Dilled Carrot Gravlax
Just in time for Yom Kippur's break fast, these vegan lox are kind of a big deal
Before we get into things today, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who tried out the Sweet Orange and Almond Challah and Fig-Glazed Chicken with Apples this Rosh Hashanah. I was thrilled to hear over email, comments, and on Instagram that you and your guests enjoyed them. It truly makes my day.
Did you know Dilled Carrot Gravlax are a thing, and you can make them for your Yom Kippur break fast (or any bagel and schmear situation)? Because maybe you are a vegetarian, or someone you want to eat bagels with is. Perhaps, like me, you secretly don’t love the taste of smoked fish (I know, I know…I should revoke my Jewish food writers license now.) Or maybe you love salmon lox, but are curious to add something fresh to this year’s break fast bagel platter.
Whatever your reason, you have to try these carrot gravlax. I mean, you don’t have to do anything, but I highly recommend it! They are supple, salty, smoky, flecked with dill and 100% vegan. Draped on a fresh bagel with cream cheese (dairy or non), tomato, red onion, and capers (share your favorite bagel toppings in the comments!), they are remarkably reminiscent of the real thing.
And because the carrots require a bit of marinating time, they are also the perfect make-ahead dish for your Yom Kippur break fast. While you pray (or meditate, or take a nice, slow walk through the woods, or lie on your couch thinking about how hungry you are), they get better and better.
I would love to take credit for a creation as inspired as carrot gravlax, I really would. But I did not come up with the idea. The real mad genius behind transforming the humble root into a brunch-worthy star is Tal Ronnen, an Israeli-born, LA-based chef whose restaurant Crossroads specializes in creative, high end, plant-based dining.
Ronnen told me he first put carrot lox on Crossroad’s brunch service shortly after opening in 2013. “We already had a smoked carrot dish on the dinner menu where we were smoking baby heirloom carrots over hickory,” he said. “We decided to try shaving them, and discovered it looked very much like lox. So we tried it with larger carrots and added dried nori to the mix to give it a seafood-like flavor.”
Crossroad’s vegan lox were an immediate hit with critics and diners. And they continue to be a fixture of the restaurant’s brunch menu, along with their kelp caviar and vegan smoked whitefish, which is made from hearts of palm.
More recently, other plant-based lox products have cropped up. There’s Goldie Lox, a San Francisco-based company that makes packaged carrot lox. (At the moment, they are only sold locally in the Bay Area.) And in Chicago, the all plant-based delicatessen Sam & Gertie’s offers their bagels topped with tomato-based “laks.” “We start with flash poached tomatoes then pack them in seasoned salt and sugar and let them cure for up to 36 hours, depending on the water content in the tomatoes,” said owner Andrew Kalish. “They take a while to make, but that is similar to the process of turning raw salmon into lox.”
If you aren’t in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago, you can still try vegan lox with this Dilled Carrot Gravlax recipe. The carrots are briefly par-boiled - just long enough to soften the roots so they yield thin, supple slices. The sliced carrots are then marinated in a mix of soy sauce and maple syrup (plus a bunch of spices), which makes them similar to Scandinavian sugar-and-salt-cured gravlax. A dash of smoked paprika gives the carrots the flinty flavor we’ve come to associate with smoked salmon, and a glug of olive oil lends a luscious sheen.
For my readers who observe Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy fast, a meaningful day, and an absolutely delicious break fast. And for everyone else, here’s wishing you the happiest of autumn brunches!
Dilled Carrot Gravlax
I originally developed this recipe for a Hanukkah take-out menu for Perelandra - one of my favorite natural foods stores, based in downtown Brooklyn. If you’re going to be in Brooklyn for Hanukkah this year, consider ordering the carrot lox - along with vegan potato latkes, saucy seitan brisket, spiced apple-pear sauce, and a bunch of other delicious treats from Perelandra. In the meantime, break your Yom Kippur fast with this gorgeous dilled carrot gravlax.
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