Sorghum & Salt’s Tres Jackson prepares an appetizer of cured salmon with salty-sweet cucumbers, puréed avocado, and chili oil
(Makes 4 servings)
For the marinated cucumbers:
1 lb. large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into one-inch dice
2 Tbs. Kosher salt
4 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup sambal (available at H&L Asian Market)
1/4 cup tamari (available at H&L Asian Market)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Three days before serving, place the diced cucumbers into a large mixing bowl and toss with the salt and sugar, mixing well. Cover the bowl tightly and store in the refrigerator for three days, letting the cucumbers macerate. Stir the mixture periodically. When ready to serve, combine the sambal, tamari, and rice wine vinegar in a medium-size bowl, then pour the mixture on top of the cucumbers, tossing to combine. Drain the cucumbers before serving.
For the salmon & chili oil:
4 cups tamari
1 lb. center-cut salmon, skin removed
1 cup grapeseed oil
3 Tbs. dried red chili flakes
The day before serving, fill a large bowl with the tamari. Completely submerge the filet, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the chili oil by adding the grapeseed oil and red chili flakes to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, seal, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the salmon from the bowl, pat completely dry, and trim off the ends of the filet (these are too salty to eat). Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator until serving. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain the chili oil to remove the chili flakes.
For the avocado purée:
Juice of 2 limes
2 Tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Just before serving the appetizer, clean and pit the avocados, then scoop out the flesh into a blender. Add the lime juice and blend until smooth. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and blend again until the oil is emulsified.
When ready to serve, spread the purée onto four plates, and top each with cucumbers. Thinly slice the filet horizontally (starting from the top) and arrange the salmon among the cucumbers. Drizzle chili oil on top.
■ Selecting salmon: “This recipe works best with the fattiest fish you can find, like steel head trout, king salmon, or organic farmed salmon,” Jackson says. “It’s also important to use the thickest filet possible, since thinner ones run the risk of being too salty.”
■ Art of the plate: For a stunning starter, toppings are key—try sprucing up your dish with thinly sliced radishes and a smattering of sesame seeds.
■ Sambal 101: Originally from Indonesia, sambal is a spicy condiment made from chili peppers that often incorporates fish sauce, shrimp paste, and various vinegars.
Meet the Chef: Tres Jackson
Before arriving in the Holy City, South Carolina native Tres Jackson got his start bussing tables as a University of Alabama student in Tuscaloosa, where he eventually opened his own restaurant, Epiphany. A dedicated locavore thanks to childhood summers spent on his family’s farms, Jackson only sourced ingredients from within a 90-mile radius of the eatery, turning the fresh crops, herbs, and proteins into small plates with unique flavor profiles. Last year, the creative chef opened Sorghum & Salt, a local fare-driven restaurant on Coming Street. While his seasonal menu changes often, mainstays include seafood with engaging combinations, like cured salmon served with creamy avocado and marinated cucumbers. Rather than soaking the fish in soy sauce, Jackson opts for tamari. “I love that it’s gluten-free and tastes more complex than soy,” he says.