Salmon strudel: a gift from Bert Greene

January 02, 1994|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

One of the best-loved and most generous people in the food world was Bert Greene, a man of towering height, great talent and inexhaustible humor. When he died over five years ago, those of us who knew him realized what a void his absence would make in our professional lives. He was friend and mentor to me and countless others in my field. He would call me regularly to see how my work was progressing, always with a word of encouragement, and before he would hang up there would be a funny tale as well, based on some laughable culinary experience he had had.

So, this past fall when a posthumous collection of many previously unpublished recipes from his nationally syndicated column were presented as a cookbook entitled, "Bert Greene's Kitchen," I could not wait to get a copy. The recipes, preceded by one comic anecdote after another, are still enticing even though many are more than a decade old.

Flipping through the pages of the small tome, laughing all the way, I discovered many simple and uncomplicated dishes perfect for winter get-togethers. One such temptation was a smoked salmon and cream cheese strudel, which lists only a few ingredients and which can be completely assembled ahead, then baked quickly at serving time.

I am planning to use this creation twice, once as an appetizer to precede a meal of roast leg of lamb, a mustard-scented potato gratin and steamed zucchini, and then as part of a brunch menu which will include a vegetable frittata and a salad of winter greens.

I am certain Bert would be pleased that his dishes are as versatile and delicious today as they were when he first cooked them, but more than that, he would be delighted to know that his food is still an inspiration for people to stop, laugh and enjoy one another during this season.

*

Salmon and cream cheese strudel

Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings, 12 to 14 as appetizer

4 ounces light cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon finely slivered lemon zest

salt, freshly ground black pepper

4 phyllo sheets

1/4 cup unsalted butter (approximately), melted

1 tablespoon dried bread crumbs

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Spread damp tea towel on work surface and cover with wax paper. Lightly butter 1 baking sheet.

Beat cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer until light. Slowly beat in cream. Mix in lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Stack 2 phyllo sheets on wax paper, with long sides parallel to edge of table. Brush top sheet with some melted butter. Sprinkle with all the bread crumbs. Stack with remaining 2 phyllo sheets and brush top with butter.

Using 2 knives, spread cream cheese mixture over bottom quarter of dough, leaving 1 inch uncovered all around edges. Cover cream cheese with slices of smoked salmon. Sprinkle with dill. With aid of towel, fold side edges of dough toward center just enough to cover filling by 1/2 inch. Brush edges with butter and press them lightly so they do not unfold. Again, with aid of towel, roll up dough away from you and onto prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Brush top with butter.

Bake at 375 degrees until crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Slide strudel onto rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

(Adapted from "Bert Greene's Kitchen," Workman Publishing Co., 1993)

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of "First Impressions," William Morrow.

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