Smoked Salmon and Green Heirloom Tomatoes in a Brown Butter Cream Sauce ((over Campanelle))
I cannot express the full magnitude of deliciousness – but I will try to give you a sliver of an idea. The first bite stole the words right out of my mouth. The synapses in my brain stopped working for a minute. When they started back up – all I could think of was how much more was left in the pan & how could I make it all mine. ((really)) The smoked salmon is so tender and buttery, the green heirloom tomatoes are firm and sweet with a lovely zip of tomato goodness. But wait – that’s not all!
I feel like I should be tying to sell you something for $19.99, haha! One of my favorite parts of this recipe is the fact that I found a great use for my dill weed blossoms. Every summer at this time my dill goes to seed and shortly after, starts to die. There must be a way to extend the life of dill – but I keep forgetting to ‘google’ it.
Let me share a few tips for incorporating dill weed blossoms into cooking:
- rinse the pollen off of the flower heads before chopping – leaving the pollen on the dill will add a gritty texture to your cream sauce (and that would be bad)
- finely chop the dill blossoms – I mean VERY finely. This will also help prevent a gritty texture
- that is all
The very best part of this recipe? The Brown Butter Cream Sauce is made with low-fat evaporated milk, 4 oz of light cream cheese & a scant 2 T of butter, much more figure friendly than the typical cream sauce. I have used this trick for years and shared it with you in several recipes including: Sun Dried Tomato & Chicken “Faux-fredo” with Cheese Ravioli & Cream Cheese Verde Chicken Enchiladas.
The evaporated milk holds up well to the rolling boil needed to fully incorporate the light cream cheese. In order to lighten a cream sauce, your first inclination may be to replace the cream with a low-fat or milk – maybe even skim. Do NOT do it!! It is IM-Possible to achieve a thick & creamy sauce (like this one below) using a lighter milk.
Milk, especially skim and 2%, is notorious for ‘breaking’ AKA ‘curdling’ when brought to a boil. In other words, high temperatures cause the milk proteins (which normally repel each other) to separate from the other components in the milk (mainly sugar, water & fat) and clump together with, resulting in a permanently gritty textured sauce (yuck). Hey, 25 hours of college and graduate chemistry finally paid off!!
These firm green heirloom tomatoes are a real treat in this sauce. They add a bit of crunch and the flavor, sweet and tangy, a perfect complement to the lemon zest and the smoky salmon.
At the very last minute, after the pasta has cooked and is draining – add the green tomatoes, herbs & salmon. ((Actually – next time I will add the green tomatoes & herbs, simmer on low for a minute – then turn off the heat and add the salmon. It broke down a bit more than I would like.)) Stir gently, taking care that the salmon doesn’t break down too much.
One important item that didn’t make it into the ingredient party pic – my mini bottle of Chardonnay. Once the cream cheese and evaporated milk combined with the browned butter, I thinned the sauce a bit by using 3-4 oz of Chardonnay. If you don’t have Chardonnay on hand, reserve some of your pasta water to thin the sauce – it works beautifully.
- 2 (scant) T salted butter
- 4 oz light cream cheese, softened to room temp
- 1 12 oz can of evaporated milk (I used 2%)
- zest of one lemon
- 4 oz parmesan cheese, hand-shredded
- 3-4 oz Chardonnay (or 3-4 oz reserved pasta water)
- 3 T finely chopped dill (I used the blossoms)
- 1/3 c roughly chopped Italian parsley
- 2 green heirloom tomatoes, seeded & diced*
- 1 package of high quality smoked salmon
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 package of Campanelle pasta, prepared according to pkg instructions
- In a medium or large sauce pan over medium-high heat, brown butter (this will take 2-3 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium and add cream cheese and milk. Stir with a which until cream cheese is completely incorporated. Add lemon zest & parm - stirring until combined. Thin the sauce using Chardonnay or reserved pasta water to desired thickness. Add herbs and tomatoes, bring sauce back up to a low simmer, for 1 minute. Turn off heat and add the salmon, tearing the salmon into 3" pieces. Gently fold the salmon into the sauce taking care to keep it in big pieces.
- Pour sauce over individual servings of Campanelle.
- Serves 4.
- *Save the tomato seeds & dry them. You can stick them in the freezer and get a head start on acquiring next year's seeds for the garden!