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Posts tagged ‘salmon’

cedar plank salmon with spearmint sauce

Have you wondered if all we ever eat around here is salad and vegetables and the occasional dessert? no, no, not so! During salmon season (I’m almost embarrassed to say) it’s on our table maybe as much as once a week. Our local newspaper’s food section had a wonderful-sounding salmon recipe last week that I was itching to try. We had a pot brimming with spearmint begging to be crushed and its aromas set free. It was fated.

This dish was so beautiful, so incredibly aromatic that (and now I truly am embarrassed) I was far too impatient to take photos of it. There was going to be no stage-setting. No turning it this way and that and getting the light just so. There was going to be no waiting. I mean none! So here you have it folks. Just as it came off the grill and its fragrant sauce was ladled on. Just before we gobbled it all up, smacking our lips and planning when we’d eat it again next…

This dish was, to my mind, absolutely perfect as it was. No changes were made to the original recipe, other than to halve it since we weren’t feeding a crowd. Therefore, we owe a debt of thanks to chef David Padberg of Portland’s Park Kitchen for the recipe. I’d hug him if he’d have it!

Salmon fillets steeped in the aromas of  cedar smoke and steam, then ladled with a variation on salsa verde, made with fresh spearmint leaves. An incredibly delicious flavor combination.

(I hope you won’t be off-put by the addition of chopped anchovies to the sauce. Those and the capers add the perfect bit of salt & fish to complement the salmon…and their flavors were not at all over-bearing.  The garlic and hot chili seeds added the perfect hint of heat. The lemon zest – oh you know! Let’s get on with it…

(I’ve halved the recipe for you below as most won’t be feeding 10 to 12. The above-pictured salmon fillet was 1 pound and we had sauce left over. It fed 2 generously  –  Guinea Pig loves his salmon - with enough left over for lunch the next day.)

Cedar Plank Salmon with Spearmint Sauce

(5 to 6 servings)

Sauce:

  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped (if using salted anchovies, rinse them thoroughly first)
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh spearmint, finely minced
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, finely minced
  • ¼ cup finely minced shallots
  • Grated zest of about 1½ lemons
  • 2 smallish cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

the Salmon:

  • 1 untreated cedar plank
  • 2 pound whole salmon fillet
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar

To make the sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together the anchovies, herbs, capers, shallots, lemon zest, garlic red pepper flakes and olive oil. Chef Padberg says to then add lemon juice to taste and allow sauce to sit for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld before serving. I let the sauce sit for quite some time before adding the juice. I waited to add the lemon juice until the salmon went on the grill as I didn’t want the vibrant green to change. Makes nearly 1 cup of sauce. 

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Sri Lankan Fish “Stew”

On bleak and chilly days, before the Spring, and before the Spring-runs of salmon - which is generally when we’re craving it most - we buy a frozen salmon fillet and this is one of our favorite ways to prepare it.  (The salmon remains tender, succulent, moist – if you hadn’t bought it yourself, you wouldn’t know it was frozen.) This dish is savory, sour-sweet (thanks to the tamarind),  warmly and mildly spicy, and coconut-milk-creamy…and, as a bonus, it’s an incredibly healthy meal.

A note on the SPICES:  (I like to use whole seeds when I can, and dry-roasting them brings out their “sweetness” and adds another dimension of flavor to a dish. Besides that, spices you buy already-ground have started to lose some of their potency by the time they make it to your spice cupboard. But if you don’t want to make the purchase and you already have the ground spices on hand, by all means, simply cut in half the quantity of seeds specified below as your guide.)

Sri Lankan Fish Stew

(this should serve at least 4)

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seed
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 Italian plum tomatoes chopped (+ 1 more for garnish, or cherry tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13½ ounce or 420 ml)
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind paste, dissolved in 3 Tbl. warm water
  • 1¾ teaspoon teaspoon sugar
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) salmon (halibut, or sea bass fillets)
  • small bunch cilantro leaves, torn – as garnish
  • Cooked rice, to ladle the stew over. (Basmati is wonderful with this.)

Drop the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, along with the peppercorns, into a small skillet, using no oil. Place over medium heat and toast the seeds & peppercorns until seeds have begun to release their aroma and have turned a toasty brown, stirring or shaking the pan often. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool for just a minute then grind finely with mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

Measure out the other spices and have them ready to add all at once.

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise – squeeze and shake over sink to release most of their seeds. Then chop.

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Grilled Salmon with Fennel, two ways

Nothing compares to the wild salmon from Alaska’s Copper River. Deeply red-orange, silky-tender, succulent, somehow smelling as clean as forest air and tasting of the sea – it’s an amazing fish.  We’ll have it several times during its fairly short season – and we’re in it now. I’ll be honest – Copper River salmon is one of those things that  needs nothing to be a spectacular meal. Sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper, put on the grill, a good squirt of lemon and it will melt in your mouth and lodge itself in your memory. You want to do nothing to disrupt or mask this exquisite taste. We’ll often enjoy it simple, just that way.

That being said, fennel is one of those foods that marries perfectly with the richness of wild salmon. In a recipe posted in late May, I shared a favorite rub that features ground fennel seed with many other spices. Here again salmon is paired with fennel, first with a simple rub of ground fennel and salt, and then served alongside grilled wedges of fennel bulb and red onion. Taken together, it’s smoky, sweet, and simply delicious.

(For this particular recipe you can use a less-expensive and more-readily available salmon – sockeye would be just fine. This time, we couldn’t resist the Copper River.)

(Serves 4)

For the fennel salt:

  • 1 tablespoon dried fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

For the vegetables:

  • 1 large fennel bulb, stems removed, cut into thin wedges (& small frond pieces reserved for garnish)
  • 1 red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • salt to taste
  • 4 cups mixed small-leaf salad greens 

For the salmon:

  • 1 pound sockeye or other salmon fillet, skin on, cut in 4 equal portions, or left as one large piece
  • vegetable oil for oiling the grill

To prepare the fennel salt, grind together the fennel, salt and pepper in a spice grinder. Set asude.

To prepare the vegetables, toss the fennel and onion with olive oil and just 1 teaspoon of the fennel salt in a medium bowl.

To prepare the salad, in a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, mustard, cayenne, honey and salt. Just before serving, lightly coat the greens with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Reserve the rest of the dressing as a sauce for the salmon.

To prepare the salmon, remove the pin bones. (You can use needle-nose pliers or tweezers.) Coat all flesh sides of the salmon with the remaining fennel salt and pat it on to adhere. Place the salmon on a plate and hold in the refrigerator until ready.

Preheat an outdoor gas grill or indoor grill pan to high heat. Oil the grill rack with vegetable oil. Grill the fennel wedges and onion slices for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender but still crisp.

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Rubbed Grilled Salmon

Once salmon season has finally arrived, this is one of our very favorite ways of enjoying it! It’s anything but ordinary, it’s easy, it’s memorable and it’s positively delicious. It all starts with the rub, a collection of whole spices dry-roasted, then ground. I know the list of ingredients may give the appearance of complicated and time-consuming – but the rub will take you about 15 minutes to prepare, and likely last you all summer and maybe months beyond. The rest of the dish is a snap!  You like salmon? You will love this! (You might want to keep the recipe handy – you’ll likely be getting plenty of requests for it.)

The Rub:

In a heavy hot skillet, toast the following ingredients for approximately 4 minutes. You want them to brown slightly and begin to release their aromas. But stop short of smoking!

  • 3 Tbl. coriander seeds
  • 3 Tbl. mustard seeds
  • 3 Tbl. cumin seeds
  • 3 Tbl. dry dill seeds
  • 6 Tbl. fennel seeds

Remove the seeds from the hot pan and allow to cool slightly. Grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle. My preference is to have a few whole seeds remaining, but you can grind them as finely as you like. Then add:

  • 6 Tbl. sugar
  • 3 Tbl. kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. finely ground pepper

Mix well. Stored in an air-tight jar, it will keep for months.

The Fish:

  • Enough salmon fillets to feed your crowd – steelhead fillets are a good substitute

Sprinkle a generous amount of spice rub over the flesh of the salmon and then pat it in place.  If you’re going to be using an oven, preheat it to 400°F. If using an outdoor gas grill, bring it up to the same temperature.

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Salmon with Asparagus and Blood Oranges

I located the recipe for the grilled salmon in Joanne Weir’s wonderful book – Wine Country Cooking -  healthy, scrumptious recipes inspired by the bounty of California’s wine country. Simple, fresh, and pretty straight-forward, where the beautiful ingredients get all the attention. It’s the way we like to eat.

Salmon with Asparagus and Blood Oranges

(to serve 6)

  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 2 Tbl. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbl. white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3 blood oranges (usual navel oranges if you can’t find them)
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 salmon fillets (6 oz. each)

Grate the peel of the navel orange to make 1 teaspoon of zest. Place the zest in a small bowl. Juice the navel orange and add it to the zest along with the ginger, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside, but don’t chill.

Cut off the tops and bottoms of the blood oranges. With a knife, remove all of the peel so that no white pith remains. Slice the oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Remove and seeds as you go. Set aside the orange slices.

Heat a ridged grill pan over medium to medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Brush the salmon lightly with oil.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil over medium-high heat until tender yet crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. (It will continue to cook after it’s removed from the heat.) Drain and set aside. (If it goes to room-temperature, that’s just fine.)

Grill the salmon, skin side-down, until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the salmon, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until done, 2 to 3 minutes more.

To serve, place 1 piece of salmon in the middle of each plate. Place the asparagus and orange slides around the salmon. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salmon, asparagus and oranges, distributing evenly, and serve immediately.

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