My family loves veggies. I count myself a lucky mom through all these years! A platter full of cut raw vegetables will always get plenty of attention at our house. On a hot day, there’s no dinner I like to prepare and serve better than fresh fruit, a salad with plenty of veggies, and some protein my hubby has grilled! There are bonuses to that meal ;)
We have not exactly been having the kind of weather that suits a cold crisp menu, though. Our weather itself has been rather cold and crisp. Hubby put 2 kinds of ribs and half a salmon in the smoker for Memorial Day, and tended it in the rain. We sat inside with our potato salad and baked beans looking out upon a gray wet day. The food and company was good (just my mom, hubby, and me) but there were plenty of leftovers!
When the time came for dinner on Wednesday night for just me and my son, I decided to make some of that leftover smoked salmon into a spread. He loves it. I love it.
What goes better with a spread than veggies and crackers? … and what goes better with veggies and crackers than goat cheese and pesto? That’s how my son thinks and I know that about him, so I went forth and made us what ended up to be a party platter for two.
I started off making the smoked salmon spread (a set of guidelines, not quite a recipe, below.) Then I prepared and added one item at a time. Preparing a tray full of food is like decorating a room. Always follow the basic rules: first the big important pieces. Then the secondary pieces. Pay attention to color, shape, and texture. Layer on accents, and always include something to make it *pop*
In this case I started with a long skinny pile of salmon spread. I can’t call it a log because that implies more work than I actually did :)
A little crumbled goat cheese on each side in the center so “everyone” could reach it (as if there were going to be issues with just two of us LOL)
Next came an anchor piece: the pepper bottom filled with pesto. All of a sudden things weren’t so boring looking!
I have collected a lot of various outdoor-hardy serving pieces over the years, but these long white trays I picked up for son’s HS graduation party are so useful! I think the unusual proportions of the tray help grab your attention.
After that, the two strongest colors and bulkiest shapes: the red and yellow pepper strips. A handful of cherry tomatoes goes next to the yellow peppers — shape and color!
Thin slices of cucumber for more shape, color, and texture — not just for your eyes, but your mouth, too. The crackers I used are the same round shape as the cucumber but are dry and neutral-colored.
Remember that even though a lot of people would say they don’t care how their food is presented as long as they get fed, it DOES make a difference if you feed their eyes first. (One day I’ll make a basic cheesecake and tell that story.)
Once I got all the food on the platter, it looked colorful and interesting except for that center section! And it also looked unfinished…
I actually hadn’t planned much beyond this point but I did a quick evaluation. Instead of just adding some basil leaves here and there, I sliced them up (chiffonade-style) and piled them at the end of the goat cheese areas. A couple drizzles from my EVOO bottle, a grind of fresh pepper down the salmon spread and a sprig of basil — can’t forget the impact of sprigs! — and *pop*
Suddenly it WAS a party for two :)
I kind of thought there’d be some for leftovers for my husband and/or snacks, but … refer to the first paragraph! There were leftovers for a 2 year old LOL
I loved the way this tray turned out to be so colorful. Vegetables are works of art! Think of all the shapes, sizes, colors and textures there are. Especially the colors.
Gail’s Super Simple Smoked Salmon Spread
6 to 8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
*about* an equal volume of dry smoked salmon — the better quality, more flavorful the salmon, the better your results!
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 – 2 tsp lemon juice, salt, pepper to taste
Note: I like to make this very salmony. It is good with 1 part smoked salmon : 1 part cream cheese all the way to 1 part smoked salmon : 2 parts cream cheese. You can substitute goat cheese for about half of the cream cheese; any more than that and it gets dry. You may use lowfat cream cheese (aka neufchatel), and if you must, even nonfat cream cheese which has a much softer result. In my pictures at the beginning of the post, you are seeing salmon to match the volume of 3 oz lowfat cream cheese and 3 oz goat cheese in the bowl. Just eyeball it!
Mash the cream cheese, Worcestershire and lemon juice (optional) together to finish softening the cream cheese. Combine large flakes/chunks of smoked salmon into the mixture, preserving plenty of intact chunks of salmon (pea-size, dried-bean-sized.) You could keep working the mixture until it is smooth, and/or add other things, but then it wouldn’t the same recipe, would it? ;)
I used about 1 tsp lemon juice, no salt because the salmon was salty enough, and pepper over the top. Usually I don’t use goat cheese, but I had packages to empty!
My hungry son walked in the room and stopped in his tracks. “Oh my gosh, that looks so good!” As he sat down, pulling the tray toward himself, he looked up and said, “Where’s your plate?”