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Recreating nova lox of the old country

There is nothing quite like seeing the flash of fear on a child’s face when he realizes that his seat on the water park ride is now at the bow of the craft … heading backwards as he plummets over the falls.
It seemed that the more he requested of the lifeguards to be facing the deep and fast drop the more they employed their stealthy tactics of spinning the multi-person tube just right. I guess it’s the same as pushing the “close door” button on the elevator when someone with an armful of groceries is asking you to hold the car.
 Our children enjoyed their weekend at Great Wolf Lodge a few weeks ago as did we. While enjoying the three-acre, four-story water park, it seemed as though the more hair-raising rides we went on, the more our youngest would defy his young mind’s logical processes and continued to get on the rides for more excitement.
Arriving home, there was no rest for the weary. It was time to get down to business as I had to plan and cook a cocktail party for some acquaintances in the following week. In going through my Rolodex of items in my mind I recalled these beautiful and simple cold smoked salmon canapés, knowing that they would fit the bill.
In the cold smoking process, it is important that you cure the salmon first. There is absolutely nothing difficult about this, but it is time-consuming. You can coat the salmon and let it sit in the icebox for 2-3 days, rinse and dry and then smoke. Nothing is difficult. It just takes time.
The Scots are well known for their cold-smoked salmon and it does my heart good to try to recreate the nova lox of the old country. Mine will not be identical, but then if they were, I would just buy the side of salmon and be done with it.
I use a basic formula when making canapés and it is one that I share with all of my employees and students. Follow this simple guideline and you won’t go wrong:

• Base: think crouton, cucumber slice, Parmesan crisp, cracker, et al.
• Spread: Cream cheese, mayonnaise or aioli, flavored butters.
• Main item: The reason why the guest is choosing the hors d’oeuvres – shrimp, chicken, tuna, et al.
• Garnish: caviar, herbs, candied fruits, coarse sea salt, et al.

As you go through the recipe, feel free to substitute herbs and flavorings. Let’s face it, not everyone wants caviar or fish roe as a garnish. Some people truly despise dill. It’s acceptable to cook to your taste. That’s the name of the game.
While I finish making these, I can’t lie. I can’t stop laughing about the little one and his flashes of fear and adventure. It’s all in a day’s work.

Cold-Smoked Salmon Canapes
serves 6
1/2 pound cold smoked salmon (recipe follows)
1 cup herbed cream cheese (recipe follows)
18-24 scallion Blini (recipe follows)
Tobikko or other inexpensive caviar, as needed
Fresh chervil leaves (Italian parsley is a good sub)

Step 1: Lay out the cooked blini on a lined baking pan
Step 2: Place your cream cheese on the blini using a pastry bag or two spoons to shape a quenelle (quasi-football shaped torpedo of food)
Step 3: Top the cheese with a thin slice of cold, smoked salmon
Step 4: Garnish with fish roe of your choice and a small sprig of chervil or Italian parsley

Cold smoked salmon
makes 1 pound
1 pound fresh salmon, skinned with pin bones removed
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh dill and parsley
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
5 ea. bay leaves

Step 1: Grind any large spices such as peppercorns and bay leaves.
Step 2: Combine with remaining ingredients except for salmon.
Step 3: Sprinkle a liberal layer of the curing mix in a small pan.
Step 4: Lay salmon on your cure mix and press.
Step 5: Top with remaining cure mix and press with another pan on top.
Step 6: Cure the salmon under refrigeration for at least two days.
Step 7: Remove from the cure and rinse the salmon; pat dry.
Step 8: Lay out unwrapped in the refrigerator and let air dry so that the surface develops what is called the pellicle; the tacky surface that attracts the chemical compounds from the smoking process.
Step 9: Smoke at 150° with apple and hickory chunks for about an hour.
Step 10: Allow to cool unwrapped in the refrigerator and when ready, slice thin for use on the canapés.

Scallion Blini
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 c. whole milk
1 ea. egg
1/2 bunch scallion greens, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsalted whole butter, melted

Step 1: Sift your dry ingredients together.
Step 2: Mix your milk and eggs and then add the wet and dry together. to form a smooth batter. Do not over mix.
Step 3: Drizzle in the melted butter until well incorporated.
Step 4: Add the scallons and mix.
Step 5: Cook the blini as you would a normal pancake, ensuring that they are cooked through but not dark on the outside.
Step 6: Allow to cool to room temperature and set aside until ready to use.

Herbed cream cheese
3/4 c. cream cheese, softened
juice and zest of one lemon
2 tbsp. chopped fresh scallion
1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste    
combine all ingredients and season to taste