"This divine quick-to-make sharing plate can be assembled a few hours before the guests arrive and is easily doubled. Velvety smoked salmon and creamy vanilla sauce is an unexpected combination; the vanilla adds a surprise layer of fragrance and flavor to the stunning overall taste. Pair with a buttery chardonnay or a classic gin martini."
For the Vanilla Sauce (makes 1 cup):
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup grapeseed oil
For the Herb Cheese Spread:
2/3 cup mild goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup ricotta, softened
1 tablespoon fresh herbs such as tarragon, dill, basil and chervil, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla pod seeds
10 grinds cracked black pepper
For the Vanilla Caramelized Onions:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or sunflower oil
1/2 cup butter
8 brown onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 vanilla pods, split (or 2 teaspoons vanilla paste at the end)
Assemble & Serve:
1 loaf ciabatta or baguette
1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing bread
1/2 cup vanilla caramelized onion
1 pack sliced smoked salmon
3–4 teaspoons capers, rinsed then patted dry
2 teaspoons lemon zest, to taste
Fresh herbs or microgreens
For the Vanilla Sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk yolks with a pinch of sea salt, lemon juice, vanilla paste and honey until well blended. Tuck a twisted tea towel around base of bowl to hold it steady. While whisking egg mixture continuously, drizzle oil in a slow, steady stream until sauce begins to come together and thicken. If too thick, whisk in a teaspoon of water until well combined. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to emulsify the sauce. Cover and chill until ready to use.
For the Herb Cheese Spread: In a small bowl, combine the cheeses, fresh herbs, vanilla seed and pepper until smooth and creamy.
For the Vanilla Caramelized Onions: Put the oil and butter in a large pot and heat over low heat until sizzling. Add sliced onions and sweat until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add split vanilla pods and continue to cook over low heat until onions are caramel colored, continuing to stir occasionally. Cover, refrigerate until needed. Can be frozen up to 3 months.
Assemble and Serve: Preheat oven to 350°F. Split the bread lengthways and brush both sides with olive oil. Toast in oven oiled-side-up until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Spread bread with herb cheese spread and arrange on a serving platter. Top with the chopped caramelized onions and smoked salmon. Drizzle with vanilla sauce. Sprinkle with capers, lemon zest and additional fresh herbs or microgreens. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut into slices.