by Kate Heyhoe
Yikes! Christmas weekend looms on the horizon, and guess what? After the presents are opened (including the ones you bought on Thursday at the 11th hour), you can sit back and relax. After December 25th, the pressure's over folks!
Make the most of your holiday times with friends and family by taking just 15 minutes now to prepare a Swedish delicacy—salmon gravlax—that can be enjoyed the entire Christmas weekend. It's easy! In fact, when I first made it I was shocked by two things: 1) how incredibly simple it is to prepare, and 2) how amazingly wonderful it tastes. And it's worth making a lot as it will last as long as 2 weeks refrigerated, if your family doesn't devour it instantly.
Fond of cold smoked salmon or lox? This salmon is cured differently, but the results are equally as spectacular—and the vivid color of salmon on a holiday platter adds glamour to a festive table. Essentially, you make gravlax by coating whole salmon fillets with salt, sugar and fresh herbs, then weighting the fish down and refrigerating for two or three days until cured. When ready, the fish is not salty, it's not dry, it's not raw—it's just a delicate sliver of heaven.
On Christmas Eve or Day, present the gravlax first on a decorative platter, then nosh on it a slice at a time after the presents are unwrapped until all gone—you can even reserve some for a New Year's Eve appetizer or midnight breakfast. To give you and idea of how versatile gravlax is, I'll be serving it (thinly sliced) this Christmas in all of these ways:
Here's the recipe: Kate's Holiday Salmon Gravlax
Cooking classes: Many cookware stores offer cooking classes, ranging from $25 to $70 per session. You can sign up your favorite cook for Thai cooking lessons, knife sharpening tutorials, cooking with herbs, breadmaking, and any number of exciting topics, usually taught by well-known cookbook authors. Not sure which topics to sign up for? Do the smart thing: pick up a schedule of classes and let your gift recipient decide.
Magazine and newsletter subscriptions: For the really last-minute gift, stop at a diversified newsstand and pick up a cooking magazine—wrap it up with a note that says "A 1-year subscription for you!" (Giving the gift before actually ordering the subscription also allows you to confirm your friend isn't already a subscriber.) Look for some of the more obscure or specialized magazines, like Pastry Arts and Letters, Art Culinaire, or August Home's Cuisine. You won't find cooking newsletters on newsstands, but some are quite unique and down-to-earth.
Cookbooks: You can never go wrong giving a dedicated foodie a new cookbook. For ideas of recent cookbooks to hit the shelves, check out our Cookbook Profiles and Special Features collection.
Small appliances: Department stores give great bargains this time of year on small appliances. I recommend a new product on the market this year: the Braun Multiquick Handblender (around $30). It whips, purées, chops and does all the same things as their basic handblender, but this one has dishwasher-safe pieces, including a wire whisk. Think about automatic rice cookers too. Japanese and Chinese markets sell some of the best, and with the emphasis on more grains and quick, easy cooking, a rice cooker fits the bill great. I use mine for to cook brown rice, basmati rice, Spanish-style rice and even rice for sushi. Awesome!
Knives: A cook's best friend is a sharp knife. If your favorite home chef is working with a dull knife, or could use a new model or upgrade, now is the time to buy. Complete knife sets (with knife block) and single knives are drastically reduced at department and cookware stores. Stick with brands, like Wusthoff Trident, Henckels, Global and other quality names. I would avoid the knives that claim to never need sharpening—most are serrated and don't work well in all situations. Think about specialty knives, too, such as salmon slicers, mezzalunas, Japanese ceramic knives, a tomato knife, and a good, solid bread knife.
Saffron: Buy real saffron, the best you can find—it's the world's most expensive spice and savvy cooks know it's as good as gold.
Nonmelting spatulas: A number of companies now make silicon-based spatulas that are as flexible as rubber, but won't melt or discolor, so they can go from mixing in a bowl to stirring in a hot pan without damage. I love the brightly colored ones made by Le Creuset, which come in assorted sizes and shapes, including my absolute favorite: the spoon-spatula (I use this one every day!).
Paper plates & napkins: Have you seen all the wild, whacky and tasteful designs for paper goods these days? Stuff a stocking with a festive packages of small paper plates and napkins, suitable for finger foods, picnics or casual entertaining.
Bowls: One can never have enough bowls. There's something wonderfully primal about bowls, they seem to spark an emotional reaction in most cooks, as if bowls have some Jungian relationship to the womb. Cooks love bowls: big, thick-sided ones for rising bread doughs, small ones for prepping, flanged ones for Asian soups, shallow ones for pasta, deep ones for chili. A specialty bowl or set of bowls, wrapped in colorful dishtowels, is always a winner.
Miniature muffin tins: Buy four tins, so the cook can make a full standard recipe without having to cook mini muffins in batches.
Cookie cutters: Go nuts! Cookie cutter shapes today range from alphabet letters to zebras. Buy an assortment and bundle them with chocolate sprinkles, tubed icing and silver dragees for decorating.
Flexible cutting board: Find these inexpensive little gems at discount stores as well as gourmet shops. You can lift the sides of these thin but durable plastic sheets to funnel chopped veggies into a pot. Set them on the counter to catch debris, or roll them up and take them to the cabin, to the boat or to the picnic.
Happy holidays from everyone at the Global Gourmet!
Weekend Salmon Gravlax
...and Last Minute Gift Suggestions
Copyright © 1998, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created 1998 and modified November 2006.
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