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Hot Smoked Salmon, Soba and Asian Greens Salad


I got hooked on hot-smoked salmon while living in England where my corner fishmonger sold me some of his personally recommended local stuff. I had to limit myself to buying this only once a week. It was sweet and salty, firm and creamy all at the same time. The “hot” here doesn’t mean spice. It’s the temperature at which the smoking process occurs (between 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit), which fully cooks the fish, giving it a light pink silken internal texture a tawny, smoky skin. I used it in maki rolls, with asparagus and hollandaise and in my daughter’s lunchbox. And I concocted this Asian-inspired noodle salad which has a good contrast of flavor, texture and color.
You may be able to find good hot smoked salmon where you live and by all means use it to make this salad as a very easy, very cool dinner on a hot night. I, unfortunately can’t get my hands on the good stuff in Central PA, so I’ve learned to hot smoke my own salmon for this recipe using a stovetop smoking contraption involving my wok, a bunch of tin foil and the lid of my lobster pot, a trick adeptly demonstrated by former New York Times Magazine food writer.

Smoking sounds so intimidating and time consuming, right? We're here to tell you it's not. You don't even need a stove top smoker. We used Amanda's wok, lined it with foil and set the fish on a round cake rack set above the wood chips. After sealing the wok with more foil, we simply turned on the burner and let it smoke away. (It does help to have a good fan above your stove.) The salmon, which is brined before smoking, emerges from the smoker taut and bronzed, infused with five spice powder, salt, sugar and soy sauce. You can also broil or grill the salmon if you want to skip setting up the smoker -- you just won't get that rich woodsy flavor. Then it's up to you to either leave the salmon whole or break it into bits to mix with soba noodles, tatsoi and a kicky ginger dressing.

Serves 4 for a starter and 2 for a main course

Hot smoked salmon

1/2 pound fillet of salmon (I used wild caught sockeye, because the color is lovely.)
1/4 cup cup kosher salt
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice

Cut salmon fillet lengthwise in two even pieces.
Combine salt, sugar, say sauce and Chinese five spice with 1 quart of warm water and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let fish sit in this brine for one hour at room temperature.
Remove fish from brine, dry it completely and place on a rack. Put rack uncovered in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Using a stove-top smoker, smoke the salmon for about 8 minutes at a temperature in the range of 145-50 degrees. Allow salmon to cool completely.

Soba noodle salad

8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
Juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Mirin
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup warm water, more if necessary. You want this to be somewhat thin as it’s more of a broth than a dressing.
2 cups small tat soi leaves, whole

Prepare the soba noodles as directed on package. Rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Whisk together lemon juice, soy sauce, mirin, ginger, sugar and sesame oil. Add water to desired strength. Toss about half of the dressing with noodles.

Divide tat soi leaves into bowls and mix with the dressed noodles.

Either leave the salmon whole and set it atop the noodles or break it into bite-sized pieces on top of the salad.

Drizzle the remaining dressing over the completed salad and serve immediately.
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