Photo Credit: The Washington PostNeither my mother nor my father could find their way around the kitchen, but they both loved shopping for food. My mom did so twice a week, always with a list that was arranged in columns that synced with what was on the supermarket aisles. And although I can remember her writing the lists, I can't ever remember seeing Circus Peanuts marshmallows on any of them - yet they were always in the house. I like that she left room for whimsy.
With my father, it was one-stop Sunday shopping. He'd go directly to what in New York was called the "appetizing store," a wonderland of smoked and pickled fish. He would buy enough to feed the Navy: smoked salmon, of course ("Novie, please"), kippered salmon, pickled herring in cream sauce with extra onions; sturgeon, because that's what I liked; sable, because my mom liked that; and a whole smoked whitefish with burnished skin the color of buried treasure. There was a big block of plain cream cheese, a tub of cream cheese studded with scallions, sweet butter (which is what we called unsalted butter then) and a quantity of bagels and bialys sufficient to build a pyramid the ancient Egyptians would have envied.
Every once in a while, I'll go all out like my father did. But these days, I'm more likely to make smoked salmon an ingredient rather than the main event. I'll put salmon in a salad, I'll make rillettes or a French salmon spread or - and this option is the most fun - I'll make savory waffles with bits of smoked salmon and many of the traditional bagels-and-lox fixings baked into or spooned over them. To finish the waffles, I add a few slices of smoked salmon and a pouf of salad greens tossed with oil and lemon juice. It's a whole other way of brunching.
I typically put smoked salmon, red onion, scallions, lemon zest and dill in the waffle batter. Scallion tops, dill and capers go into the sour cream spoon-over. Of course, you can play around with the herbs and the mix-ins. The waffles would be nice with bits of red bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes or even Peppadews. In fact, you could consider putting the capers in the batter instead of, or in addition to, adding them to the sour cream mixture.
The topping takes to change, too: Think chopped sweet pickles, preserved lemon or a different herb blend. In addition to being naturally pretty (no food-styling skills required here), the dish is simple and straightforward.
You can use either a deep-grid Belgian or a medium-deep-grid waffler for these. They'll be great in either, but the yield might be different.
The first waffle might be for the cook. It's the one you should use to decide whether you have to grease the grids, how much batter to use and how long it takes to bake a waffle. You want to use enough batter to fully cover the grids - you can coax the batter across the grids with an icing spatula or table knife - but not dribble out the sides.
Pour and spread the batter, then wait half a minute before closing the lid. Giving the waffle a little time to set helps avoid spillover.
Most irons produce waffles that are more golden on one side (typically the underside) than another. Once your machine indicates the waffle is done, or when you can easily open the lid, flip the waffle over, close the lid and give the paler side another minute or so of heat.
These are, by nature, not exceptionally crispy waffles. If you want crisper ones, instead of keeping them warm on a baking sheet in the oven while you finish the batch, put the waffles directly on the oven rack.
Leftover waffles are terrific reheated and crisped in the toaster. (Even fresh waffles are good that way.)
Have fun and tinker with the accompanying recipe. Like my mom's shopping lists, these waffles leave room for whimsy.
Dorie Greenspan's Smoked Salmon Waffles:
6 to 8 servings
These savory wonders taste best well done, so either give them a good bake in the waffle iron or pop them into a toaster before serving. Toasting is also a good way to reheat/revive made-ahead waffles.
These were tested in a regular and a Belgian-style wafflemaker.
MAKE AHEAD: The topping can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
For the topping
1 1/2 cups regular or low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup snipped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
For the waffles
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 inch on a side)
3/4 to 1 cup diced red onion, rinsed under cold water and patted dry
1/3 cup snipped fresh dill
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Thin pieces of smoked salmon, for serving (optional)
Greens tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, for serving (optional)
For the topping: Finely grate the zest of the lemon (about 1 loosely packed tablespoon); reserve for the waffles. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a cup. Cut the dark-green parts of the scallions into thin slices; cut the white and light-green parts into thin slices and reserve for the waffles.
Mix together the sour cream, capers, dill and sliced dark-green scallion tops in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and a good splash of the lemon juice. Taste, and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice, if you'd like. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The yield is about 1 1/2 cups.
For the waffles: Preheat a waffle iron. If you want to keep the waffles warm while you're working on the batches, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Whisk together the milk and eggs in a large liquid measuring cup until well blended.
Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl; season with the salt and pepper. Pour in the milk and eggs; whisk gently until smooth. Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the salmon, onion, dill, sliced white and light-green scallions and reserved lemon zest (from making the topping). Stir in the melted butter; the batter will be a bit thin.
If your waffle iron needs it, butter the grids or grease them with cooking oil spray. Do this again only if subsequent waffles stick.
Spoon out batter - the amount will depend on your iron (mine takes a generous 1/2 cup) - onto the hot iron and spread it evenly over the grids, stopping just before the edge. Close the iron and bake until the waffles are golden. You can flip the waffles over after they're baked to better brown the top side.
Transfer the waffles to the oven, arranging them on a rack in a single layer. Repeat with the remaining batter.
You can serve the waffles in a stack with the sour cream topping on the side, or dress each waffle with some of the topping, a slice or two of smoked salmon and a ruff of greens.