Next to oysters, the one thing that I usually stuff my buffet plate with is salmon. Whether it’s served as sashimi or gravlax or grilled steak, this rich protein source is a favorite. There are times when you want something more filling than the usual salad greens and this is where cured salmon comes in handy. Here’s another simple salad recipe that combines the satisfying meaty goodness of the salmon, the crunch of sugar snap peas, the sweetness of carrots, the tangy flavors of tomatoes, and the surprising burst of spiciness of green peppercorns. As always, you can mix and match ingredients and build on the flavors to match your preference.
3 pieces cured or smoked salmon (if you can avoid the farmed salmon, much better)
Sugar snap peas, blanched
2-3 pieces of baby yellow carrots, blanched or parboiled and sliced
2 pieces tomatoes, cubed
Fresh green peppercorn
Fresh dill (optional)
All you really need to do is arrange on a plate as in the photo and prepare the dressing.
One of the reasons why I love preparing salads is it allows me to experiment with the dressing. When we were younger, my sister and I would start mixing different sauces and ingredients in our search for creating new pasta sauces, sandwich spreads, and salad dressings. There were times when we would come up with something bleh and we’d look at each other with strange facial expressions. Most of the time, however, we were surprised – and quite proud – with what we came up with. Since we didn’t follow any exact measurements (it runs in the family) and oftentimes rely on our five senses and instinct, we didn’t really get the exact same thing twice, which is great because the dish doesn’t get boring.
For this particular salmon-topped salad, you have several choices. The easiest, especially for busy people who simply don’t have time to weave their personal magic in the kitchen, is the bottled dressing you can just pick up from your favorite grocery. Simply pour and you’re good to go. I like deconstructing so I’d often buy a bottle and add my own ingredients to it but this is another story.
The common go-to dressing for many would be the basic extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and black pepper combination. But since the salmon is already oily, you may want to take it easy on the olive oil. Then there’s wasabi-mayo but, again, go easy on the mayo.
For this particular salad, I prepared about 4 tablespoons of whole-grain mustard and added a teaspoon of honey, about a teaspoon or two of lemon juice (you can add more if you like it tangy), a small dollop of wasabi, some minced raw garlic. If it’s too thick and creamy to your liking, you can add some olive oil to thin it out a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste. There was a time that, on a whim, I added plain yogurt. The trick is to be open to new ingredients. As for mixing, you can either whisk it or put it in a jar, play your favorite salsa music and start shakin’ and groovin’.
As always, the secret to a tasty and unique salad is the dressing. Anybody can prepare a salad but you need to inject your own personality to it, the dressing in particular. You can always follow a recipe to the letter but you’ll only end up with what countless of others have done already. Where’s the fun in that? Check your refrigerator and pantry right now. See if you can come up with a dressing using seemingly unusual ingredients, and be pleasantly surprised.