Lemon Turmeric Salmon – A Recipe from Chef Uri Jeremias of Uri Buri Restaurant in Acre, Israel.
In November of last year I took one of the most amazing trips of my life. We started in Germany, where we saw my husband’s musical performed in Munster, then we continued on to Israel. I’ve been to Israel many times, we try to go every one or two years… but this trip was different, highlighted by several remarkable moments. One perfect day, we took a helicopter from the very top of the country to the very bottom, landing at some of our favorite points along the way. A retired Israeli army pilot showed us the country in a way I never expected to see it. It was wild and wonderful, a dream come true.
We made it a point early in the day to stop at my favorite restaurant in the whole world (yes, truly!) in Acre, Israel. Acre is a small natural harbor at the northernmost part of Haifa Bay. The Old City of Acre is built on the remains of a medieval Crusader town dating between 1104 and 1291. In the middle of ancient stone buildings, with a breezy beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea, sits a small and unassuming restaurant that is always, always busy. The restaurant is called Uri Buri– Uri is the name of the chef and Buri means fish.
Me and my friend Chef Uri Jeremias.
Chef Uri Jeremias cooks fish– and everything else– with his whole heart. He is passionate about cooking, and he treats his customers like friends and family. Indeed, this is how he started cooking– for friends and family, just for fun. Over time they convinced him to open a restaurant, so he gave it a try. Decades later, Uri Buri has gained a reputation as one of the top restaurants in the Middle East. Uri is genuinely kind and loves to nourish people with his creative, innovative seafood dishes. Every time we visit, we feel as though we are reuniting with a beloved member of our extended family.
Part of what makes Uri’s food so special is its simplicity. Each time we dine there he brings seven or eight small entrees to the table, each one better than the last. Every dish features a few quality ingredients, artfully combined to create new flavors that are utterly unique. From a chiffonade spinach salad with citrus and figs to a marinated grilled whitefish that tastes remarkably similar to lamb, Uri is a true food artist. His food awakens the senses.
On this last trip, Uri gave me a tour of his kitchen. You would think, with the amount of entrees he rolls out on a continuous basis throughout the day, that it would be quite large. Actually, it’s not much bigger than my home kitchen. Uri and his staff work like a well oiled machine, churning out dish after dish, sauce after sauce, fish after succulent fish.
Nearly every dish features fish and seafood, with shrimp and crab and other non-kosher fish making appearances. Uri is very understanding of dietary restrictions; no dirty looks here. He makes modifications for kosher-style diets, as well as vegetarian. In November, when we last visited, our dear friend Rami accompanied us (he’s the one rocking glasses and tasting something scrumptious below). Rami keeps kosher-style, but had no problem enjoying a meal at Uri Buri– the chef brought modified dishes just for him. Uri’s main goal is to make his customers happy, and it shows.
Uri has a cookbook translated into English that I bought a few years ago, which has a lovely recipe for Lemon Turmeric Salmon. Like all of Uri’s cooking the dish is deceptively simple, with a result that is rich and decadent. In fact, Uri’s original recipe calls for twice the amount of butter used here. I’m beginning to think the secret to all great food is butter. I cut back to half that amount, and it’s still amazing. I also adjusted the cook time and temperature, but that is really a matter of personal preference. I tend to cook fish more quickly at a higher heat to retain moisture. The mixture of butter, herbs and turmeric creates a delicious sauce that I have enjoyed on other cuts of fish as well. This one would be easy to make for a crowd, and would be a nice choice for a Passover entree. Just be sure to cut into the thickest part of the largest fillet to check for doneness, and don’t overcook– you want fish that is moist and flaky, with a bright yellow buttery sauce.
If your travels take you to Israel, don’t miss Uri Buri… it’s an unforgettable dining experience. Don’t forget to say hi to Uri for me!
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- 4 fresh, skin-on salmon fillets, cut about 1 1/2 inches thick
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, very cold or frozen, plus more for greasing pan
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large ripe yellow lemon, cut into rounds and then halved (see below)
- fresh mint, finely chopped (optional garnish)
You will also need
- shallow baking pan, grater, foil or parchment
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease the bottom of the baking sheet with a thin layer of butter. Rinse the salmon fillets and pat dry. Then place them, skin side down, on the buttered baking sheet.
- Slice the lemons into 4 thin rounds, remove any seeds, then slice the rounds in half so that you have 8 halves.
- In a small dish, combine the dried thyme, turmeric and salt. Mix until well combined. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the top of the salmon fillets.
- Top each salmon fillet with two of the lemon slices.
- Grate the cold or frozen butter evenly over the top of the salmon fillets. It might feel like a lot of butter at first, but it melts down to create a luscious sauce.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil or parchment and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until desired doneness. Cook time will vary based on thickness of the fillet-- cut into the center of the thickest fillet to check doneness.
- Remove from the oven and uncover. Spoon over the butter sauce from the tray.
- Serve immediately, topped with the fresh mint if desired.