About a year ago, I discovered Smoked Salmon. Well, I knew it existed, but I’d never tried it.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by fresh seafood all my life. And I hated all of it. My father was an avid flyfisherman, but also hated seafood. He fished purely for the sport of it, purely catch and release. I grew up never eating fish. Never ever. Yuck.

My first job as a young teen was bagging groceries at a family owned supermarket in Scotts Valley, called Zanotto’s. Zanotto’s was an upscale joint, complete with an olive bar, a specialty cheese shop, real live butchers behind the meat counter (nothing pre-packaged), and a take-out sushi bar. Two japanese sisters worked behind the counter all day, rolling and cutting unagi rolls, caterpillar rolls, hamachi sashimi, cucumber, and california rolls. I’d watch as I walked by with the huge broom, tempted by the bright, vibrant colors of the boxed rolls, but repulsed by the strange smells. “You try?” They’d always ask. I tried a few things, but the flavor of the seaweed turned me off immediately. No, it just wasn’t my time yet.

Fast forward 7 years to my first date with my now husband. I still hated fish of any kind. He picked me up at my house and took me to (gulp) a sushi restaurant. This first encounter changed my life forever (in more ways than one!). It must have been fate. Destiny. Now, looking back, I can’t imagine my life without two things, both of which were basically introduced to me that night.

1. My husband.

2. Sushi.

I went into the restaurant expecting to order teriyaki and vegetable tempura, like I always would do when eating with sushi lovers. The boy had something else in mind. “One unagi roll, one shrimp tempura roll, an order of albacore nigiri and an order of yellowtail sashimi.” He ordered for us.

“Um…. I don’t like fish.” I said meekly, as the waitress walked away.

“Have you tried sushi before?” he asked.

“Yeah, when I was 14.”

“Well, it’s time to try it again!”

My stomach flipflopped as the food started coming out. Luckily, I’d had enough sake to loosen me up a bit, enough to give it a try.

I loved everything. LOVED it all.
But I still hated cooked fish. The flavor, the texture, it was just so different. It took some getting used to.

Nowadays, I’m pretty open to all seafood, but sushi is still my favorite. And like I mentioned, I just discovered smoked salmon. And last month, I discovered canned smoked albacore. From Santa Cruz. How appropriate.

Dave's Smoked Albacore

Photo credit: http://www.davesalbacore.com

I’ve since stocked my pantry with about a case of this stuff. Not especially cheap, but great in a pinch. Need a good lunch? Smoked albacore tuna salad. Unexpected company? Mix smoked albacore with cream cheese and spread on crackers with sliced cucumber or avocado. And then there was last night: Planning on making turkey burgers, then realize at the last minute you have no ground turkey in the freezer after all? Make smoked albacore burgers. Serve them on greens, lightly tossed with a lemon vinaigrette of sorts, with sliced fresh tomatoes and avocado, sprinkled with fleur de sel and fresh ground pepper. Add a side of potato chips and a glass of crisp, grassy Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Yum.

I love summer.

Smoked Albacore Burgers

  • 2 6-oz cans Dave’s Smoked Albacore
  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste

Drain the albacore, reserving about 2 Tbsp of the liquid. Flake the filets with a fork into a large bowl. Discard any tougher portions (or feed them to your dog, like I did). Add the other ingredients, mixing together with your (clean) hands, and add the reserved liquid as needed.

Shape the albacore mixture into patties about 3 inches in diameter, 1 1/2 inch thick. Cover lightly and place patties in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (This was an afterthought addition, as my patties began to fall apart as soon as I added them to the pan.)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp cooking oil. Place the patties in the skillet, and let fry for about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer patties to a plate with a few sheets of paper towel to absorb the extra oil. Serve as desired.

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