The Simple Art Of Cooking: New Year’s Eve Treats

What are you doing New Years, New Year’s Eve? Now put the musical notes to it and it has a pleasant ring into 2013. The question was asked at dinner with friends one night and the answers ranged from, “I’ll be snorkeling and sunning with my family in the Caribbean” to “a small dinner party at home” to “I don’t know yet”?

By now, no doubt, you have your plans and if they include a small repast at home, here are a couple of timely recipes to start the festive evening. One of my favorites would be gravlax, the piquant Swedish classic where salmon fillets are well seasoned and weighted down for a minimum of 2 to 3 days. This perfect do-ahead for the celebration is then thinly sliced and served over pumpernickel points with a dab of crème fraiche and caper berries. If you love pizza as I do, you must try Plaza Café’s colorful and savory grilled pizza topped with caramelized onions, figs, prosciutto and baby arugula.

Chef/owner Doug Gulija of Southampton, prepared this for us one night and it is memorable. You will need access to an indoor grill for this outstanding recipe, unless we have some balmy weather. The pizza dough can be purchased or prepared the day before. Give it a quick turn on the grill, then top with the savory mix of ingredients.

Champagne, of course, would be my beverage of choice and I can imagine either of these celebratory recipes with the bubbly awash in my mouth. Wishing a Happy, Healthy and a Safe New Year to all.

Gravlax with Honey-Mustard Dill Sauce
Classically, gravlax is created by weighting down a whole fillet of salmon for 2-3 days with a mixture of sugar, salt and a thick packing of herbs. This inspired version is cured with curry powder, cilantro and tequila and served with a dollop of crème fraiche.

Yield: about 20 servings
1 side salmon filet, skin on, about 2 1/2 lbs. neatly trimmed
1/2 cup tequila, vodka or other clear liquor of choice
1/2 cup coarse (kosher) salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup curry powder
1 large bunch cilantro, washed, spin-dried and roughly chopped
1 to 2 packages Westphalian style thinly sliced pumpernickel
Crème fraiche
Caper berries for garnish (optional)
1. Remove bones from salmon with tweezers or tip of a small knife. Pat salmon dry with paper towels.
2. Combine salt, sugar and curry and sprinkle 2 to 3 teaspoons of spice mixture on the bottom of a Pyrex or shallow earthenware dish, large enough to hold the fish. Place salmon, skin side down in the dish and pour the tequila over it. Rub the spice mixture into the salmon flesh. Cover with plastic wrap and weight down with a heavy object, such as a filled coffee can. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 days and up to 3 to 4 days. Turn the fish each day, basting with the liquid that develops.
3. When ready to serve, scrape the marinade from the fish and discard the cilantro and liquid. With a sharp, thin-bladed knife, cut salmon into paper-thin slices on the bias, as for smoked salmon. (The remaining skin may be grilled or sautéed in a hot non-stick skillet rolled up and cut into thin slices for an optional garnish.) Serve slices of gravlax on pumpernickel points. Dab with crème fraiche and add caper berries if desired.
Plaza Cafe’s Grilled Pizza With Prosciutto, Figs and Baby Arugula
Yield: 1 10 to 12-inch pie
Balsamic vinaigrette*
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups washed and spin-dried baby arugula
1 ball basic pizza dough
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
1 large red onion, thinly sliced and caramelized*
4 to 5 fresh figs quartered
6 ounces prosciutto de Parma, sliced paper thin
For the balsamic glaze, optional
Reduce 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar to 1/4 cup over medium heat
1. In a small bowl whisk together the shallots and balsamic vinegar. Slowly add the oil whisking it into the mixture: season to taste and toss with the arugula: set aside.
2. On a large, oiled, inverted baking sheet spread and flatten the pizza dough with your hands into a 10- to 12-inch free-form circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Do not make a lip. You may end up with a rectangle rather than a circle; the shape is unimportant, but do take care to maintain an even thickness, rolling out a necessary.
3. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to two levels of heat, medium-high and medium-low. The fire is hot when you can hold your hand over the coals for 3 to 4 seconds at a distance of 5 inches. Use your fingertips to lift the dough gently by the two corners closest to you, and drape it onto the grill. Grill the flattened pizza crust on a clean, well-oiled grill, about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. When crust is slightly puffy and the undersides stiffen slightly, flip crust to the cooler part of the grill and brush with olive oil. Within a minute the dough will puff slightly, the underside will stiffen, and grill marks will appear.
4. Toss the caramelized onion and cheese over the crust and scatter the dressed arugula over the cheese. Arrange fig quarters over the arugula and finally drape the prosciutto slices over the figs. Drizzle over balsamic glaze. Slide onto a cutting board: let rest a few minutes then slice through with a sharp chefs knife or pizza cutter for serving.
*Note: Caramelize the thinly sliced onions in 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for 10 to 12 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette ahead then dress the arugula before placing on the pizza. The balsamic glaze can also be reduced ahead and set aside until needed. These steps can all be prepared ahead.
Visit Savoringthehamptons.com for Silvia’s blogs and more recipes.

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