The Ultimate Smoked Salmon Spread

by Ginny on December 18, 2010

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Last week, I was zipping around town in a holiday frenzy, looking for supplies for an article I was writing on edible homemade gifts. You can read that article, including 6 simple spice mixes, and a recipe for Dark Molasses Cranberry Granola, on Nourish Network.

I zoomed to the spice store and the craft store and the fabric store. Then out to the hills to take Pablo for a walk. I zipped back into town to grab something to eat with Noah, while we discussed all the items we needed to put up a tree and hang some lights. Seeing that this is our first tree in our first home in our first hometown, we pretty much needed everything, from tree stand to ornament hooks.

More zipping, zigging, zagging, and zooming. A blur of traffic lights, parking lots, and check out lines. We squeezed in a few of the never-ending errands that have come with our first year at the Ranchito — look at snowblowers, go to the furniture store for the 15th time, pick up some ice melter from the hardware store. Sometime in the late afternoon, as the light was just beginning to fade, I looked at my phone. I had forgotten the ringer was off and I had missed 2 calls.

“#@*&!#@%!!! I missed my massage!!!”

My in-laws had bought me a massage for my b-day (thank you very much), and I had been looking forward to it all week. That morning, I scanned my calendar and thought, “Yay, massage today, 3pm.” By the time I realized what had happened, it was 4:30.

I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know, the sinking kind that comes from knowing that not only did you miss something, you screwed up someone else’s day. Time and money were surely lost for the massage therapist. I called the spa.

“Hi, I had an appointment today, and I . . . well I don’t know what happened. I think I got caught in a holiday time warp.”

The receptionist laughed and said, “Yeah, I think that’s been happening to people. We’ve had a lot of spaced appointments this week.”

It was kind of a relief to know I’m not the only one. I was reminded again of the holiday mind melt reading my friend Kate’s blog, A Life Like This One, where she likened her holiday state of mind to a, “Category 5 hurricane.” And she reminded me that this is a time of year for togetherness, celebration, family, friends, and peace. Somehow, we have to hold that sacred, and make choices that create space for what’s important.

In the whoosh of December, it’s easy to miss the important things. My lesson this year is that as I enter the month of December, it’s best to check my ambitions at the door. For example, while on deadline for that article, I needed to come up with a dish to pass for a Christmas party. I told Noah I was going to make salmon dip, then roll it in cream cheese and build a snowman, complete with a little path of grass clippings fashioned out of dill, a scarf made of shaved carrot ribbon– complete with fringe, peppercorn eyes, and thyme stems for arms. Oh the edible wonderland I was going to create!!

“And when are you going to write this article?” Noah asked in reply, bringing me back to Earth.

“On second thought, maybe I’ll just mix it up and put it in a bowl, ” I said, “…with a dill sprig.”

So that’s what I did. And it was easy, and it was good, and ya know, it was enough. I made a lot of progress on my article that day, and felt relaxed going to the party, ready to bring some holiday cheer versus holiday stress. Oh that tightrope…she’s a thin one. I wish you luck in walking your own this holiday season, in finding time to sit and admire the lights, to watch the snow fall, to remember the magic we knew as children, when it was our parents who were working their butts off to create happy holiday memories (Thanks Mom).

I had that massage, finally. After offering my heartfelt apologies for spacing out last week, the massage therapist generously gave me a most healing hour. She took me back home, back to center, where I am here, and only here. No zipping, no zooming, no doing, just being; aware of the truth that the important thing is not to impress people with salmon dip dioramas, but to show up.
So when it’s your turn to bring a dish to pass, and you want to make something that comes together quick, but is still special enough for the season, try this salmon spread. Just remember not to spread it, or yourself, too thin ; )

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Recipe : The Ultimate Smoked Salmon Spread

This recipe was originally published in my Local Flavor column for The Juneau Empire. You can view the article here.

There are many ways to make salmon spread but, at least in my mind, this is the ultimate. Addicting, easy, and luxurious. Popular go-withs for salmon spread are buttery crackers (I like Late July Organic’s Classic Rich Crackers because they’re light yet sturdy), pumpernickel cocktail bread, bagel chips, or Lavosh-style flatbread.


  • 8 ounces smoked wild Alaskan salmon (use hot smoked, aka “kippered” salmon, NOT lox)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional, but they add some nice texture)
  • 2 tablespoons cream horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill, plus extra for garnish (or fresh chives)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Break the salmon into small pieces, discarding skin and bones. Set aside.

2. Place the cream cheese in a medium, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on high, 30 seconds or until softened.

3. Add all remaining ingredients (except salmon) to the cream cheese and stir to combine. Add flaked salmon and using a rubber spatula, fold into mixture until thoroughly coated.

4. Place in a serving dish, and garnish with extra dill. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. May be made 1 day in advance.

Makes 2 cups

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