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Okay, I might be dating myself, but one of my favorite recipes and flavor combinations from Gourmet magazine was peperoncini stuffed with smoked salmon and dill cream. I think it was Amy Mastrangelo who dreamed this up about 15 years ago.
Oddly, you can find other references to this dish with no credit given to Gourmet. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine; you should give credit where credit is due.
Amy was my office mate, coworker, adviser and a person to be admired for not only her great taste, but most important, for her friendship, during my formative years at Gourmet.
Her peperoncini recipe is literally an early from of umami…the term might not have reached us yet back then but we all strived for that indescribably delicious, savory quality.
This recipe hits all of the flavor notes: salt, sweet, sour and bitter (the salty, briny, almost bitter taste of the peperoncini and lemon, salty and smoky qualities of the salmon, the sweet cream of the cream cheese and the sour of the sour cream). It was simply irresistible…and something that processed food manufacturers strive to emulate but never seems to achieve, because fresh preparation is part of the equation. Also, when dreaming up dishes, texture and color play a big part and this recipe has all the notes covered.
My interpretation of the original is to make a spread that is sandwiched between really great toasted dark pumpernickel and some sliced cucumbers.
You can cut the price of sliced smoked salmon by using the nibs. Nibs are the end bits and scrappy pieces left over after your purveyor cuts beautiful slices for customers. It’s often half the price. So if you’re going to purée your salmon for a dip or a sauce, bring on the cheaper cut. It may be cheap in price, but not in flavor. I found mine at my local market packaged as smoked salmon trim by Ducktrap River of Maine. Great flavor and price!
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Smoked Salmon and Peperoncini Dill Spread
Makes 1/3 cup spread
3 pickled peperoncini, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 ounces chopped smoked salmon nibs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 to 4 slices toasted pumpernickel bread
8 slices cucumber
- In a small food processor, pulse together peperoncini, cream cheese, sour cream, shallot, lemon juice and salmon nibs until finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spread on bread, top with sliced cucumber and serve.
- Peperoncini are pickled Tuscan peppers found in the antipasto or pickle aisle of the supermarket.
- Salmon nibs are the scraps and end pieces of smoked salmon left over after the perfect slices are cut.
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