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Smoked Salmon Pasta
with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil
and Goat Cheese

By Charlie Burke

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Fresh tomatoes in northern New England were rarely found until the end of
July, but much has changed in the past several years. Many farmers extend the
season by starting their tomatoes in greenhouses, rolling up the sides as the
weather warms, producing fine tasting local tomatoes much earlier in the
season.

A farm in Maine now is using heated greenhouses through the winter and
selling local tomatoes in late winter and spring to Hannaford’s Markets and
other outlets. Using varieties developed for early growing, which are bred for
flavor rather than shelf life, local growers produce early tomatoes which rival
field varieties. One recent tasting was won by a greenhouse grown tomato over
others which were field grown, so these early local varieties are vastly superior
to those we recall from the past as “hot house” tomatoes. Expect to see these
tomatoes at farm stands and Farmers Markets now, so you can begin enjoying
local fresh tomatoes before the Fourth of July.

Having the first of this year’s local tomatoes and with some Maine smoked
salmon in the refrigerator, I thought a pasta combining them and our basil with
some fresh goat cheese would make a nice light dinner. I like the combination
of smoked bacon and salmon, and most of the salmon that I have had from
Maine is smoked with a light touch so the added smoked bacon is not a
problem. We were between crops of arugula, but it can be used instead of basil
in this preparation because it combines perfectly with soft goat cheese -- one of
my favorite fresh pizza toppings.

I had to write down the ingredients after dinner because this recipe was pulled
together from what was available, and I probably won’t make it exactly the
same way again. So, use this recipe as a guide and feel free to substitute garlic
or shallots for the leeks, and greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard would work
as well as the basil but would be cooked with the sauce, rather than being
added fresh at the end.

Peas are now in season, and replacing the greens with a cup of barely cooked
fresh peas would be perfect with the salmon, a traditional Fourth of July
combination. I would not use stronger cheese, such as Parmesan, because it
would obscure the mild salmon flavor. This pasta in smaller portions makes an
easy and seasonal first course for guests.

Ingredients:

4 ounces New England smoked salmon*
1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 slice local smokehouse bacon, chopped into ¼ - ½ inch pieces
½ cup sliced leek
1 medium tomato, diced into 1/3 inch cubes
½ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 ½ tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon butter or butter substitute (we use Earth Balance as a butter
replacement)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper or to taste
1 cup torn or chopped fresh basil leaves
½ cup (approximately 3 - 4 ounces) local soft goat cheese in ½ inch pieces
Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
4 ounces thin spaghetti or linguini

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add bacon and cook until
lightly brown. Add leeks and cook until soft. Add wine, turn to high and boil
until most of the wine has evaporated. Add tomatoes and butter and lower
heat. Add salmon, lemon zest, crushed pepper and capers and turn off heart
when warmed.

Cook pasta in 2 quarts rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (usually less
time than instructions on the box). Drain the pasta and add to sauté pan. Turn
heat to high and mix sauce with pasta; remove pan from heat.  Add cheese and
basil off heat, toss and serve immediately. Vinaigrette with fresh greens and a
dry white wine nicely finish this meal.

*Duck Trap River Farm and other sources in Maine offer sliced smoked salmon
in convenient vacuum packs which keep well in the refrigerator.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer'sMarket Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Smoked Salmon Pasta with tomatoes, basil and goat cheese
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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