Grapefruit, Cucumber & Avocado Salsa for Smoked or Cured Fish + Greek Wine

Monday, August 7, 2017 1
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Despite the pictures of the pile of pink fish, this is not a recipe for smoked salmon. It’s a recipe for a fresh, zippy salsa that requires 5 minutes of chopping and pairs so well with smoked or cured fish such as salmon (or eel, mackerel or seabass). The sharp citrus refreshes every bite of fatty fish, the cucumber contrasts with its crunch and the avocado, well, it’s just there for retro nostalgia. I’m a child of the 80’s where smoked salmon and avocado was a combination my mother served often, particularly when they had guests around, and even now there is always a small triangular shaped silver serving dish of sliced avocado on the table at family meals. 

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The prompt for this recipe came when a friend called me after work from the supermarket. “My brother has decided to pop in for dinner and I have no food in the fridge and I’ve just bought a packet of smoked salmon because I don’t want to cook. What can I serve with it?” I wish I was a quick thinker but I just suggested she buy some asparagus, and then for the next three days stewed over how I could turn a simple plate of smoked fish into something celebratory.
 

The recipe is as brief as this post, because all I can think about today is that this time tomorrow I’ll be sunning myself in Crete! I must run off to pack all the things we don’t need and clothes we will never wear on holiday. Excited much? I’ve already downloaded the hotel’s wine list and quizzed a Sommelier I know who used to work in Crete for his tips on the most interesting wine to pursue on the island. Greek wine is incredible, and one rarely sees it on restaurant wine lists. It’s often relegated to the “other” section in wine shops which is a great pity. Hmmm, I feel another one of my harebrained business ideas developing…I must be overdue a holiday.  See you on the flip side of August!

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What’s For Sippies? 

I’d head to the Antipodes – a crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a Clare Valley Riesling are the best wine matches for this dish. Champagne is often served with smoked salmon but because of the sharp grapefruit, a touch of bubbly sweetness in Dry Prosecco works better and is far cheaper.

Since I’m all about Greece right now, I’d like to point out a top-quality white grape variety called Assyrtiko (As-ser-ti-koh), which originated on the gorgeous island of Santorini, and makes intense, refreshing, bone-dry wines. High winds lash the island of Santorini, so the locals innovatively learned how to train and prune Assyrtiko grape vines into a low, circular weave that resembles a woven basket. These vines sit low to the ground and as such are protected from the highest winds, but the shape of the vines means mechanical pruning and harvesting is impossible, so manual labour costs are high, driving up the price of the wines. Still, possibly due to lack of international demand, Assyrtiko’s retail for between £12 and £30 at most, an actual bargain for the pleasure. Some Assyrtiko vines are over 100 years old, which means their grape yields are low, but the intensity of the wines is therefore high. Assyrtiko’s native Santorini climate is hot, and the grapes are hardy. Notwithstanding the high summer temperatures, the Assyrtiko grapes produce wines of high acidity, which is interesting because with most wine grapes acidity begins to fall steeply as the grapes ripen. Chardonnay, for example, can produce wines that are flabby and dull when it is grown in very warm climates, but Assyrtiko, with it’s similar flavours of savoury citrus, but with intriguing smoky, stony notes, retains that refreshing drive. New World producers have begun to experiment with Assyrtiko with exciting results. You can read about renowned Australian producer Jim Barry’s Clare Valley Assyrtiko here.

One of the aspects I love about the taste of wine is that a wine can be simultaneously rich and refreshing. Textbook examples are Riesling, Assyrtiko and cool climate Chardonnay which can all display opulent flavours but have bracing acidity with which a glass of juice just cannot compete.

Recipe

 

Ingredients

Smoked or cured fish – fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and eel work so well with this salsa, but something like seabass can work too.
 
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I got this amount from 1 and 1/2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Shallots or salad onions – equivalent of 2 tablespoons once finely chopped
1/4 olive oil
2 red grapefruits
1 small cucumber – equivalent of 1/4 cup once finely chopped
About 40grams coriander – equivalent of 2 heaped tablespoons once finely chopped
1 ripe avocado
 

Method

1. Squeeze the lime juice into a medium sized bowl and add the salt.
2. Finely chop the shallots and add them to the lime juice. Leave to sit while you continue with the salsa.
3. Peel, segment and chop the grapefruit:
 – slice the stem end off the grapefruit to reveal the flesh, then slice the opposite end off too
 – place the grapefruit cut side down on a chopping board
 – using a sharp knife, slice off the peel following the curve of the fruit, leaving as little pith behind as possible
 – holding the fruit in the palm of your hand, slice as close to one of the segment membranes as possible, then along the next one, until the segment pops out
 – remove all the grapefruit segments then chop them roughly into thirds
4. Peel the cucumber and slice it in half lengthwise, scoop the seeds out with a teaspoon and discard them. Chop the cucumber finely as pictured. Peel the avocado, remove the pit and chop it into small cubes roughly the same size as the cucumber.
5. Whisk the olive oil into the lime juice then add the grapefruit, cucumber and avocado
The salsa will happily sit in the fridge for a whole day.
6. Arrange the fish on a plate and spoon over some of the salsa. Put the remaining salsa in a dish and serve alongside the fish.
 

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