Since the ongoing signature pre-spring weirdness of February still isn’t showing any signs of letting us off the hook for even a little while, the only way to catch a couple of sunbeams that aren’t immediately chased away by (thunder) storms these days is… to cook them up ourselves.
The first thing that sprang to mind when I started to think about sunny foods was this deliciously zingy cheesecake I often whip up during the Springtime garden-party season just before the heat of Summer hits us, blowing any motivation to gather, cook or eat to bits wrecking-ball-style.
This is a real quick fix and, thanks to the gelatine, it could potentially survive quite some time in the warmth of the great outdoors during an Easter brunch or luxurious Springtime Birthday spread (both tried and tested) – if it wasn’t so irresistibly yumtastic! It never survived long enough to actually test its heat-resistance… So, sunny crowd-pleaser, go!
The Beet, Pastis & Berry Cured Salmon
Now, if you’ve never done something like this before, the idea of curing a piece of salmon yourself might just be a little intimidating but believe me when I say… it does it on its own, and it’s pretty much failsafe if you handle all of the ingredients with care. Plus: It’s an awesome thing to have in your fridge without the cheesecake too! Breakfast rolls, lunchboxes and summery salad dinners immediately come to mind…
Unless you chickened out or are short on time and therefore plan to use your favorite smoked or cured salmon someone else took care of for you, here’s what you need for a 700-800g piece of salmon~
700-800g of High-Quality Salmon, filleted, skin on
200g Sea Salt
200g Brown Sugar
150g Preserved Lingon-/Cowberries plus extra on top
Alt: Blackberries! Drawback: The resulting color-change isn’t as far up the eye-candy-bar… I love using them when I make this as a treat for myself, though~
2 Medium-Sized Pre-Cooked Beets
2 Tbsp Anise Seeds, toasted
1 Small Bunch of Tarragon
Alt: Chervil – at least over here its available a bit longer than tarragon
Opt: a couple of Green and/or Pink Peppercorns
1) Place all of the ingredients, sans the salmon, in a mixing bowl and fold them in on eachother until the grainy mixture is well combined.
2) Pick up about 1/3 of the mix and spread it out on the clingfilm-lined bottom (make sure there’s enough clingfilm hanging over the edged to close up the whole thing once it’s safely tucked inside) of an airtight container just large enough to accommodate the salmon without bunching it up.
3) Gently lay down the salmon on top of the mixture and cover it with the remaining 2/3rds of it.
4) Make absolutely sure every last bit of salmon is completely covered.
5) Wriggle it in a bit, then grab the flaps of clingfilm and tightly close them over and around the cure-covered fish.
6) Pop on the lid, seal it and place the delicious package in the fridge for at least 24 hours – I usually prep this 2-3 days ahead. The curing process will, depending on the thickness of the salmon in front of you, be completed within 18-24 hours but the herbs and spices usually take a bit longer to infuse the whole fillet, so I recommend 30-36 hours for this step.
7) Check on it every 12-16 hours and, if there’s a lot of liquid inside the box, drain off a few spoonfuls.
8) Once you’re about to serve, retrieve the salmon, discard the remains of the brine and rinse the fillet under cold, running water.
9) Pick up the sharpest knife in your collection and slowly and steadily remove the skin before using it to cut the salmon into the thinnest possible slices of yum – don’t forget to make the cheesecake first, though~! Speaking of…
50g Pre-cooked Beet
150g Westphalian Pumpernickel or another grain-laden black bread
½ Tsp each of Salt and freshly cracked Pepper
1 Tsp Aniseeds
1 Lemon, Zest
6 Leaves of Gelatine
50ml Apple Juice
100g Emmental, young Gouda or any other mild and firm-yet-creamy cheese of your choice, finely grated
75g Apple, finely grated and squeezed out and measured (see apple juice)
1 Bunch of Chives, finely chopped
400g Cream Cheese
200g Crème Fraîche/Légère
100-200g Preserved Lingonberries on top
Extra Chives for eye candy
Before we begin with this section of the recipe, have a look at these two shortcuts/problem solvers:
(Cheaty) Individual Servings: skip the “dough” part of the recipe and use dessert rings or mini-springforms smaller than your bread slices. Use their rims or a very sharp knife around the inside of the ring to simply cut out the bread into a perfect fit – line the rings or springforms with baking parchment first, otherwise you’ll have a hard time removing the rings without major squishage later on.
(Cheaty) Bread Problem Solution: if you can’t get/don’t like pumpernickel/majorly grainy black bread, “glue” 2 layers of dark ryes together with a bit of butter in between and the help of a rolling pin. Add a couple of extra bread spices/anise to the creamy filling instead to compensate for the loss in oomph.
If these don’t apply to your chosen way to go, continue with the “regular” recipe~
1) Line a 20-23 DIA springform with a double-layer of clingfilm and lock it into place.
2) If you’ve got your hands on Pumpernickel bread, I’d suggest toasting it before the gig to tickle out its deliciously malty flavors some more.
3) Once it’s cooled off, pop the bread into a food processor along with the beet, salt, pepper and aniseeds. Whizz the lot into a smooth’ish, kind of wet-sand’ish substance.
4) Melt the butter and gently stir it into the proto-dough.
5) Take a quick break from the crumbly bits and place your gelatine leaves in a shallow bowl filled with cold water.
6) Tip the resulting dough into your springform and firmly press it down across the bottom of the form, taking extra care along the rims and smooth out the surface with the back of a spoon or a small palette knife once you’re done. Set the tin aside for the time being.
7) Pour the apple juice into a small pot and gently heat it just enough to make it steam.
8) Squeeze any and all excess water out of the gelatine leaves, grab a spoon and dissolve them in the hot apple juice after taking the pot off the heat.
9) Place a generous pinch each of salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, grated cheese, crème légère, chives, grated apple and lemon zest and stir the mixture until everything is well combined.
10) Transfer 2 tbsp of this mixture into the gelatined juice, whisk the two until the juice-gelatine mix is well incorporated, then transfer this lot back into the cheese mix and, once more, stir the mixture until the newest addition is well incorporated. Don’t rush this bit, you really, really want the gelatine to work its magic all throughout the filling!
11) Once that’s done, pour the creamy mix onto the bread base waiting in your springform. Evenly spread the mixture out in the tin, give it a couple of thwacks on your work surface to pop the occasional air pocket trapped inside and smooth out the surface once you’re satisfied.
12) Place the tin in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
13) Just before serving, dot the surface of the cheesecake with the lingonberries and remaining chives – and generous piles of the aforementioned thin slices of the salmon~!