Smoked Salmon & Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese | Image: Laura Messersmith

After my visit to Barney Greengrass last week I wanted to make a recipe that would incorporate the gorgeous eastern nova salmon I tasted and make it the star of the dish. The salmon itself is very tender, gently smoky and a little on the salty side in flavor and since it’s already cooked thanks to the smoking process it struck me as more of a pairing choice. I knew I wanted to do something with herbs (Ina Garten was helpful there) and with a recommendation from one of the Barney Greengrass to use cucumber I was on my way in creating my version of a classic bagel shop creation.

I love the deep comforting flavor of the toasted multi-grain bread with the smoothness of the herbed cream cheese – do let this chill for a bit after mixing the herbs in, it definitely grows in power – and the thin slices of cucumber help balance out the saltiness of the salmon, while still allowing it to shine.

I’m also brainstorming other combinations - with pickled red onion or maybe capers? Something to think about for future incarnations as I continue to explore the flavors and ingredients found in New York’s Jewish delis!

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese | Image: Laura Messersmith

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese (serves 4)

Ingredients:

4 ounces plain cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons minced scallions
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
pinch kosher salt
12 thin slices seedless cucumber, also called English cucumbers
4 slices smoked salmon
4 slices dark, multi-grain bread

Instructions:

Allow the plain cream cheese to come to room temperature, then place in a medium mixing bowl. Mince the scallions, fresh dill, and fresh parsley. Using a fork stir the minced herbs and kosher salt into the cream cheese until evenly combined. Place the seasoned cream cheese into a small ramekin and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to develop and the cream cheese to firm up.

Slice 4 pieces of dark, multi-grain bread (pumpernickel or seedless rye would be good too) about 1/3 inch thick. Toast until lightly browned. Slice the seedless cucumber as thinly as possible.

Spread each piece of toasted bread with a generous layer of the chilled cream cheese, then arrange 2-3 pieces of cucumber on top of the cream cheese, and finish with a slice of smoked salmon. Serve immediately.

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?

Yes, definitely. I used a medium cutting board, one medium mixing bowl, a chef’s knife, and a bread knife along with measuring spoons and a rubber spatula. Finally, I used a regular home toaster, but a sheet pan in the oven would work too for making the tartines.

The Verdict

The salmon and cream cheese are delicious together and surprisingly filling, so don’t be fooled by the small(ish) portion suggestion. Mike and I each had one as an early evening snack and then discovered that we weren’t really hungry for dinner later. I think this could be a great option for a cocktail party when I want to serve something a little more substantial than crudité, but less than a full meal.

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Tartines with Herbed Cream Cheese | Image: Laura Messersmith

Scouting: Barney Greengrass

Barney Greengrass  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Barney Greengrass | Image: Laura Messersmith

One of my favorite things about New York is the sense of energy, of change. It’s exciting to live in a city that’s constantly evolving – shedding old layers and taking on new ones. The flipside of all that change is a sneaking anxiety that the history and charm of the city’s sometimes gritty past will be wiped away. Even as a new arrival to the city I worry that the “authentic” places will disappear and be replaced by some slick storefront devoid of personality.

Some of the old spots – places recognizable to even the most old-school New Yorker like Barney Greengrass – survive in our neighborhood and I admit that I get a thrill of satisfaction from visiting them. I like knowing that I stand where decades of other people have stood and taking my small place in the parade of humanity that has crossed the threshold since the business (established in 1908) opened it’s doors on Amsterdam Ave.

Barney Greengrass   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Barney Greengrass | Image: Laura Messersmith

I know almost nothing about traditional Jewish deli & appetizing food. I definitely wanted salmon, but beyond that ...well, just imagine crickets chirping. I was a little nervous when I first arrived and braced myself, expecting exasperation, but thankfully I needn’t have worried.

The gentlemen behind the counter listened patiently as I described my intended recipe (stay tuned for the results…) and since the shortest distance between two points is a taste-test they offered samples to help me make a selection.

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Friends, I think I picked the right place to try smoked/cured fish for the first time. The texture of Barney’s hand-cut slices is beautifully delicate and thanks to my guides I left with new insight into why there are such strong opinions on which preparation is best - smoked eastern nova tastes really different from say, house-cured gravlox.

There’s a reason that places survive for more than 100 years and it’s not just nostalgia keeping them viable. Those years come from the Greengrass family; owners that value tradition, treat their customers warmly and provide a high-quality product. I’m excited to continue my education on the wide world of smoked fish and with any luck Barney Greengrass will be around to serve as my classroom.

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