Lox. Gravlax. Nova lox. Kippered salmon. Jews hardly have a monopoly on cured salmon, which has a long and far-flung history. On the other hand, it’s hard to think of Jewish food without thinking of the classic combination of lox and bagels. Pair those with a dollop of schmear*, some sliced tomatoes and red onions, and maybe some capers, and you have yourself a brunch.
I have seen a few recipes for vegan lox using carrots, so when I thought about reproducing lox, my first thought was to use thinly sliced jicama. Jicama is bland in taste and similar in texture to carrots, but is white and I thought maybe it could be dyed that classic salmon pink with some beet juice. But it just didn’t seem right. It has the flexibility of smoked salmon, but it isn’t soft or meaty in any way. So I did a bit of research on the internet to see if anyone had come up with a better substitute. And I found this one, by East Breuckelen Trading Company, and it’s perfect. I would never have thought to use tomatoes, but it works brilliantly. Honestly, it was so good I couldn’t really improve upon it, so I don’t have a recipe for you today so much as just a recommendation to mosey on over there for the recipe. They have spice blends to make the basic “smoked salmon” into gravlax and pastrami style as well.
I did make some very minor adjustments to the recipe for flavor and to deal with the fact that I had no smoker:
1)In the curing step, I used 2 tsp of kelp flakes added to 6 tbsp of kosher salt and 1/2 cup of raw sugar, to give the tomato a slightly fishy flavor.
2) Instead of smoking, I brushed the cured tomatoes with a diluted solution of about 1 tsp liquid smoke in 1/4 cup of water. Then, I dried the cured tomatoes briefly in the dehydrator on the lowest setting, to replace the drying that would normally occur in the smoker. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you could also dry them in a partially-opened oven on the lowest possible temperature. This just makes the tomatoes slightly more tacky.
Some other alternatives to smoking: if you prefer, you could replace about 1/3 of the coarse salt with smoked sea salt flakes. This would obviate the need for liquid smoke later. Or, if you really aren’t a fan of smoked flavor, you could leave out the smoking step entirely for a more traditional “belly lox” flavor.
3) Instead of smoked olive oil (which I don’t have) I added another tsp of liquid smoke to 1 cup of olive oil and 1 cup of grape seed oil for storage.
These definitely require a Roma or other paste tomato. You’re going to have to core and seed the tomato, so the fewer seeds the better.
I have to be completely honest, I’ve never actually HAD lox (being allergic to fish), but this tastes how I imagine lox to taste. My father tried a bit and confirmed that it was not quite entirely unlike lox. So please don’t take my word that these taste just like lox, but I do find them wonderfully smoky and salty and overall very tasty, and they have a nice chewy texture.
Want to have these on a bagel with some cream cheese? Don’t despair – the cream cheese recipe is coming!