There it was in the back of the fridge: a stack of leftover smoked salmon. As extras from a recent brunch party, the thin black packages were taunting me each time I opened the door. It's not that I don't enjoy smoked salmon, but rather that I happened to be left with a whole lot of it. I had stored some away in the freezer, made the smoked salmon spread from Nourishing Traditions, chowed down on cream cheese roll-ups, and enjoyed slices of it over eggs. But by the time I finished all that, I was looking to try something lighter, more creative, and, well, a bit less fishy. These fresh, flavor-packed bites have been the results of my endeavors. By combining crispy cucumber with a yogurt dip and just a sliver of protein-packed salmon, they make a simple, very tasty, and visually appealing snack or appetizer to feed a crowd.
Health Benefits of Smoked Salmon
Alluring and nutrient-dense, pink salmon is almost universally accepted as a superfood. High in omega-3s and amino acids, it is undeniably healthy when slid onto a plate and covered with a pad of butter. Salmon is also prized for offering concentrated amounts of Vitamins A, B6, D and E. However, there is some contention as to the healthfulness of "smoked" salmon. What does smoking mean anyway? And are the nutrients preserved with this technique? As we look into these questions it becomes apparent that, as with most foods, the issue is not necessarily with what the item is, but rather how it is prepared.
Smoking is one of the oldest food preparation techniques around. Before the creation of sleek, high-tech refrigerators, fermenting, salting and smoking prevailed as three of the most affordable and accessible ways to preserve food over the long term.
When practiced traditionally, smoking involves hanging strips of salmon on rungs in a smoke house or kiln. A wood chip fire is then set on the floor beneath them and dampened to prevent flames from licking the pieces of fish and cooking or charring them. The temperature is intentionally kept at or below 99°F to yield the signature delicate or "raw" texture, and build up the smoldering, smoky flavors over time. Although highly coveted, cold smoking like this is highly time consuming, and can take up to 2 days to complete.
The benefits of cold smoking reach beyond mouthwatering texture and flavor. At these low temperatures, smoking can also be a highly enriching way to prepare fish and other meats. One study in the Journal of Food Science, even found that smoking at temperatures around 95°F further stabilized the plentiful omega-3 fatty acids in the fish and minimized oxidation risks.
Unfortunately, given the impatience of the modern food industry, this age-old technique has been largely abandoned for other more rapid (and thus more lucrative) methods. Cheap woods and chemical additives are subbed into processing lines at machine-filled warehouses to crank out package after package of smoked salmon. At these quickened paces and higher temperatures, many of the omega-3's and vitamins are damaged. Furthermore, toxic accumulations from poorly sourced woods or fake flavorings can occur.
Thus when selecting a salmon for this recipe or others, be sure to do a quick label check before buying it. You might be surprised to find that many supposedly "natural" brands have snuck artificial colors or preservatives into their products. Higher quality smoked salmon that has been prepared using actual wood, like hickory, oak, or alderwood is preferable. If you are struggling to find a good brand or reasonable prices however, there is no need to give it up completely. Remember that the salmon is still rich with nutrients and can make a great treat to savor in moderation.
Cucumber Smoked Salmon Bites
By Kayla- Radiant Life
1 fresh cucumber
1/2 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt (or use strained homemade yogurt)
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tbsp fresh dill
1 packet of presliced smoked salmon (about 4 oz)
In a small bowl mix together yogurt, capers and dill.
Slice cucumber into about 1/2" slices and arrange onto a cutting board, platter or plate.
Drop about 1 teaspoon of yogurt mixture onto each cucumber slice.
Slice salmon into thin pieces and place over yogurt mixture.
Garnish with sprinkles of extra dill. Serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator. Enjoy!