A New Year

Happy New Year!

Well, I guess I’m a little late. Oh well, that’s typical. Did you have a good New Year? To be honest, the holiday–going to a party and counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until the clock strikes midnight–isn’t a big deal to me. I’m much more excited about having a day off from work and the chance to evaluate things.

Some people make New Year’s resolutions, but I have a hard time with that term. For me, it’s more about taking a look at where I’m at and where I want to go, and making goals for myself. They might not be goals I plan on actually attaining during the next calendar year, but they give me a sense of things I want to try to do. For example, if I manage to read several novels by both Hemingway and Fitzgerald, plus The Brothers Karamazov, Dante’s Infero, The Illiad and/or The Odyssey and a number of other books in 2010 (To Siberia, A Summer of Hummingbirds, No Country for Old Men, some C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen, you get the idea), I’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment. But if I don’t, chances are my reading list will have changed as the year goes on, and if those titles are still on the list when I reevaluate a year from now, I’ll have a base from which to start my planning in that area.

One goal I do have is to keep improving my cooking and baking skills. I have a copy of Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking on order, and am looking forward to flipping through it and choosing some recipes to bake when it arrives (hopefully this week!). From what I understand, baking the desserts in her book will teach many important techniques. Sure, I can bake cookies or a cake. Sure, I can make my way through a recipe and have it result in something delicious. But I have my bets on the fact that mastering the basics will do for my baking skills what learning keys and an overview of music theory does for a pianist. I have the same goals for cooking.

This past holiday season I learned how to make gravlax, a Scandinavian cured salmon. Basically, you coat a good-quality salmon fillet with a two-to-one sugar-to-salt mixture with a little cracked pepper, then sprinkle it with lots of fresh dill and let it cure. Let me tell you, it’s delicious!

Since my husband and I were learning as we went with the gravlax, and adapting recipes from both Marcus Samuelsson and Mark Bittman, I’m going to refine the recipe a little more before sharing it with you–please check back soon, though! In the meantime, just imagine how delicious this cured sockeye salmon is, with a delicate balance of sweet and salty flavors and dill.

Whether you serve it on top of sliced cucumbers with a little mustard-dill sauce drizzled over it, or whether you eat it on its own, gravlax is a real treat.

Mustard-dill sauce for gravlax
Adapted from Ina Garten

After whipping up a batch of this sauce this night before Christmas Eve, my husband and I both thought it was too sweet. But when we tried it with the gravlax and cucumber, we discovered how well the flavors go together.

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons ground dry mustard
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
approx. 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Stir the first four ingredients together in a small bowl. Add the oil in a slow and steady stream, whisking briskly in order to emulsify. Before serving, add dill.

Serves: ??? (You’ll have more than enough for a medium-sized dinner party)