Monday, August 2, 2010

Pasta Salad w/ Snow Peas, Smoked Salmon, & Lavender

It wasn't until the last minute that I discovered that I still had lavender in my cupboard, but boy am I glad that I did! The aroma of lavender really tied this dish together. The fresh florets pop between your teeth and produce a burst of refreshing flavor that almost resets the palate for the next bite. These little purple flowers add a nice color to the plate as well. I love summertime!

1/2 lb. Fusili or Rotini Pasta
1 Medium Red Onion, shaved
1/4 lb. Snow Peas, blanched, cut on a bias
1/4 lb. Pastrami Smoked Salmon*
1/4 C. Olive Oil**
TT Salt & Pepper
Fresh Lavender, for garnish (optional)

*There are two mainstream methods for smoking; hot-smoking and cold-smoking. When hot-smoking, fish is smoked for shorter periods of time, usually between 6 and 12 hours. The smoking times are determined mostly by the kind of fish and the size of the fish involved. The hot-smoking process uses temperatures ranging from 120 degrees to as much as 180 degrees. The cold-smoking process requires temperatures that are half that of hot-smoking processes. Because of the lower smoking temperatures, the length of time required for smoking is drastically increased. A quick cold-smoking process can last as little as 24 hours where as a more intense cold-smoke may last as much as 21 days. The intensities of the smoke flavor vary depending on how close the fish is to the source of the smoke.

For this dish, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some Pastrami Smoked Salmon from The Wine Shop located in the Rivergate shopping center here in Charlotte, NC ( Pastrami Smoked Salmon uses a cold-smoked process. The fish is cold-smoked with the herbs and spices most closely associated with pastrami and then cut into paper-thin slices. It is far and beyond the best smoked salmon I've ever eaten. I much prefer the cold-smoke process as it lends itself to a more sushi-like texture versus the hot-smoke process which can result in fish-jerky.

**Extra Virgin Olive Oil works perfectly well for this dish. I love making infused oil, so for this dish, I used a rosemary-oil that I've been aging since March of 2009. Although infused oils are wonderful to cook with, I really enjoy when I get a chance to use them raw. The infusing flavors are so intense that it's basically like adding the ingredient itself. The rosemary lightens the overall flavors from this dish and almost removes some of the starchy texture from the pasta.

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