Smoked Salmon Pasta, Lemon Butter Asparagus, and Nina’s Gluten-free Granola

“Let’s make pasta!”

“Can we do seafood?”

“How about steak? I love steak!”

When I run into my students outside of class, they’re always eager to suggest lessons. Steak and lobster may not be in the budget, but I knew the perfect recipe for teaching them fresh pasta while stretching a pricey piece of fish and appealing to their youthful palates (i.e., having junk-food’s trifecta of fat, salt, and umami, but with wholesome ingredients).

Dessert first, however. I invited my author-artist-food ninja friend Nina to demo her granola, which I’d enjoyed in her home on Lummi, where she grows and preserves a dazzling variety of fruits and vegetables. While the kids sipped tea and nibbled on her Lummi-grown and dried Spartan apples, she engaged them in a discussion of creative granola ingredients while she whipped up the recipe. I love when cooks give permission to tinker with cherished recipes. No ground ginger? Use more cinnamon. No raisins? Use dried cranberries.

The classroom soon went from serene to silly. To save time making pasta dough, I suggested we use bowls instead of cutting boards, but the kids insisted on the latter, and how could I deny them? Half the fun of cooking is getting your hands dirty. We washed hands, set up boards, mounded a cup of flour on each, made a well for the eggs (per Marcella Hazan, two eggs per cup of flour), and let the mixing begin. The kids soon abandoned forks for hands, laughing at the sticky mess and calling for more flour, and more!

Bowls, as Michael Ruhlman recommends, we would have meant less mess, but consistency is not a given. We used “00” flour from Metropolitan Market and fresh eggs from our Jubilee farmbox, but there were still variables, from egg size and viscosity to ambient humidity and the temperature of the hot little hands mixing the dough.

 

With more flour and elbow grease (thank you, Christina and Nina!), the wads of sticky goo morphed into a pliant, golden dough, which we set aside to rest. While it relaxed and Nina’s granola sent aromas of spice from the oven, she read aloud from her new book, “Once Upon a Memory,” to a rapt audience (proving that one is never too old for a picture book). A welcome pause between frenzies.

Using wooden pins, and parchment to cover the pebbly plastic cutting boards, the kids took turns rolling the dough and making strips of tagliatelle, or whatever the Italian term is for “good enough.”

salmonasparagusmiseOne of the challenges of teaching a hands-on class is making sure everyone gets practice while still (here’s the tough part) getting the gist the overall recipe. This dish works pretty well in that regard. As we worked, we chatted about salmon. How do we love thee? Let me count the ways. From raw sashimi to cold smoked to hot smoked to grilled, steamed, baked, and broiled; from back-yard BBQ’s to burgers, jerky, and chowder, we agreed, salmon is amazing. The iconic food of our region, the staple of our First Peoples, a treasured and threatened resource, a source of mystery and beauty and a navigational wonder. Everyone seems to have an opinion or story about salmon. Local legends (e.g, Salmon Boy and the Lost Salmon) contain ancient ecological wisdom, to take only what we need, and to use everything we take. What other food has such power? Or such a persistent odor? (Nina shared a tip: use a cut lemon to remove the fish oil from your hands.)

Once we had our mise, I cradled a strainer full of asparagus spears over the pasta pot and asked the kids to watch it like a hawk. “How will we know when they’re done?” cried the student in charge of the timer, set to 3 minutes as back-up against overcooking. Few things are more revolting than sodden asparagus. “You have to taste!” I plucked a spear from the steambath and nibbled. She looked alarmed. I explained that my prohibition against snacking on ingredients does not apply to sampling for doneness or seasoning. It’s okay. Take a bite. She gingerly nibbled a spear, and agreed that they were crisp-tender.

asparaguswithlemonpeelSoon we were an assembly-line of motion, cooking, saucing, and garnishing individual portions of pasta. Rather than wait until all were seated and served, I asked that we individually give thanks before diving in, sacrificing ritual in favor of hot food, a compromise familiar to many home cooks and probably cave men.

The rest of the class was a blur, as were most of the photos, taken on the fly by whomever had their hands free at the moment and could turn on the DSLR. Suffice to say the pasta was silky, the sauce smoky, the asparagus earthy and tart, and the dessert parfait (layers of granola, Greek yogurt and the kids’ own rhubarb-strawberry sauce) a crunchy, sweet and sour finale. Not bad at all.

The kids lingered, snagging one more strand of pasta, licking their dessert spoons.

“This class was my favorite!” said one after the other.

“They always say that,” I remarked to Christina as we tackled a prevolcanic Mt. St. Helen’s of dishes.

“And it’s always true,” she laughed.

Yes. That’s what makes it so worthwhile.

salmonpastawithasparagusplate

RECIPES

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Fresh Pasta with Smoked Salmon Sauce

A variation of my husband’s go-to pasta dish, you can substitute dried pasta or smoked whitefish and lighten the sauce with wine instead of cream, if desired. For fresh pasta, a rough guide is 100 grams (approximately ¾ cup) of flour per egg, but more may be needed. Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 600 grams or 4-1/2 cups all-purpose or “00” flour, or a blend
  • 6 eggs

Directions

  1. Mound the flour in center of cutting board.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs and incorporate the flour, working your way outward and pushing the flour up to retain the well shape. The dough will become shaggy.
  3. Knead dough, using palms of hands, adding flour in ½ cup increments as needed, for 10 minutes, dusting board with flour as necessary and scraping up dry bits.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic and let rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Roll with rolling pin or pasta machine and cut into thin strips.
  6. Cook in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Drain and serve with sauce.

Smoked Salmon Sauce

This can be made lighter, if desired, by adding ½ cup pasta water or wine to the shallots, reducing by half, and then using less cream. Any smoked fish can be substituted for the salmon.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shallots, minced
  • 8 ounces smoked wild salmon, such as Loki’s, flaked
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • Freshly grated pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, dill, or fennel fronds, chopped, for garnish

Directions

  1. Fill large stockpot with water, generously salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. In large skillet over medium heat, saute shallots until soft (5-6 minutes), then add cream and salmon, stirring until heated through.
  3. Stir in parmesan and season to taste with pepper.
  4. Cook fresh pasta in boiling water just until ad dente, drain and plate.
  5. Top with salmon sauce and garnish with herbs.

***

Lemon Butter Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, the tough ends snapped off
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. In microwave-safe ramekin, melt butter and stir in zest, juice, and salt.
  2. Fill a large pot with water, salt generously, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Place asparagus spears in mesh strainer with handle, and suspend over pot.
  4. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes just until crisp-tender and bright green. Do not overcook.
  5. Remove asparagus to serving plate and drizzle with lemon butter.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

***

Nina’s Gluten-Free Granola

The author of many award-winning children’s books, Nina Laden is also known, among her lucky family and friends, for her magic in the kitchen. She dries apples from her own trees to add to this delicious granola. Makes 12 cups. For dessert parfaits, serve over ice cream or Greek yogurt with fruit sauce or jam.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups gluten-free rolled oats (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 cups raw almonds and pecans (or other nuts), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed meal
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (I like grade B dark amber)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup dried fruit such as apples, raisins, or berries (don’t add until after baking!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Lightly oil large Pyrex baking dish.
  3. Mix dry ingredients (oatmeal, nuts, seeds, spices, and salt) in large bowl.
  4. Mix wet ingredients (maple syrup and oil) in another bowl, and then mix wet into dry. Toss well.
  5. Spread mixture into baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until golden, stirring every 10 minutes to keep it from forming a huge granola bar!
  6. Remove from oven and continue stirring as it cools.
  7. When cool, mix in dried fruit.
  8. Store in airtight container or ziploc bags in fridge. It will keep for 10 days or more.

***

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Categories: Dessert, Entree, Gluten-Free, Kid Favorite, Planning, Snack

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2 Comments on “Smoked Salmon Pasta, Lemon Butter Asparagus, and Nina’s Gluten-free Granola”

  1. May 18, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Great post really well presented !!! 🙂

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