SALSIFY, Smoked Salmon, Dill, Caper (Part 1) – Alinea Restaurant cookbook recipe, pages 264-269.
Bagels and lox — that’s what this is!
Alinea Restaurant’s version of lox keeps the flavors of salmon, capers, lemon, dill and toasty bagels, but mixes them up in an entirely new presentation with salsify. The flavor combinations are classic, and a treat to eat. This was a three-day recipe for me…
What is Salsify?
Salsify (sawl sih FEE) is the edible root of the Tragopogon plant, a member of the sunflower family. Originally a winter European vegetable, it is now readily available year-round as Black Salisfy (Scorzonera hispanica), Purple Tragopogon and White Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius).
After its brown skin is peeled off, the salisfy’s surface will darken and weep a milky white sap, so I keep them in a bowl of water. When cooked they have a creamy, sweet taste not unlike that of an oyster, and a soft texture. Salsify is also called ‘tragopogon,’ ‘oyster plant’ and ‘goatsbeard.’
This recipe has eight dried components: dehydrated Picholine olives, lemon zest, bell pepper, capers, ginger, red onion, dried salmon “powder” and a thin sheet of dehydrated garlic that you break up into chips. I decided to tackle them all first — to get ’em all in the dehydrator together.
Dried Picholine Olives
The last time I was in Los Angeles, I stopped by the Cheese Store of Silverlake, where I came upon some really good Picholine olives — among many other gourmet delights. Many other things, I should say, that I convinced myself into thinking that I actually needed. Foodie rationale taking over… Anyway, it’s one of my favorite haunts in the City of Angels.
I pitted the Picholine olives, then set them on a tray in my American Harvest dehydrator at 125ºF. It took them overnight to dry out. I pulsed them up just a bit in my spice grinder, then reserved the chunky powder in a plastic container.
Picholine olives, from the Cheese Store of Silverlake
I rinsed and drained some bottled capers, then set them on a tray next to the olives in the dehydrator at 125ºF. Again, just like with the olives, it took them overnight to dry out. I pulsed them up just a bit in my spice grinder, then reserved the chunky powder in a plastic container.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Dried Red Bell Pepper
I trimmed. cored and seeded some red bell peppers, then flattened them out. With the pepper interior-side up, I trimmed off any ribs or nibbly parts, so I had flat ‘sheets,’ then sliced off the skins very carefully. The trick is to remove just the skin, and leave an eight-inch-thick thickness of the pepper. Now I had flat, skinned sheets of red bell pepper, ready to cut into strips! I sliced the sheets up into strips and dehydrated at 125ºF for about six hours. (It may take yours more or less.) The recipe says to season the strips lightly with salt before you dehydrate. I did not, but I leave that up to you… Then reserved the crispy pepper sticks in an airtight plastic container.
Fresh red bell pepper
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste
Dried Lemon Zest
I trimmed strips of zest from some lemons, trying to get pieces as long as I could. Removed any remaining white pith, then cut lengthwise into strips 1/16″ wide.
Meanwhile I combined the sugar and water in a small saucepan and brought them to a boil. I added the zests and stirred, simmering them for an hour, until they were tender. Then let cool to room temp in the liquid. Technically, this can be called a lemon confit. Strained. Incidently, DON’T THROW OUT THE LEMON LIQUID! Re-use it! It’s great as a lemon syrup for teas, Italian sodas, cocktails, cooking, or even as a base for lemonade!
Dehydrated at 125ºF for about four hours (until they were crispy). Then reserved in an airtight plastic container.
Fresh Meyer lemons
C&H cane sugar
Dried Red Onion
I peeled and halved a red onion vertically from top to bottom, then cut batons from the halves, and dehydrated the onions at 125ºF with the lemon.
If I know I’m going to need a lot, I’ll sometimes buy a tub of peeled garlic cloves from my local Asian market. It saves a lot of time and is quite handy. So all I needed to do was trim the ends off the cloves!
Mise en place by Adrian Monk.
I boiled the garlic in a pot of salted water until they were tender. Then puréed in my Oster bar blender until smooth.
I strained the garlic into the dehydrator tray and dried it out overnight at 125ºF with the other components.
Morton’s kosher salt, to taste
I peeled a hand of ginger, then sliced it into very thin pieces on a mandolin.
I combined the ginger with some water and sugar in a medium saucepan and brought them to a boil. I simmered the ginger for about twenty minutes, drained and dehydrated it at 125ºF overnight until crisp.
Fresh ginger root
C&H cane sugar
Removed the croutons, then pulsed into breadcrumbs in the spice grinder. Reserved in a covered plastic container.
Wonder bread slices, crusts removed
STAR Brand extra virgin olive oil
Morton’s kosher salt
To Be Continued…