This is my family’s all-time favourite dinner party pasta dish. Our friends request it all the time. I’m happy to oblige because it tastes great, and the sauce makes itself! It’s easy. Steaming wet, just-cooked pasta and melting cream cheese form an incredibly smooth luxurious sauce. The smoked salmon adds flavour extravagance that’s balanced by the familiar flavours of capers, dill, lemon, onion and mustard. A five-star dish for sharing!
Yield: Serves 4
1 1 pound box penne pasta
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup capers
8 ounces smoked salmon, or more, cut into ribbons
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook penne in lots of boiling salted water until al dentecooked through and tender but still retaining some texture and chew.
Scoop out some of the starchy cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta but not quite all the way. Leave it a bit wet. Put the pasta back into the pot along with a splash or two of the reserved water.
While the pasta is still steaming hot, immediately add the rest of the ingredients except the salmon. Stir with a wooden spoon as the cheese melts and forms a creamy sauce.
At the last second briefly stir in the smoked salmon; this way it won’t break up as much. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
You can use any of your favourite shaped pastas for this dish, like bowties; but ribbon pastas, like spaghetti, don’t work as well. This dish also works equally well with any kind of smoked fish. And if you don’t have green onions, try a finely minced red onion. If you don’t have capers, try a spoonful of standard green hot-dog relish.
Braising is my favourite cooking method. I just love the way it can transform an inexpensive, tough cut of beef into a tasty tender stew. Toss in the earthy flavours of root vegetables and aromatic red wine, and you are well on your way to a rich flavour base. But the real secret to a truly memorable beef stew is patiently browning the meat.
This is one of the great beef stews of the world. It's a uniquely Hungarian dish that's half way between a soup and a stew. While in Hungary, I learned a couple of things. First, that every cook has a different version of this recipe and second, that everyone believes their version is the most authentic. So to me, that means all versions are authentic as long as they contain Hungarian flavours.
This recipe is dedicated to the memory of Ann Szemba, my Hungarian friend who traveled with me to Hungary and taught me this dish.