We were downright giddy when we walked into the otherwise sparse grocery store in town, when we saw heirloom tomatoes on the produce shelves. Our timing was quite serendipitous as a fresh produce shipment had come in the day of our feast. We loaded our baskets to create this bountiful salad with bright, fresh flavors.
You could skip the step of smoking the cured salmon but why miss the chance to impart a soft, sweet smoky flavor whenever possible? This tender piece of fish only sits on the fire for a few brief moments and it is somewhat protected from direct heat as it rests on a bed of fresh Alder branches. The goal here isn’t to cook the fish but rather gently baste it in smoke.
1 lb wild salmon fillet
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
2 tablespoons bourbon
Rub salmon with olive oil. Lay salmon with skin on bottom in the deep dish & coat both sides with salt mixture. Drizzle Bourbon over top. Cover with plastic wrap, keep in fridge, & baste frequently (36 to 48 hours). Take out of dish with brine and slice salmon thin diagonally.
To smoke the salmon set up your fire with very hot coals. Place a grill grate about six inches above the coals. Gather a couple of fresh, green Alder branches. Set these on the grill grate then place the cured salmon directly on top. Smoke the fish for 5 to 7 minutes. This is enough time to impart a soft smokey flavor but will not cook the fish. Move the salmon around if it’s getting too much heat and it starts to cook.
For the Shallot Cream:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup heavy cream
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
Combine the cream cheese, heavy cream and shallot along with a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Beat well with a spatula until completely mixed and fluffy.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week if you don’t plan to use straight away.
Assembling the Salad:
1 ear fresh corn
1 lb heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced
15 basil leaves
Fresh horseradish, grated on microplane, to finish (optional)
Shuck the corn and set the cob on a grill grate set over hot coals. Cook until blackened in parts, about five minutes, rotating every minute or so. For an even more intense flavor add green hardwood (such as Alder) on the coals and although the corn to char and get bathed in that smoke.
Set the corn aside to cool before slicing the kernels off the cob.
On your serving platter layer on the shallot cream then top with the tomatoes, salmon, basil and corn. Sprinkle on good olive oil, flake salt and freshly grated horseradish.