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Northern Michigan’s ubiquitous summertime appetizer—whitefish pâté—is given new life in this spring salad.

This dish is part of “On the Table,” Traverse, Northern Michigan Magazine’s food department that features a seasonal recipe each month as well as monthly wine and beer recommendations. Don’t miss a single bite. Subscribe here!

Before moving back to Michigan, I set aside one cherished week every summer to visit my parents’ Petoskey cabin. When my mom would thoughtfully ask if I had any grocery requests, my answer was the same every time: “whitefish spread.” We would eat it standing around the end of the kitchen counter while she prepped dinner, slathering it on crackers or dragging raw veggies through it.

In more recent years, I’ve started tinkering with this locally-loved staple. What else can we do with this smoked fish and cream cheese spread besides battling each other for our fair share from the plastic tub? My own kiddos and I now take a page from the Jewish delicatessens of New York and put it on our bagels—piling them high with tomatoes, capers and red onion. But my new favorite way to serve this Northern Michigan gem is in this spring salad. While it will be a while yet before salad greens pop up in our home gardens, professional growers such as Traverse City’s Lakeview Hill Farm are taking advantage of the 45th parallel’s increasingly longer days by growing arugula, pea shoots, baby kale, spinach and other cold-tolerant greens in hoop houses this month. Gather a tangle of such early lettuces, toast up some bread rounds, top them with a schmear of your favorite whitefish pâté and join me in celebrating the return of a more colorful growing season.

Spring Greens with Whitefish Toast

Serves 4-6 as a first course or side dish

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Half of a baguette, cut on a bias into 1⁄2 inch slices (about 10 slices)
  • 1 7-ounce container of your favorite whitefish pâté
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 5 ounces of washed mixed spring greens—any combination of arugula, baby kale, pea shoots, microgreens or any other early-season leaves or shoots will work
  • Flake salt and fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and mustard. In a slow, steady stream—pausing as needed until each new addition is incorporated—whisk in 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Reserve the remaining oil.
  3. Lay toasts on a baking sheet and brush both sides with the reserved olive oil, a heaping 2 Tablespoons. Place baking sheet into the oven and toast until edges are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, assemble washed greens on a platter.
  5. While the toasts are cooling, halve the avocados and slice them—cutting about six slices per half. Scoop out the slices and arrange them on top of the greens. Using a spoon, place a generous schmear of whitefish pâté onto one end of each toast, and place the toasts onto the salad.
  6. Using a spoon, drizzle mustard vinaigrette on the salad, making sure to pass over each toast. Place any excess dressing into a small pitcher to offer on the side. Season the salad with flake salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and serve—making sure that everyone gets at least one gorgeous, over-sized crouton.

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as Restaurant Critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Find this and more food and drink articles in the March 2021 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine; or subscribe and get Traverse and “On The Table” delivered to your door each month.