For the Ouzo Cured Salmon
1 pound salmon, skin on one side and bones removed
1 tbsp (15 ml) allspice, toasted in a hot pan, cooled and ground
1 tbsp (15 ml) fennel seeds, toasted in a hot pan, cooled and ground
1 tsp (5 ml) ground chili flakes
a pinch of ground black pepper
3 tbsp (45 ml) coarse sea salt
3 tbsp (45 ml) white sugar
2 tbsp chopped dill
juice of half a lemon
zest from one whole lemon
1/4 cup (60 ml) ouzo
For the Whipped Feta
2 oz (60 ml) feta cheese
2 oz (60 ml) cream cheese
1 tbsp (15 ml) chopped dill
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
1. Take a deep dish and cover with plastic wrap, ensuring there is an excess amount to wrap the salmon.
2. Place the salmon, skin side down into the dish with the plastic wrap. Mix all the remaining curing ingredients and pour over the salmon. Massage well into the fish.
3. Wrap with the excess plastic wrap and secure tightly. Place in the fridge weighted down with a heavy object (I used a spare small casserole dish). Leave to cure in the fridge for a minimum of 48 hours.
4. When curing is finished, remove the salmon and rinse under a cold tap. Pat dry with paper towels and slice thinly to serve.
5. To make the whipped feta, combine the ingredients in a food processor or mash with a fork.
6. Serve thinly sliced cured salmon with whipped feta on your favorite bagel.