If you haven’t tried fresh dill weed – and it’ pretty easy to get even at the mega-mart these days – you are in for a real treat. This lovely herb is used extensively in Scandinavian, Russian and Eastern European cooking. And while the leaf may look delicate, it adds a lot of flavor. Use fresh dill weed in egg dishes, either as an edible garnish or as small amounts minced into the dish itself. It is the quintessential flavoring to a steaming bowl of new potatoes, and is very good blended with softened butter to be used on many types of vegetables.
You can also use the leafy fronds to stuff whole fish for grilling. Dill weed is an essential ingredient in a popular Swedish preparation made with fresh salmon called gravlax. I don’t see why you couldn’t try it with a large fresh fish such as the one shown in the above photo (the fish, people), which is a mackinaw or lake trout from Lake Pend Oreille; we usually brine and BBQ them.
Some of the larger coho salmon in other inland northwest lakes would also make a good candidate. In any case, just be sure the fish is really fresh, otherwise don’t even bother with it. Some recipes for gravlax include thinly sliced red onion along with the herbs, but I don’t personally care for that flavor. This recipe is from my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary. You still have time to make this for New Year’s Day brunch!
Gravlax with Dill and Spearmint
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar (preferably organic)
2 ultra-fresh salmon fillets with skin,
similarly sized at about 2 pounds each
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1/2 cup minced fresh dill leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh spearmint leaves
Combine the salt and sugar in a bowl. Carefully remove any bones from the fish. On the flesh side, score each fillet 3 or 4 times diagonally. Sprinkle the sugar-salt blend on all sides of the fish, then place one fillet skin-side down on a large piece of plastic wrap. Sprinkle half the peppercorns on the fish, then layer on the fresh herbs. Sprinkle with the rest of the peppercorns, then match the other fillet flesh-side down on the herbs, atop the other piece. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap.
Next, place the wrapped salmon in a large glass baking dish and cover with another heavy flat dish or pan, and weigh this down with a (towel-wrapped) brick or something heavy to evenly press on the fillets. Refrigerate, turning the fish package every 12 hours.
After 48 hours, open package and drain any liquid that has accumulated. Gently scrape off the herb blend and peppercorns and discard. Carefully filet the skin away from the flesh.
To serve, place on a cutting board and thinly slice the salmon at an angle with a long, sharp knife. Small rounds of rye or wheat bread and sliced cucumber make this dish complete, with perhaps a tiny dab of sour cream, and the traditional shot of icy cold aquavit.
Dill is easy to grow if you have the garden space, and you can successively plant every two weeks starting in May until the end of June for fresh dill all summer. Be sure to save some seed for planting next year, although once you get it going, it will sow it’s own seeds from year to year and you’ll get volunteers in unexpected places!
Get out there and go fishing… and take your Mom!
© Doreen Shababy