Whenever I think of lox or smoked salmon as a starter it somehow brings me back to the ‘80s. Probably because growing up in the ‘80s I remember my parents would almost as a rule serve smoked salmon as a starter when they had guests over. Back then my parents were all for convenience, and it was a very easy, and still delicious, starter. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with a dish being easy and convenient, especially if you’re trying to juggle a homemade two- or three-course dinner. While you might grow a little bored with the smoked-salmon-served-on-bread-and-maybe-an-asparagus-on-top classic, lox or smoked salmon is still a great option: liked by most, full of rich taste and healthy too. And it is really easy to dress in new and more interesting attire. I find that the fresh crispness and slightly perfumery anis taste of fennel works perfectly to balance the richness of the salmon. You can even prepare the fennel the day before and leave it in the fridge to marinate if you want. Serve it either as a salad or on toast and maybe even with a glass of Pinot Grigio!
Lox, or smoked salmon, with lemon-pickled fennel
(serves 4 as a starter, 6 as an appetizer)
1/2 lbs (225 g) lox (or smoked salmon) thinly sliced (I recommend you buy it ready-cut as slicing it yourself cat be quite a hassle)
Note: The difference in taste between the lox and smoked salmon is not that big. Lox is raw-cured whereas smoked salmon is cured and smoked, giving it a slightly more smoked taste compared to lox.
1 large bulb or 2 small bulbs of fennel
1 small handful of flat-leaved parsley
6 tbsp lemon infused olive oil or 6 tbsp olive oil and the juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sea salt (preferably the flaky kind) and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: toasted rustic bread or crostini
1. Start by cutting off the bottom and the stalks of the fennel. Cut the remaining body of the fennel in half, making it easier this way to slice it thinly. Then use a very very sharp knife to slice the fennel into paper thin slices. Alternatively, you might use a mandolin iron to do the trick. (If the slices get to thick, they will not really soak up the lemon-olive oil marinade and will leave a lumpy and inelegant overall impression where the raw fennel completely takes over.)
2. Put the sliced fennel in a bowl and pour in the olive oil and the lemon juice if you’re not using lemon infused oil. Add 3-4 pinches or churns of sea salt and 2-3 churns of freshly ground black pepper. Chop the parsley coarsely and add to the mix. Stir it, adjust the taste if needed with more lemon, salt or pepper and leave to soak and marinate for a minimum of 5 minutes.
3. Arrange the sliced lox or salmon on a large serving platter or on individual plates as you like best, or place the slices of salmon on pieces of toasted bread or crostini if you feel like adding a bit of starch to the dish. Then simply add the fennel salad on top and it’s ready to serve.