Just the other day, Jim and I were chatting. He feels that the blog should have more snacks on it!
Jim has a favourite snack. I keep teasing him that one day I will do an entire post on it, and give him the credit for the ‘recipe’.
Snacks are one of those ephemeral food groups. What denotes a snack? How does a dish get official ‘Snack’ status? One man’s (or woman’s) snack is another’s lunch or dinner. Does a snack mean savoury or sweet, or both? If it’s eaten in front of the tv while sitting on the lazy boy recliner covered in a blanket, does that automatically make it a snack? So many questions. And I won’t assume that I have all or even any of the answers. I’ll let you guys have the right to determine what a snack is in your world.
Having said all that, one of our favourite ways to snack involves crackers or crostini of some sort, cheese, meat and some sort of hot sauce, antipasto or spread. Put all of the above on a platter, and I’m pretty content and set for an evening of tv binging (which to be brutally honest, is when most snacking takes place, amirite!?)
So, I guess this dish today could fall into the ‘Snack’ category. There’s bread cut into smaller pieces. There’s meat (kay, smoked salmon, which is kinda like meat), and a spread. In this case, it is the spread that is the whole reason for this post.
This month we are using ‘How to Eat a Peach’ by Diana Henry. It is a glorious cookbook, both visually, and as a piece of travel and reminiscing literature. She takes us on a travel ride, going from San Francisco to Piedmont, from Instanbul to Spain, New York and even her homeland of Britain and Ireland. Along the way, she shares dishes that each of these lands inspired.
One recipe jumped out to me: ‘Rye Bread with Radish Butter and Salmon Caviar’. It automatically reminded me of the tartines or open faced sandwiches we ate growing up. It spoke to my northern European sensibilities, and my love of all things Scandinavian! Like a classic Danish or Swedish smørrebrød, this ‘sandwich’ of sorts could easily be lunch, an appetizer, or even a SNACK!
Now, I rarely have caviar in the house. One day remind me to tell you the caviar story that Jim holds over my head, as one of my more embarrassing moments! I love caviar. But I rarely purchase it. But instead of salmon caviar, why not smoked salmon? This is something that is usually always either in the fridge or freezer. And it’s something that most everyone loves as a treat.
The star of the recipe is definitely the radish butter. Radishes and butter go swimmingly together. Come on, there’s an entire recipe just for radishes dipped into melted butter and sprinkled with salt for an appetizer! So I could totally see this compound butter working. Which is really what it is. Softened butter with additions like herbs or spices and then rolled up to harden into a log again is a compound butter. It can be stored and then used in cooking, baking, or even to top a freshly grilled juicy steak.
And while we can now get radishes all year round, right now, the farmers markets are brimming with all the fresh and bright radishes of summertime. I love that along with the classic red radish, they now range in colour from white to lavender to fuchsia, and of course the two toned breakfast radish, with that little white stripe at the bottom. And because I had fresh radishes in the kitchen, this was the perfect time to make this recipe.
In this case, finely whizzed up radishes, along with a bit of salt and cracked pepper get folded into the softened butter. For this dish, you don’t really want the butter to get rock hard again. In fact, if you are storing it in the fridge, make sure to remove it to return to room temperature before using it.
The rest is scary easy. Purchased rye or pumpernickel bread (the dense, thinly sliced breads of northern Europe) are what Diana suggests. I usually have this in the fridge, since this is what I love using for smoked salmon or salami tartines. But you could use a lighter rye bread, or even lightly toasted baguette sliced into crostini sized bites. Then it is just as simple as spreading some of the butter on the bread, draping smoked salmon on top, and popping it into your mouth!
As part of a charcuterie spread, this would be awesome. Or just for some laid back snacking this works just as easily.
And once you’ve made the butter, of course you could spread the bread that you will be making an egg salad sandwich with it, or any fun cold cut or veggie sandwich, for that matter. And while you’re at it, go ahead and use it for when you are scrambling eggs. Yes I said that. The radish bits will get lightly browned, which mellows their flavour, and works fabulously with eggs.
Diana suggests using breakfast radishes. Yes, they are usually a tad more mellow, less sharp in flavour. But these days most radishes are. Of course, you can taste the bunch that you happen to have on hand. I actually don’t mind if there is a touch of bite- it will get mellowed out in the butter with the salt. But do what makes you happy. You do want to notice that the radishes are there, though!
Enjoy this summer snack. Or appetizer. Or lunch. Or whatever you choose to call it.
Radish Butter Smoked Salmon Tartines
A brightly flavoured and hued butter composed of minced radishes, salt and pepper gets spread on rye bread slices. This gets topped with smoked salmon. That's it. And it's enough!!
- 9 oz (250 grams or about 8-9 individual) red radishes, trimmed (breakfast radishes tend to be less sharp and biting)
- 1 stick unsalted butter completely softened
- 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- freshly cracked black pepper or you can use white as well
- loaf of firm or dense Rye bread that uniquely Scandinavian bread used for smørrebrød
- 12-14 oz approx 400 grams of smoked salmon (preferably sustainable Wild Sockeye)
Put the radishes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4-5 times until chopped very fine. Transfer to a piece of cheesecloth and wring out the excess liquid with your hands.
Put this into a bowl and add the butter. With a rubber spatula, work the radishes and butter together with the salt till it comes together in a smooth pliable mass.
Grind some cracked pepper over it all as stir again. Taste for seasoning.
Transfer the mixture to a ramekin or serving bowl and garnish with one final grinding of pepper.
(if you are storing it in the fridge till it is time to serve, remove 15 minutes ahead of time so that it can soften up again)
Spread the butter on squares of the bread, and top with slices of smoked salmon.
The original recipe calls for a 3 1/2 oz jar of salmon caviar. You can definitely use this instead if you would rather!