I am guilty, just as everyone else, of forgetting the simple things in life. We all get so wrapped up in work, and kids, and chores, and well, just life. Things get crazy, and we forget to appreciate the little things. We also complicate everything by making things more difficult than they have to be. It’s a wicked cycle, and difficult to kick. I fall in to this deadly spiral even with writing this blog. I will start thinking about recipes to try or tips to research, and I get so wrapped up in the idea that everything has to be complex and difficult that I forget to include the simple things! The simple things are just as important as the big things. So, in honor of the simple life, I am sharing my favorite throw together in a pinch smoked salmon dip.
Last fall, my family ventured to the San Juan Islands in Washington. The trip was amazing, and resulted in a plentiful harvest of Dungeness crabs and pink, or humpback, salmon. We also even caught a king salmon. It was a trip I will always remember. The weather there is starkly different from the deserts of Utah, with the mornings usually hosting a blanket of light fog resting over the calm, Pacific waters and the afternoons filled with a light, salty breeze and beautiful sunshine. The temperature is perfect for t-shirts and jeans with a light jacket, and sitting out all day is easy.
The animals, of course, are drastically different from my home turf. The sounds of the San Juan Islands are home to several pods of orcas, harbor seals, minke whales, and Dall’s porpoises. The islands themselves house Columbia black tail deer, red fox, bald eagles, and over 23 species of butterflies. Needless to say, it is an amazing place and I recommend visiting whenever you get the chance. While we were there, I posted a quick blog about how to travel to the islands and find lodging. You can find that information here: A Desert Girl Heads to the Pacific Northwest.
We were fortunate to have a freezer in our lodging accommodations, and we certainly utilized it. We were able to clean and store our humpback salmon catch in order to transport it back to Utah. I have made a lot of different recipes with the salmon we caught, and I also made a batch of smoked salmon. Smoked salmon is one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon. The salmon takes on this sweet but smoky flavor and it also stores well. I like to flake it over salads for a quick lunch, stir it in with some asparagus or leeks for a fine omelet, add it to dips such as this one, and of course just pull a chunk out and eat it plain. It is so good!
Okay, so on to this simple recipe. This works easiest with a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use a hand mixer or stir it by hand. Those two methods just take a bit more time, but are completely doable. Before you start, set out an eight ounce block of cream cheese and allow it to come to room temperature, about fifteen minutes or so. Using cold cream cheese will result in chunks in the dip, which aren’t so great. Room temperature cream cheese will create a smooth, well mixed dip. So, into the food processor drop the entire block of cream cheese. Scoop in half a cup of sour cream. Pulse the machine once or twice to mix together the cheese and sour cream. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and run the food processor until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
How much smoked salmon you add is entirely your choice. I like my dip to be full of bigger chunks of salmon, so I add in between six and seven ounces of salmon and I pulse it very minimally. If six ounces of fish is too intense for your liking, go with only four ounces of salmon and run the food processor until the salmon is broken down. I wait until after I have my salmon added to add in the dill, salt, and pepper. All of these should be based on tasting. Some smoked salmons are more salty than others, so be sure to taste as you add these ingredients in order to get a good balance of the dill with the sweet and salty flavors. I am a pretty big dill fan, so I tend to add at least a tablespoon of fresh minced dill, sometimes a little more. If you like a little kick in your dip, add a teaspoon or two of fresh prepared horseradish. You could also do a couple drops of Tabasco sauce.
Once the ingredients are all mixed together, spoon the dip into a bowl and surround it with crackers, vegetables, and breads. For vegetables, I will pretty much dip anything in smoked salmon. I have done the traditional basics of carrots, celery, and cucumber slices. I have also gotten a little fancier and included radishes, endives, cauliflower, bell peppers, and slices of hot peppers like jalapenos. This dip would also make a great sandwich spread. Maybe a couple slices of whole grain bread with smoked salmon spread and cucumber slices? Mmmm…sounds good to me!