2018-07-19 / From The Garden

Herb Always a Dill-light!

By Cynthia Gibson

Dill is an annual herb in the parsley family. Dill is an annual herb in the parsley family. Dill is a refreshing summer annual herb. Used in small amounts, it is crisp in taste and adds zest to an ordinary salad or delicious green sauce. But use too much and it becomes bitter very quickly.

The origins of the herb dill are somewhat sketchy, but it is believed to be from Russia. It is in the parsley family, but it is unique because of its hollow stem. It is easy to grow from seed and gives the plant stronger roots when planted directly into the soil. When you transplant dill, the roots are often damaged, and the dill plant will wither and die.

The plant is aromatic and beautiful, from its hollow, slightly ribbed stem to its feathery leaves, to the lovely umbel that sits at the top as its flower. Dill flowers make a lovely garnish and are prettier than parsley’s.

Dill is the perfect herb for salads using mayonnaise, such as chicken, tuna, potato and pasta. For an instant summer side dish, chop and add dill to freshly peeled and sliced cucumbers, toss with a bit of sour cream, and salt and pepper. Dill is also famous for being paired with chicken, vegetables and fish.

In Scandinavia, dill is used to make Gravlax, which is a way to prepare salmon. Rather than smoking their salmon, like the Scots, the Swedes and Danes cure their salmon with sugar, salt, pepper and fresh dill. There are culinary arguments as to how long your salmon should be in this brine, but as always it comes down to taste. It is so tasty when the salmon is almost transparent, and the taste of dill is up front and center.

Like basil, dill is a perfect herb for summer entertaining. It is best fresh from the garden. And hopefully you have cucumbers or pickling cucumbers growing in your garden. Not many people dislike a good dill pickle! They are also easy to make. The Polish recipe for semidills is the best.

The Russians and Scandinavians have it right. If anything is lacking in flavor, add a sprig of dill. Dried dill will do if you don’t have a pot of herbs growing in your garden. If using dried dill, use half the required amount in a recipe as herbs become more piquant when dried.

Scandinavian Gravlax

Serves 6 to 8

1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1-1/2 lbs. center cut fresh salmon (skin on)
One tightly packed cup of chopped fresh dill

Crush the black peppercorns in a small mortar and pestle. Add the crushed black pepper in a bowl with the sugar and salt. Mix well.

Place the salmon on a cutting board, skin side up. With a sharp paring knife, pierce the skin 10 times in different places. Using a small, glass casserole dish, with room to hold the fish, place half of the coarsely chopped dill in the bottom of the casserole dish. On top of the dill, sprinkle half of the salt, sugar and pepper mixture. Place the salmon skin-side-down on the dill and curing mixture. Put the rest of the dill on top of the raw salmon, followed by the remaining salt, pepper and sugar mixture. Press these ingredients down into the fish (with a gentle touch). Cover the salmon with plastic wrap.

Lay tin foil over the plastic wrap and put cans on top of the foil to insure the brine saturates the salmon. Place the casserole dish in the refrigerator for two to three days. Once a day, turn the salmon carefully, making sure it is always covered in dill. The salt, and sugar will liquefy, making the brine.

After three days, your Gravlax is ready. Remove the salmon from the dish and place on a cutting board. With a paper towel, carefully wipe away the dill and soak up the remaining liquid. Place on a serving plate. Thinly slice the salmon. Place it on top of small squares of the traditional dark pumpernickel bread found in Scandinavia and our local supermarkets.

You can prepare the customary mustard sauce that is served with it with a few simple steps.

Mustard Dill Sauce

One minced clove of garlic
3 tbsp minced onion
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped dill
1/2 cup coarse mustard
Fresh salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl the night before you are serving your salmon, cover, place in the refrigerator overnight. Mix well before serving. Serve at room temperature on top of the salmon.

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