WE PULLED IT OFF! My sister and I successfully threw a surprise party for my parents’ 50th anniversary! We delayed it a day because of their trip to the mountains, which really worried me initially because we had already bought our plane tickets and started planning the party (ack!), but probably helped keep them in the dark. The party was attended by many of their dear friends, some of whom they’ve known four decades or longer. Most of the couples they raised kids with were present. Even my dad’s best man was there. We celebrated them well.
My sister and I were so nervous that someone was going to spill the beans. I wouldn’t let my boys talk to my parents on the phone in the weeks prior because I was worried they might tell them we were visiting Colorado before school ended. I didn’t even let the boys in on the secret until we were on the plane. Everyone acted the part, lying as necessary, and my parents’ socks were sufficiently knocked off. Their response ranks high among my absolute favorite memories of them. Shocked expressions, followed by tears of joy shared with each new person they noticed and hugged.
I arrived at a new level of ridiculous while planning food for this party. I actually flew with little jars containing various types of salt and other spices, as well as two pounds of smoked salmon. If we had driven, I probably would’ve packed chives from my garden and some of my favorite flours. I didn’t want to spend gobs of money to purchase the relatively small amounts of seasoning I needed and was reasonably doubtful I’d find a bulk section at the local store in Loveland, Colorado. I might need a spice travel belt.
I thoroughly enjoyed making food for friends who had nurtured me through the years. Many of them have known me since birth, changed my diapers, babysat me, fed me generously at countless celebrations and holidays, hosted me for sleepovers, etc… One taught me piano for a decade, another coached my basketball team. It was such an gift to be alongside so many special adults from my childhood while celebrating my parents.
My sister and I made a lot of finger-friendly food, my parents’ friends brought lovely appetizers as well. There were Beluga Lentil Crostinis, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, bacon wrapped dates, delicious cheeses, salamis, pickled grapes, pickled carrots, minty spinach dip, caprese kebab bites, marinated herbed olives, and many more nibbles. For dessert I made Deb Perelman’s amazing update to the rice crispy treat (I don’t like the classic version, but these make me swoon) and Dorie Greenspan’s White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies. I just might have to share that recipe here next, because they were phenomenal. It’s raspberry season, and you want to eat them.
My attempt to bring a little Seattle to the party, and the reason I packed salmon and Maldon in my suitcase, were these amazingly creamy, crunchy, briney, tangy toasts with smoked salmon. I actually added these to the menu in the week prior to the party, after discovering the recipe in Bon Appétit while waiting my turn at the hair salon. (If you don’t know this by now, I am pretty much always thinking about food. Even when I should be thinking about intentions for my very rare once-every-three-to-six-months haircut, I’m thinking about food.) This delicious bite is courtesy of Renee Erickson, the owner of The Walrus and the Carpenter, one of my favorite Seattle restaurants. Following her recommendation, I bought Loki hot-smoked salmon at the Ballard Farmers market a few days before we left. I nestled it in my suitcase between shorts and socks.
I did a few things differently than called for because of the number of people we were feeding and limitations on time. The recipe I’m sharing reflects those changes, making these more friendly for a big party. Renee’s original recipe calls for country-style bread slices, as well as frying the capers. I’m sure fried capers as exceptionally delicious, but these remain seriously tasty without that step.
PS- If the only pickle you’ve had came from a cucumber, you should remedy that. Stat. The aforementioned grapes are a great place to begin, as are these onions, which contribute nicely to hamburgers, salads, and countless other dishes. (Plus, aren’t they’re pretty in pink?)
Smoked Salmon Crostinis with Pickled Onion and Capers
Slightly adapted from Renee Erickson’s recipe in Bon Appétit, yields about 16 crostinis
- 1 baguette, thinly sliced (approximately 1/6 inch thick)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 2/3 cup Champagne or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 cup crème fraÎche*
- 1 pound hot-smoked wild salmon, flaked**
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Toss the onion and vinegar in a small bowl and let it pickle at least one hour. (This step can also happen a day or two ahead of time, just keep them covered and chilled in the refrigerator.)
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Toss the sliced baguette rounds in a bowl with the olive oil and sea salt to coat (or brush the oil on with a pastry brush). Place the rounds in a single layer on baking sheets. Let them bake about ten minutes, until crisp and golden. Let cool to room temperature.
Spread each toast with a dollop of crème fraÎche. Season with a tiny sprinkle of salt and pepper. Top with flakes of smoked salmon, drained pickled red onion, several capers and a few snippets of chives. If you love to gild the lily like I may have a propensity to do on occasion, drizzle these with tiny bit of high quality olive oil and place a flake or two of Maldon salt on top. Totally unnecessary, but never regretted.
These are best served room temperature (which is also great for parties). You can set them out an hour in advance and they’ll be perfect.
*If you don’t have crème fraÎche at your store or you’d prefer to try homemade, this is a reliable recipe. You could also substitute plain full fat greek yogurt, full fat sour cream mixed with a bit of heavy cream, or just sour cream.
**If you aren’t lucky enough to have wild salmon at your markets, or can’t find hot-smoked salmon at all, use whatever smoked salmon you can get your mitts on. Just taste it prior to placing it on the toasts. Depending on the brand (and especially if it’s canned), you may want to toss the salmon with a little kosher salt and pepper. You may even consider mixing it with a tiny amount of brown sugar or maple syrup, or a squeeze of lemon juice. (Just a smidge! Taste and adjust as necessary.)