It’s really difficult to be happy in the wake of something as horrific as yesterday’s events at the Boston Marathon. My first response to tragedies are always shock, fear and sadness for the people involved. And then my anger sets in and I just haven’t been able to shake it. It’s incomprehensible to me how some people are able to cause so much pain towards others and I feel helpless not knowing how to stop it. I start thinking about what we’re doing as a nation to make it more difficult for guns to get in the hands of the wrong people and then something horrible like this happens, an attack without the use of any guns, and I sink into a deeper worry, coming to the sad realization that no matter what we do, what barricades we build or what interventions we put into place, there will always be people in this world doing bad things, whatever the method.
I was in a serious funk yesterday afternoon, not wanting to work out, not wanting to even cook. I just wanted to sit in front of my computer watching the news and seeing any developments taking place. I was pretty depressed, and I know I wasn’t the only one. But then one of my clients posted a picture of his daughter blowing out the candle to her birthday cupcake which I had left for her that day, and tagged me in the photo thanking me for the nice gesture. Seeing that photo made me smile– the first one of the evening after hearing about the news. It pulled me out of my funk and reminded me that no matter how much bad there is out there, there is always so much good.
And so today, I want to do some good in the form of food.
Last week I made you a yummy salad of fresh mozzarella, pesto sauce and slow-roasted tomatoes. It was so ridiculously easy and delicious that I wanted to keep rolling with that theme of simple goodness by making you something I like to treat myself to on occasion. I’m sure most of you have at one time in your life eaten a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon and dill. I love it, minus the dill. I can’t seem to get past the strong herbal pungency. What I do love though is tarragon– an herb that is quite underused in my opinion– and happens to go really well with fish which is why I’ve paired it here with the smoked salmon in the form of a flavored cream cheese. And gosh let’s talk about cream cheese for a second here because who doesn’t love this stuff? If I go to a bagel (btw, do you say bay-gel or bah-gel) place, I always ask for the cream cheese on the side so I can break my bagel into bite-size pieces and shovel it into the heaping mound of cream cheese, with the cream cheese to bagel ratio being about 3:1. I like to think I eat cream cheese with a side of bagel. Gross?
This tarragon + shallot cream cheese is sort of the star in this show though, even if the smoked salmon I used is out of this world. It’s a more refined, grown-up version than that veggie schmear you’d always get and much prettier too with the tiny specks of green from the tarragon and purple from the shallot. And like the compound butter I’ve made in the past, you could use this in a multitude of ways too: sandwiches, crackers, pita, steak, seafood, pasta…
If you decide to make it to eat with the smoked salmon and bagel, please oh please make sure you get the best possible smoked salmon you can get your hands on. I’m lucky to be near an exceptional smoked provisions market where they sell the creamiest, most luscious smoked salmon I’ve ever tasted. Like buttah! I always get their Highlands variety– their most popular– and if you’re interested in scoring some they do take mail orders online here.
Realized I forgot to add some music last week. Oopsie! Been really digging this Skrillex remix of Ben Benassi’s Cinema:
Tarragon + shallot cream cheese
Makes a little over 1 cups worth
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces Kerrygold butter (or another exceptional choice), room temperature
1 small shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 heaping tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped finely
A little under 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Slight squeeze lemon juice, just a teeny bit
// Put the cream cheese and butter into a food processor and whir to combine and smooth. Mash the minced shallot, garlic, tarragon and salt together into a paste with your knife, chopping them together and then pressing down on them with the side of the knife and drag across the cutting board. I find if you do this, it helps marry the flavors together sort of like how a mortar and pestle might. Put all of this into the food processor with the cream cheese and butter, add the lemon zest and juice and pulse a few times until just combined. Store this in a glass jar and keep in the fridge for about a week and a few days. Let it sit at room temperature for a bit before spreading onto food.
Smoked salmon and cucumber bagel
Makes 1 (but can adjust to make more)
1 bagel, sliced and toasted (I used whole wheat bagel thins)
Tarragon + shallot cream cheese, at room temperature
Thinly sliced smoked salmon (I used Tracklements Highlands smoked salmon– my absolute fave and go-to smoked salmon in the area)
Thinly sliced English cucumber (the mandoline works wonders here)
Fresh tarragon leaves, just the tiny young ones
A few grindings of lemon pepper (I like Trader Joe’s variety)
A tiny drizzle of olive oil
// Grab your bagel and slather with a good amount of tarragon + shallot cream cheese. Dress it with a few slices of smoked salmon and then top with cucumber. Add tarragon leaves for extra flavor and garnish and then finish with a few grindings of lemon pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Dead simple.