Thursday, April 15, 2010

Savory Smoked Salmon Entree Recipes

Everyone loves salmon these days for its taste and health benefits. It’s amazing how many folks who love fresh salmon have yet to try smoked salmon or think it is just for special occasions or for adding those valuable Omega-3s to the diet. This tasty fish from the Pacific Northwest can add pizzazz to your dinner any night of the week!

If you are as busy as I am, you’ll appreciate these easy ways to use that smoked salmon and dine like royalty while spending less than 20 minutes in preparing these three great entrees.

  • SMOKED SALMON PIZZA WITH DILL CREAM SAUCE. (with thanks to Wolfgang Puck!) Brush a quality pre-pizza round with olive oil. Scatter sliced onion over top. Bake 6 – 8 minutes at 500°F until golden brown. While pizza cooks, make Dill Cream by mixing 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, 1 tablespoon chopped red onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Cool pizza for 5 minutes and spread it over the surface to within an inch of the edge. Cover the entire top with 6 ounces of thinly sliced salmon. Makes 6 servings.
  • ANGEL HAIR PASTA WITH SMOKED SALMON AND CAPERS. Cook angel hair pasta as per package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent. Add ¼ pound of chopped, smoked salmon; continue cooking until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add one cup of heavy cream and 3 tablespoons of capers. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding one or two spoonfuls of pasta cooking water to thin if needed. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.
  • BAKED POTATO WITH SMOKED SALMON AND SOUR CREAM. Bake your potato in the oven or microwave it. Place on your dinner plate; slice it in half the usual long way. Top it with sour cream and mounds of chopped smoked salmon. Add a dash of fresh lemon juice. Garnish with a touch of finely chopped fennel bulb and a dill sprig. Each person can make it their very own! One potato & one ounce of salmon per serving.
Tip: When you purchase your smoked seafood from a small family-owned seafood market, you are more likely to get that artisan smoked quality. In addition to filets, we usually have some canned smoked salmon on hand at home. We have discovered endless ways to add its distinctive flavor to appetizers, bagels, pizza, pasta, and so on. I bet I can put salmon into every course from breakfast through dinner! Okay, I have not tried making my own smoked salmon ice cream yet, but hey, why not? I bet it would be the prettiest ice cream you ever saw!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Singing the Praises of California Abalone

The delicious taste of fresh seafood makes me want to sing—and apparently I am not the only one!

Fresh California seafood has inspired not only today’s chefs and home cooks, but it also motivated California poets and writers to pen lyrics. Over a century ago, one of my favorite California mollusks, the abalone, starred in a song composed by George Sterling and his friends (among them author Jack London), and published by none other than Carl Sandburg in The American Songbook.

Imagine this group of artistic buddies back in 1907, harvesting the abalone from the bay and then repairing to George’s Carmel home. There they would invent verses to “The Abalone Song” as they prepared a delicious feast of fresh abalone, pounding it to tenderize the sturdy flesh.

Oh, some drink rain, and some champagne,
And whisky by the pony,
But I will try a dash of rye,
And a hunk of abalone.

Some pretty decent seafood cooks have told me that abalone sounds too exotic or difficult. But if you’ve cooked shrimp or crab or clams, you’ll love adding abalone to your menu. Unlike George and Jack, you don’t need to go diving or even wading—just order in online from a reputable seafood market that has its own fleet. When you order exotic seafood such as abalone, you want to be sure you are getting the freshest possible seafood delivery -- and that means getting it direct from the boat that day. You're worth it!

Then follow these basic steps when your fresh cleaned whole abalone arrives:

1. Slice it into ¼” thin slices with a sharp chef’s knife the way you might a block of mozzarella.

2. Now trim the tough outer skin from each slice. (Some make this step one, but I think you lose more of the meat that way.)

3. The famous pounding. Some prefer to do it under fresh water, others between layers of plastic. Pound the slices until tender with a meat mallet and without tearing the flesh. Check before and after—you’ll feel the difference. It should be noticeably soft.

4. You now have tenderized “abalone steaks,” ready for your recipe!

For your first foray into the pleasures of abalone cooking, a good place to start with is pan-fried abalone steaks -- easy to get through seafood delivery.

It’s not likely there’ll be leftovers, so this final verse of the Abalone Song only applies to anyone who dares leave the plate of aromatic, succulent abalone on the counter while getting the wine out:

Oh some like ham and some like jam,

And some like macaroni

But our tom cat he lives on fat

And juicy abalone!