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Salmon and pasta (again)
Food Weblink: Smithsonian site celebrates American food
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Salmon and pasta (again)

Last winter, I offered a simple recipe for a tasty dish that involved flaking alder-smoked salmon (or other cooked salmon of your choice) over short pasta dressed with a simple roux-based, cheese-accented Mornay sauce.

This dish has become a favorite around here, partlyl because we have a local source of high-quality smoked salmon but mainly because it's quick and easy.

The other night, pressed for time, I fashioned an even quicker and simpler variation, substituting store-bought crème fraiche for the classic French sauce to come up with a main dish so speedy that you can literally get it from the pantry to the table in the time it takes your pasta to cook.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

4 ounces farfalle ("bow tie") pasta or other pasta of your choice
4 ounces crème fraiche (see note below)
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Black pepper
4 to 6 ounces alder-smoked salmon


1. Fill a large pot with water for the pasta, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt (enough to make the water distinctly salty), and bring it to the boil.

2. While the water is heating, flake the salmon with a fork; measure out the spices (and grind them with a mortar and pestle if you're using whole spices), and stir them into the crème fraiche. (NOTE: I chose those particular spices to give the dish an exotic hint of the Indian subcontinent and perhaps to heighten its affinity for off-dry Riesling; but this recipe invites experimentation: Try substituting any herbs and spices you like ... or go with salt and pepper alone to showcase the salmon flavors unadorned.)

3. Boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions, usually about 12 minutes for farfalle. Drain, put in warm bowls, and toss with the spiced crème fraiche. Serve with bread and a salad, and you're done!

Crème fraiche, a French-style cultured cream product, somewhat resembles sour cream, but only in the way that Maurice Chevalier resembles Milton Berle. I've read that you can make it at home by stirring one part buttermilk into four parts whipping cream and allowing it to stand overnight, but I bypass this step by picking up an excellent U.S.-made product from Vermont Butter & Cheese Co., available locally in 8-ounce tubs for $3.49. Website:

Alder-smoked salmon usually comes in thick steaks or fillets and is fully cooked by hot smoking, in contrast with the cold-smoked, thin-sliced lox that you normally find on bagels. It's OK to substitute lox, or gravlax, or any smoked or cured salmon (or for that matter, herring) of your choice, but I like alder-smoked salmon best. I get mine locally from Shuckman's Fish Co. & Smokery, which also sells direct to consumers in the U.S. Call (888) 990-8990 toll-free in the U.S. or (502) 775-6478; Website:

MATCHING WINE: With the original version of this dish last winter, I served a crisp, fruity Spanish Albariño. This time I paired it with the two barely off-dry German Riesling Kabinetts featured in yesterday's 30 Second Wine Advisor, and they worked very well indeed. Of course, as always with salmon in just about all its forms, I wouldn't turn down a Pinot Noir.

Discuss this recipe in our online forum:
If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this dish or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Salmon and pasta (again)":
Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

Food Weblink:
Smithsonian site celebrates American food

I've just learned about a new Website associated with the Smithsonian Institution's "Key Ingredients: America by Food," a traveling exhibition that will go to 150 museums and cultural organizations, mostly in small, rural American towns during the next five years. It's currently visiting places in Utah and Illinois.

"What does 'American Food' really mean? It defies definition except to say that it is what people in America harvest, prepare and eat," said the Smithsonian's news release.

The Smithsonian says the Website,
"explores the staggeringly diverse and constantly evolving food of the United States. There is no one recipe that typifies the American table. Instead, in the same vein of Americans who have borrowed and shared food for centuries, the online educational site offers the public, particularly inhabitants of rural communities, a convenient forum for sharing their recipes, traditions, and family stories."

It's an interesting concept, obviously still a work in progress - the "Eating Across America" and "American Cookbook Project" sections, which depend on public input for their content, are still quite sparse. But with public participation and support, it has the potential to become an impressive archive.

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note at I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can.

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Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Filipino adobo (Sept. 4)

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Thursday, Sept. 11, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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