Slow Food is the Key to Great Quick Meals

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Last weekend I made gravlax for the first time. That Swedish cured-salmon specialty is the epitome of slow food. But as I waited two days for the fish to cure in its salt-and-sugar rub it occurred to that I wasn’t the one “making” anything.

Time was doing most of the work. And there wasn’t even heat involved.

That’s just the way I like it these days. Over the last couple of years I’ve come to appreciate time as a lazy cook’s best friend. If you’re willing to put in a little (often very, very little) effort on the front end and patient enough to wait a bit, you’ll be rewarded with incredible flavor.

Time is a lazy cook’s best friend. If you put in a little (often very, very little) effort on the front end and are patient enough to wait a bit, you’ll be rewarded with incredible flavor.

It’s a different approach to quick-and-easy, dinner-in-15-minutes cooking, but one worth adding to your arsenal. In fact, you can use the take-your-time strategy one day to prepare components for stellar speedy meals another.

That gravlax is a perfect example. I unwrapped it, rinsed off the rub and and thinly sliced the fish. Then I served it alongside a simple butter-lettuce salad and our All-Purpose French Lentils. With a glass of rose Sancerre, it was a fast, light summer supper. The gravlax has since made other lunch and dinner appearances.

As Lia and I developed our new Nourish Weekly Menus (if you haven’t checked them out yet, here’s a taste with our free e-cookbook), we realized that the Sunday cook-ahead is the heart of our strategy. That’s because we often find ourselves taking advantage of a leisurely weekend to  make a dish that takes a bit longer – roasting a chicken, perhaps, or braising a pork shoulder – that yields a fantastic Sunday supper plus great leftovers to spin into fantastic (and fast!) weeknight meals.

Want to give it try? Here are 3 things you can do this weekend:

  • Make some dough. Yeast dough is really easy, especially if you let time – and the yeast – do all the hard work. Make a batch of Long-Rise Whole Wheat Pizza Dough. Enjoy some one night and stash the extra in the fridge or freezer so you can make homemade pizza later in the week faster than Domino’s can deliver.
  • “Dry braise” a pork shoulder. Lia’s “dry braising” technique is one you’ll want to try. Just rub the meat  with spices, pop it in a covered Dutch oven, and cook at 275 F for several hours. The result: succulent, fork-tender meat and incredible leftovers for other meals. I’ve got some leftover carnitas in my freezer that are scheduled to make a fast-dinner appearance this weekend.
  • Cure some fish. If it’s too hot to fire up the oven, give this no-cook Homemade Gravlax with Wild Alaskan Salmon a try this weekend. Start it on Saturday and it will be ready to slice and serve on crackers as a July 4th appetizer. It’s a perfect low-effort/high-reward slow food.

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Homemade Gravlax with Wild Alaskan Salmon

Gravlax is a wonderfully simple way to showcase the the rich, buttery quality of wild salmon from the Copper River. Gravlax is a Swedish specialty that cures the salmon with a mixture of salt, sugar and spices. It’s a simple, no-cook technique requiring nothing more than a little prep work and time. There many of variations of gravlax. Our version uses a basic combination of granulated and brown sugars, coarse sea salt and black pepper that lets the luscious flavor and texture of the wild salmon really shine. You could customize this in any number of ways – swap black pepper for earthy white pepper, add lemon or orange rind, etc. Serve thinly sliced on multigrain crackers, garnished with chopped fresh dill and grated lemon zest. Or you could go old school and serve it with fresh bagels, cream cheese, capers and thinly sliced red onion.

Homemade Gravlax with Wild Alaskan Salmon


Yield: Serves 6-8

Homemade Gravlax with Wild Alaskan Salmon


  1. 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
  2. 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  4. 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  5. 1 (1- to 1-1/4-pound) center-cut fresh wild salmon fillet, skin on


Combine the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap in 10-inch (or other 2-quart) baking dish with enough extending over the sides of the dish to bring up and wrap over the salmon.

Cut a 4-foot piece of cheesecloth. Fold it into quarters to make a piece about 2 square feet. Lay the cheesecloth on a work surface.

Pat the salmon fillet dry with paper towels (so the salt mixture adheres to it). Rub about 1/3rd of the salt mixture over the skin side of the fillet. Lay fillet in the center of the cheesecloth. Rub the remaining salt mixture on the top and around the sides of the fillet. Wrap the cheesecloth over the fillet to cover the fish. Place it, skin side down, in the prepared dish. Bring the sides of the plastic wrap up to cover the fish.

Place a pie plate on top of the fish. Weigh it down with cans. Refrigerate 24 hours.

Remove fish from refrigerator. Unwrap the plastic and turn the cheesecloth-wrapped fish over. Replace plastic and pie dish with cans. Refrigerate 24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator. Unwrap the salmon and rinse it thoroughly under cold running water. Pat it dry with paper towels. Use a razor-sharp knife (a boning knife is good for this) to thinly slice the gravlax.


Prep Time 48 hours