Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smoked Salmon Dip: A case of Acquired Love?

I am a coastal girl when it comes to my eating choices, and would prefer fresh seafood any day, rather than meats, if I had to choose. Living in Seattle, for half a decade, has only reinforced my eating habits, thanks to the fresh and year round supply of good seafood.
Yet, fresh sea food was one thing and the rest another....think -cured fish! For years, I always wanted to try some smoked salmon. Well, I had tried dried fish, made into delicious curries and fried; served with Rice, in India as a kid. It was a common pantry item when I was growing up,to be used in emergencies only...the emergency being the unavailability of fresh fish. (Oh yeah, that how big fish-eating was in our home!)
After marriage, I always had a little bit of dried prawn or canned sardines or some shrimp paste stashed away in case I needed a quick sea food fix. I use them for curries, salad dressings and soup bases respectively. But smoked salmon? Never!
I guess I saw it as some kind of luxury item which was not really necessary in my economic, saving-mode of a life style. And somehow kept ignoring it when I came across one of those seasonal foil-packed versions that keeps appearing during the holiday season. But this very last week, my husband, who very well knows about my sea-food love, bought me two 16 oz packs of smoked salmon, on his solo shopping trip.
After I got over the price,  I was clueless! I hadnt even tasted this thing ever in my life and how was I expected to use it up....all of it? I let the panic mode subside ( it took about 3 days), and went to my trusty laptop to look up recipes on the Internet. There were many, fortunately, to give me a good idea of what I could make out of my smoked salmon.
I also asked friends for help and many of them sent me well-meaning messages, like, "stay off the nasty stuff, it tastes like rotten fish, and fouls up anything you add it to etc etc. I also got a couple tips from my friends who actually liked it.  the next few days, were spent with me eating homemade salmon dip, bagels with smoked salmon and even a wrap recipe using smoked salmon inside a flat-bread.
To tell the truth, once I had the first taste, the stuff was not actually half bad, like the naysayers said it was.  It was a classic case of acquired taste, and to my taste buds, which were used to the dried fish dishes back home, it was like "Oh, I know you.You look good, that dress (ing) really suits you!"
 I also understood why someone who have eaten only fresh fish would say something like that about smoked salmon which is essentially cured fish.Being someone who had fish curry and rice for dinner almost everyday, it was as easy as meeting up with a long lost relative for me, but for someone who was only used to the fresh sweet taste of fresh sea food, it was nothing short of a sensual assault.
I wouldn't try to bring over the haters by trying to convince them. That way, it leaves more for us! Hehe!
The other recipes were trashed by me, but I loved smoked salmon in a dip. I made it the American way, where the saltiness and the sharp taste of the smoked salmon was mellowed down by the richness of cream cheese and finely chopped up mild veggies. The result was a fattening (only if you finish it all in one sitting), rich, creamy chunky dip that made my hard, multi-grain crackers, taste like heaven. (Usually its called cardboard by my family, but I dont mind!) This recipe will make a big lot, so is more suitable for gatherings. You could pack it up nicely in 6-8 containers for breakfast or lunch or snacks, if you are as much into chip-and-dip snacking as me. But keep all of it refrigerated as much as possible, and use it up within 7-8 days.
It took me two tries to get the portion sizes noted and to balance the taste and ingredients. But I hope you all like this and if by chance, you dont like mine, feel free to add your own ingredients and make it work for you.

Prep Time: 15 mins Set time: 4 hrs min. Servings: 20


16 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped

Celery-- 1 stalk, finely chopped
Green Onions -- 1 bunch, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Whole Pickled Jalapenos, 2-3, seeded and minced

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream (you can use the light version here)
1 cup mayonnaise (Miracle whip is fine too, if you prefer it)
a tsp full of capers---(Though I like biting into one every now and then, I don't like the  too much saltiness it adds to the dip. So just 1 tsp is good enough for me)



1. Mix together the cream cheese, sour cream and mayo by using a hand mixer in a low setting until well combined.
2. Stir in the smoked salmon, until the preferred consistency is reached. It can be slightly chunky, where you can bite into a tiny piece or it can be homogeneous as in store bought dips.
3. Stir in the Celery, Onions, Jalapenos, Dill and Garlic and mix very well.
4. Taste Check, Cover and Chill for a minimum of 4 hrs and perfect, if you can leave it overnight.
5. Stir well, before serving. Keep leftovers, air tight and refrigerated, and it should stay fresh for 7 days, getting better each day.

Enjoy with crusty bread, pretzels, celery sticks, or your favorite multigrain crackers (aka cardboard crackers around here!).

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