This Ingredient from Trader Joe’s Sparked Life Back into My Summer Meals

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

By early May it had already hit 90°F in Charlotte and I began to panic: If this is spring in my new city, what the heck is summer going to be like? Turns out it’s just as hot and even more humid — welcome to the South! So while I usually lighten up my meals for just a few sticky months back home in the Northeast, I’ve been doing it for months already down here.

I love the easy, breezy vibes of summer eating, but no-cook or barely-cook meals do eventually get a bit tiresome. Leave it to a stroll down the aisles at Trader Joe’s to cure my fatigue. I discovered the one item that instantly made me excited about summer meals again: their hot smoked salmon.

Trader Joe’s Hot Smoked Salmon Is the Best Thing to Happen to My Summer Meals

Simple, no-cook dishes like salads and sandwiches have been on repeat for lunch and dinner in my kitchen from the moment the temperature rose. Things like beans and rotisserie chicken were easy ways to bump up the staying power of these meals, but I was getting bored with the same routine. The Trader Joe’s hot smoked salmon fillet is the flavor boost I’ve been missing.

Other hot smoked salmon exists at other grocery stores, but I really have to say this one is the best I’ve tasted. It’s got the perfect amount of smoky flavor and isn’t too salty — an issue I’ve found with others I’ve tried. Oh, and it flakes into nice, big chunks so easily, you don’t even need a fork to do so.

How do I use it? Let me count the ways. For starters, I love it flaked over a green salad — one package divides over two dinner salads just perfectly. Peppery arugula is my favorite base in this situation, but pretty much any tender green works. I’ll usually add another seasonal vegetable to the bowl — it was blanched asparagus first, crisp cucumbers now, and soon I’ll swap in green beans. Sometimes I throw halved baby potatoes that I’ve boiled or roasted into the mix for a bit more bulk, but more often than not I’ll just serve the salad with crusty bread.

A basic vinaigrette, usually seasoned with Dijon to add creamy tang, dresses things, and because cheese makes everything better, I tend to crumble some goat cheese or feta on top. My latest revelation has been to finish each of our salads off with a healthy sprinkle of everything bagel spice because it adds crunch and feels like a natural pairing with smoked salmon.

(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

Beyond green salads, this black bean salad has been a repeat meal these days. I’ve also flaked the salmon, combined it with a bit of minced shallot or onion, some mayo or Greek yogurt, whatever fresh herbs I have growing in my container garden on the balcony, and a big squeeze of lemon. I pile the mix on toast or just scoop it up with Triscuits. Once tomatoes are in season, I have big plans to replace bacon for pieces of the filet in a no-cook BLT mashup.

Have you tried Trader Joe’s hot smoked salmon fillet? How do you like to use it?