Carol invited us to dinner last night. She was having salmon. She likes it, but her husband does not. He had to work late, so it was the perfect opportunity for her to have a dinner of salmon. It turned out to be relatively easy and absolutely delicious.
The thing that made the dish especially good was that Carol smoked the salmon in her Camerons stove-top smoker. That is definitely a kitchen gadget to have, even if you don’t use it very often. The standard model is a stainless steel pan with collapsible handles and an air-tight lid designed to keep smoke inside the pan and not in the kitchen (It really works.) Inside are a flat tray and a rack. You put a pile of very small wood chips (purchased from Camerons, of course.) in the bottom of the pan, cover with the tray, and arrange the food to be smoked on the rack. Slide the cover nearly but not-quite closed and put the whole contraption over two burners on your range. The heat from the burners should be low to medium–low – enough to get the wood chips smoking but not so hot that the food burns. When the first wisps of smoke begin to come out, push the lid completely closed. There should be no leaks. Then smoke the food for the desired time. In the case of salmon, about 20 minutes should do. Remove from the heat for a few minutes and then remove the lid. You will smell the smoke, but it should not invade the kitchen. Check to make sure the food is cooked to your liking. If not, you can close the lid again and heat for another few minutes.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can accomplish the same thing by basting the salmon with a mixture of ½ teaspoon liquid smoke and 2 teaspoons soy sauce before broiling in the oven.
Smoked Salmon Niçoise
- 1 pound salmon filet, bones removed
- 4 cups lettuce cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced (see post on how to peel a hard-boiled egg)
- 8 small new potatoes, boiled, chilled, and cut into 1½ inch chunks
- 2 cups green beans, cut in 2 inch lengths, blanched, cooked, and chilled
- 20 pitted black olives
- 4 teaspoons drained capers
- 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- salt and pepper to taste
- homemade vinaigrette or your favorite bottled salad dressing
- Pat the salmon dry and place in the smoker. Smoke according to instructions with the smoker.
- In the meantime, arrange the lettuce in the middle of each of 4 plates.
- Arrange the sliced eggs, potatoes, beans, olives, capers, and tomatoes equally among the plates.
- Remove the salmon from the smoker, cut into 4 equal slices and arrange on the plates.
- Season as needed with salt and pepper
- Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve immediately.
Crab Louie (or Louis or Louise depending on the reference) is a traditional salad that for many years was synonymous with elegant luncheons. Over the years it has lost some of its glamor and has fallen off many a menu. It has even disappeared from contemporary cookbooks although you can find the recipe in the Joy of Cooking and Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook as well as on the internet. Especially during Dungeness crab season, Crab Louie is still a favorite in San Francisco. Rich Table has had their version in the past. San Francisco may have a predilection for the dish as some sources say it was invented at either Solari’s restaurant or the fabled St. Francis Hotel a few years after the San Francisco earthquake. Other sources place its origin in a Seattle country club or Portland or even Spokane. Still, it is considered a West Coast salad (I guess far-inland Spokane still qualifies as West Coast.)
There are as many variations of the salad as there are recipes, but there are only a few essentials. First, naturally, is crab – although you can add or substitute shrimp or you can use ersatz Krab. Second is lettuce, but your choices include iceberg, Bibb, red leaf, and Romaine among others. Finally, there is the sauce which is a close kin to Thousand Islands dressing usually, though not necessarily, without the pickle relish and with chili sauce instead of ketchup. Most, but not all recipes include hardboiled eggs, and asparagus spears are among the most common additions. Beyond that, everything seems to be fair game, including fresh fruit as described in the Commander’s Palace cookbook.
Over time, many renditions of Crab Louie have begun to resemble a Cobb salad or salade Niçoise. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that the salad has lost its appeal. That’s too bad, because it is delicious and easy to make. Here’s one version in which the most challenging step is to make the home-made mayonnaise. Of course, you can just use bottled mayonnaise, and that makes it even easier, but the hand-made stuff improves the taste with only a few minutes of extra effort.
My image of the finished salad shows some sliced hard-boiled eggs with a faint green ring of shame. That’s usually the result of boiling the eggs too hard and/or too long, but it can also occur when the boiled eggs have sat in the refrigerator for seveal days. That’s what happened to the ones in the image. When they were freshly cooked, the yolks were perfectly golden yellow and silky. Sorry about that, but the goof has inspired me to write later about hard boiling eggs. Post to follow.
- 2 egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup canola oil (or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil)
- salt and pepper (your choice: black for flavor but black specks, white for color but off-flavor, red for a hint of spiciness. Or use a little of all of them)
- 2 tablespoons fresh, strained lemon juice
- In a medium bowl and using a wire whisk, beat the eggs until well mixed. Add the mustard and continue to whisk until well-combined.
- Add the oil very slowly, a few drops at a time, while whisking continuously. Make sure each addition of oil is incorporated before adding more oil. Addition of oil should take several minutes.
- After all of the oil has been added, continue to whisk for a minute or two before adding the lemon juice. Whisk until the juice has been completely incorporated and the sauce is smooth and glistening.
Crab Louie Sauce
- 1 batch (a little over 1 cup) mayonnaise (see above)
- ¼ cup chill sauce
- ¼ cup scallions, including green tops, finely chopped
- 3 snacking peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- salt and pepper
- Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, correcting the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Romaine lettuce, washed
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed, steamed for about 5 minutes, and chilled
- 1 pound crab, cooked and picked over for cartilage
- Crab Louie sauce
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, chilled, peeled, and sliced
- Arrange several whole Romaine leaves in a serving bowl. Top with coarsely chopped Romaine.
- Arrange chilled asparagus on the chopped lettuce.
- Arrange the cooked crab on the asparagus, top with sauce to your preference, and arrange sliced hard-boiled eggs around the edge.
- Serves 2 to 4.
This is a great time of the year. Our grandchildren are out of school, and their parents are looking for a little relaxing time. That means we get to have them in Santa Fe for a few days. Our youngest, Sarah, is here now with her two toddlers. That is exciting for Grandma and Grandpa, but it also is a reminder why young people are parents and old people are grandparents.
Sarah and her husband, Evan, are chefs. They have fallen into the occupational hazard of those who cook for a living: they taste – and taste – and taste. Over the years they have added a few pounds along with – for Sarah – the weight gain of motherhood. As a result, they have gone on a very strict diet and exercise regimen prescribed by a no-nonsense personal trainer.
Before her arrival, Sarah announce that there would not be the usual eating out that seems to be part of the visiting tradition. I was disappointed about that, because there are several new restaurants in town worthy of a visit. The other restriction was that home meals should be high protein/low carbohydrate. How to deal with that? No pasta; no red and green chile enchiladas; no pies or cakes. I decided that a simple resolution, at least for the meal the evening of their arrival, was salade Niçoise. I know – what about the potato salad? No problem. That becomes a personal option.
Sarah signed off on the suggestion, and so that’s what we had. I bought some beautiful raw ahi tuna at the store which I seared to keep the lovely pink inside. There were haricots verts at the farmers market and Kalamata olives from the Cheesemongers of Santa Fe. Everything else I found in the pantry or refrigerator, so it was just a matter of cooking and blanching the beans, hard boiling the eggs, and assembling everything right before we ate. That gave us time to enjoy the beautiful sunset. A good ending to a tiring day for Sarah shepherding two toddlers on a flight that wound up sitting on the tarmac for thirty minutes after arrival, waiting for a gate to open.
- butter lettuce, washed and spun dry
- potato salad – your favorite recipe
- ahi tuna, sautéed and sliced thinly across the grain
- anchovies packed in oil, drained
- haricots verts, boiled and blanched
- hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
- tomatoes, quartered
- kalamata olives
- Arrange the lettuce leaves around the edge of a large serving bowl
- Heap the potato salad in the middle
- Arrange the other ingredients on top of the potato salad
- Dress with vinaigrette and serve.
Another classic composed salad for summer, this version has its origins in Volume I of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and friends.
Instead of pasta, rice, or quinoa serving as the base, French-style potato salad pulls everything together. Haricots verts, hard-boiled eggs, ripe tomatoes, black olives, and canned tuna are essential. If you can find good-quality Spanish anchovies, they should also be included, but beyond that you are limited only by your imagination.
Salade Niçoise can be served chilled or at room temperature, but it goes without saying that it needs a chilled white wine and crusty French bread to be a complete summer meal.
French Potato Salad
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 3 quarts boiling salted water
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¾ cup vinaigrette
- 6 scallions, cleaned and cut into ¼ inch slices, including the green tops
- handful parsley leaves, chopped finely
- Add the unpeeled potatoes to the boiling water. Return to the boil and cook until the potatoes are done and can be pierced easily with a sharp fork, about 30 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and cool until they can be handled. Peel by pulling the potato skin off with a sharp paring knife.
- Slice the potatoes into ¼ inch thick rounds, return to the dry pot, and pour in the wine. Stir gently until the wine is completely absorbed.
- Add the vinaigrette, scallions, and parsley and stir gently until well combined, being careful not to break up the potatoes too much. Chill until ready to compose the salad.
- ¼ pound haricot verts, trimmed and blanched (good green beans if haricot verts unavailable)
- 12 very thin stalks asparagus, trimmed and blanched
- ½ cup vinaigrette
- 1 small head, butter lettuce, washed and the leaves separated
- 1 batch French potato salad (see above)
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into wedges
- 5 ounce can best quality solid albacore tuna in water, drained
- 14 ounce can black olives, drained
- Spanish anchovies (optional)
- Arrange the lettuce leaves in a large salad bowl
- Heap the potato salad in the middle of the bowl
- Dress the beans and asparagus lightly with vinaigrette and then arrange them across the top of the potato salad
- Sprinkle the olives over the top of the potato salad and arrange the tomatoes and eggs around the edge.
- Arrange the tuna, flaked gently with a fork, in the middle of the salad.
- Serve immediately. This will serve two, perhaps with some leftovers.