- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Smoked salmon, with its rich, sweet-salty flavor and buttery texture, is usually reserved for luxurious brunches. If smoked salmon is a rare treat in your home, you may be confused by the varieties in your supermarket.

Smoked salmon, regardless of whether it goes by the label of lox, nova or Scottish, starts with the same process called cold smoking. Salmon fillets are kept in a smokehouse at 70 to 90 degrees anywhere from 3 hours to 3 weeks.

Recipes for homemade cold-smoked salmon call for smoking the fish for two to five hours. Processors use longer techniques.

Lox is salmon that’s soaked in a salt solution and cold-smoked as well. Some people crave the slightly salty flavor of lox; others prefer a more delicate taste. If you’d rather have a milder-tasting fish, there’s Nova or Nova Scotia salmon.

You’ll also find Scottish and Irish smoked salmon, which are geographic references to Atlantic salmon.

Given the price range, it’s smart to shop for smoked salmon according to your need and not the package label.

If you want smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels for brunch, lox is a good choice. The sharp taste of the salmon balances the subtlety of the cream cheese. Lox is a great match for scrambled eggs, as well. For a fish platter, nova may be preferable.

Salad is a wonderful backdrop for smoked salmon. Start with the salmon, olives, tomatoes and onion essential to a bagel and lox feast. Then instead of piling the ingredients on a bagel, toss them together in a salad bowl. In place of the traditional bagel, add toasted bits of garlic bread.

Finally, you may have one more option. Look for packages of smoked salmon ends or scraps in better supermarkets. These bits, which aren’t the right thickness for neat packaging, sell for less. The flavor is excellent, however, and you’ll never notice the difference if you care to use the bargain smoked salmon in the bread salad recipe that follows.

Bread salad with asparagus and smoked salmon

Water

Salt to taste

1 pound fresh asparagus

1 large 1-inch thick slice peasant bread

1 garlic clove, smashed

Olive oil

8 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 large tomato, cored and diced

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces

4 teaspoons lemon juice (half a large lemon)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Snap tough ends off asparagus. Cut spears into bite-size pieces. Add to water and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Drain well and set aside to cool.

Rub bread slice with garlic. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Place bread on baking sheet. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted, but not burned. Remove from oven. Tear or cut bread into 1-inch chunks. Set aside.

To assemble salad, combine asparagus, tomatoes, shallot, olives, salmon and bread chunks in a large serving bowl. Combine lemon juice and 7 teaspoons oil in a cup. Stir in pepper. Pour over salad and toss gently but well. Taste and add salt, if desired. (The salmon and olives are salty, so this probably isn’t necessary.) Serve at room temperature; makes 2 servings.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

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