When I asked my mother, Joan Sherman, to guest blog, I had no idea she would treat this with the same level of rigor with which she treats her myriad of other projects: hand painted textiles, sculpture and painting, canning and preserving, gardening, fern propagation, 17th Dutch painting scholarship, rediscovering Proust, interior design and oh lord, so much more. She calls this salad, “Forbidden Color Salad.”
Gimme a second, I am out of breath.
Where I am hasty and impatient, my mother is deliberate and focused. And although she is generally allergic to following recipes, she does well to make her own.
We started out in Chelsea Market, where we bought a nice slab of fatty Atlantic Salmon. This was perfect for gravlax, which should be unctuous and smooth, and not at all fishy. It differs from smoked salmon, well… because it is not smoked. It is cured – coated in spices and salt, wrapped in plastic, weighted down, and placed in the fridge. I really love the part where you get to search for objects to use as the weight (canned goods work well, and you can balance a grapefruit on top of the can for fun). The beets are used solely to stain the fish – they don’t lend any kind of “beety” flavor. Joan used the color palate of the resulting ombré gravlax to determine the rest of her jewel-toned ingredients. Very painterly.
Salmon roe, if you are unfamiliar, are the bath beads of the sea. They pop in your mouth, releasing tiny pools of salty fish oil onto your tongue. It took me some time to get used to this (I never was a fan of Gushers as a kid), but now I can’t get enough; I order salmon roe sushi (Ikura) every chance I get. You can find this at a high-end fish monger, or at a Japanese grocery store. Don’t be afraid to buy it frozen – it has all been frozen and thawed at some point, so in theory, the frozen roe could be fresher than the thawed.
The greens and carrots are dressed simply with olive oil and vinegar, but the whole salad rests atop a pool of this shockingly vibrant, fuchsia beet dressing, laced with pink peppercorns. If you don’t have these, you can use black pepper, but the pink have floral notes that are completely different. Once you are familiar with them, you will want to use them on everything (my favorite is in sugar cookies).
There is not a dull moment on this plate.