Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Best Salmon Spread I've Ever Made

Passing by my 'other' office Monday morning I found a bowl of smoked salmon spread and some water crackers that together were really wonderful. Peggy was just back from a cruise to Alaska, and this was her treat to the office staff. It was that cooked-in-smoke type of salmon that you get from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, not the translucent European-style 'cured' salmon.

In addition to plenty of fine-chunked salmon, the spread had a cream cheese base, and contained (I believe) shredded sun-dried tomatoes and, based on the taste, fresh black pepper. It probably did not have my favorite ingredient for this type of thing, horseradish.

I decided to try to replicate the spread, but using the smoked salmon available here on the East Coast. What emerged, arguably, was the best smoked salmon dish I've ever made. My recipe makes an intensely salmon-flavored spread. For economy (e.g., for serving a bunch of college students, or maybe your brother-in-law), I'm sure you could increase, maybe even double, all the ingredients other than the salmon. You might need to add a little extra salt. But taste it before doing that.

Because of the balance of flavors of this and many other appetizer spreads and dips, I much prefer unsalted, or at least only lightly salted, crackers or sliced baguette or other bread. So many of the commercial crackers are so loaded with salt, they overpower a well-seasoned spread. An alternative on which to serve the spread is sliced cucumber. This recipe will make enough for a party, or serve many for the appetizer course of a dinner. Leftovers are great the next day.

Tangy Smoked Salmon Spread Tim

2 tablespoons (packed) diced dried tomato, measured after you dice it
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 pound smoked salmon (about 1-1/4 cups)
2 teaspoons (packed) thin-sliced green part of scallion
1/2 pound cream cheese or low-fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Minced parsley or thinly sliced green part of scallion for garnish

Using a chef's knife on a cutting board, shred the tomato, if not already shredded, and then dice it. Soak the tomato in white wine at least 15 minutes. Place the salmon on a plate, cover with waxed paper, and microwave for 1 minute. Turn the pieces, then microwave 10 seconds more at a time, until the salmon has turned opaque and looks cooked. Cool and break the salmon up into pieces. Finely slice the green part of a scallion and cut across the slices a few times, until you have 2 teaspoons, packed. Grind the black pepper.

With a fork, mash the cream cheese with the milk and pepper in a bowl. Mix until reasonably smooth. Add the marinated tomatoes and any juices, salmon, and onion greens. Mix well, mashing gently to break up the salmon. Let sit for a few minutes for flavors to mingle. Mix again, and taste. Add a little salt if needed (the quantity depends on how salty the salmon was).

Serve in a shallow bowl, sprinkled with minced parsley or thinly sliced scallion greens. Accompany with water crackers, thinly sliced baguette, or other crusty bread. Alternatively, use cucumber sliced 1/8-inch thick, cutting on an angle to make slices longer than they are wide. Rinse and drain the slices.


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