Jun 092014

Salmon gravlax

Of all the culinary vices I have to look out for, I think the most insidious for me is the rut. I am so very much a creature of habit that it is easy all too easy for me to slip into the comfortable and familiar. Lamenting the salmon-related Tasty Rut is no new thing here at Om-nom Sauce (exhibit A, exhibit B), so here I give you one of my more off-the-beaten-path methods of preparing the eminently tasty fish, which makes for a striking presentation and delicious flavor.

The method of salt-curing the fish transforms an already gorgeous hue into an intense jewel for the eyes. It’s like you were viewing the fish on a monitor and then hiked the saturation slider all the way to the right. It looks absolutely nothing like, well, the salmon-colored crayon from your scribbling days (as heat-cooked salmon does). The flavor is concentrated and infused with all the goodness you cured it with — and for bonus points, experiment with different citrus zests to experience a completely different flavor profile.

We made this last year as the sockeye season was waning, the fish having largely finished their runs, so I deemed it too late to post this recipe for anyone to get any benefit of it. This year, however, things are in full swing, but I probably won’t get to partake since something tells me this is verboten in pregnancy. So I hope you get a chance to indulge in this and break out of your own salmon rut!

Salmon gravlax

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Aug 182013

Salmon cakes

I am trying to break out of my salmon rut, I honestly am. But when one is confronted with a beautiful, fresh, vivid red sockeye fillet, it is really, really difficult to avoid cooking it as simply as possible. The fact that I live in an area where it’s quite difficult to get fresh sockeye now isn’t helping matters.

But then my favorite local grocery store came through in a huge way: a sockeye salmon sidewalk sale! They flew in a bunch of whole sockeye overnight from Alaska and sold them whole. We bought a lot, and I started dreaming big.

These fillets were large, so when we used the first one, I had the opportunity to make not one, but two new dishes out of it! Be still my heart! I cured part of it for gravlax — more coming soon on that endeavor — but the larger measure of fish I reserved for these cakes, which had oh-so-fortuitously floated across my computer screen a whole of days before. And they proved to be everything I dreamed of. Some may say it was a bit of a waste to use such an extravagant fish in such a humble way, but I really don’t care what the haters think. This stuff was delicious.

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Jul 282013

Mexican shrimp salad

It’s summer. It’s hot. You’ve been asked to bring a side along to a cook-out or pot-luck or other food-type party and you’re stumped. You and eight of your closest friends all brought slaw to the previous shin-dig and you desperately want to bust out of the boring BBQ-sides rut and bring something fun and unique, but if someone even thinks about suggesting that you turn on the oven, it’ll be their head that ends up in that appliance. Oh, and also? You’ll only have about 30 minutes to throw together your inspired creation.

Enter: Mexican shrimp salad! This delight is bursting at the seams with fresh summery flavor, comes together in no time, and is definitely better when made well-ahead of time. The best part? Everyone adores this stuff. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser. Consider yourself delivered from side-dish-purgatory!

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Jun 022013

Crunchy cod!

It seems that Mister Om-nom Sauce and I have been in a bit of a rut when it comes to fish. It goes something like this:

  1. Go to our favorite local grocery store on super-mega-rewards-points day.
  2. 2. Gawk in front of the fish case.
  3. Come home with either:
    1. Ahi → make tacos
    2. Monkfish → fra up some diavolo
    3. Salmon or halibut → grill it, maybe put a sauce on it if we’re feeling, well, saucy.

And that’s really the extent of our adventurousness. Pretty lame, huh?

The toppings: home-made tartar sauce with lemon wedges

The accompaniments: home-made tartar sauce with lemon wedges

There is a pretty huge bounty of fishy deliciousness that remains untapped.

I find myself drawn to Alaska-caught fish (this surprises nobody) so I decided to venture into the world of Alaskan cod. I mean, it’s great as fish and chips, amiright? So now all I had to do was find a recipe that was more manageable (read: less oil flying all over the place, because I hate cleaning that shit up). Fortuitously, my Mom just happened to make this when she was visiting a little while ago, and I was officially in cod love.

Which begs the question: what makes me think that this won’t become our new rut? At least it’s a tasty rut!

Crunchy cod!

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Mar 032013

Life can be stressful sometimes. Kids need looking after, appliances need fixing, food needs cooking, and the whole damn house needs a thorough vacuuming. We haven’t even mentioned self-maintenance time either, where you relax, immerse yourself in your hobbies, and other things that make you feel like a complete functioning human. Forget all that self-actualization crap: some days it’s hard to just keep your head above water. I like to treat my stress with an intense workout, but when you’re battling all the stuff I just mentioned, sometimes it just isn’t gonna happen. If you find yourself in that dilemma, try this:

Set your food on fire.

Of course, I’m not advocating wasting perfectly good food: you don’t want to reduce it to ashes. Just, y’know, take some fish, pour some booze on it, and flambe it! It’s fun, it’s pyrotechnic, and it’s productive — you are putting dinner on the table, after all. And in the tradition of so much good Italian food, it only gets better the next day. What’s not to love about that? Plus, it comes together pretty quickly, so even a cheerful three-month-old can be content to watch you make this dinner without needing gobs of TLC.

So put the devil in his place: give this a go in your own kitchen and let the pyrotechnics fly!

Monkfish fra diavolo

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Sep 112012

Salmon with Spanish green sauce

If you asked me to rank my favorite fish, salmon would definitely sit near the top of the list. Specifically, it would be Alaskan sockeye salmon. I ate the stuff constantly when I lived in Alaska, and I would usually stick with a pretty simple preparation.

I may have mentioned before how The Hubs and I tend to get stuck in tasty-ruts. It’s not so terrible, because it’s tasty, but still, it’s a rut. The way I typically prepare salmon is a prime example of such a rut. It’s good to branch out and live a little. (To give you an idea of how quickly we get into such a rut: within three weeks of moving to Dayton, we had firmly established a rut at Olive: an urban dive. We are nothing if not efficient!)

Well, one night The Hubs, knowing that he was about to be subject to the garlic-rosemary-and-pepper treatment yet again, decided that he had had enough and found this gem of a recipe. Lucky for us that he did: this completely different treatment of the fish is light, refreshing, colorful, and most importantly, delicious!

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Sep 062009

As I mentioned in the previous entry, since moving to Tucson, Cory and I have really gotten into grilling our dinners. I’m enamored of the ease of it all – after so long of being confined to a kitchen in a cold climate, making fairly elaborate meals, it’s a relief to so some basic prep work and then hand off the food to Cory to cook it. The wonderful part is that we’re not sacrificing any flavor or quality with the method.

Fresh mango salsa for the tacos
Nikon D50

Fish is our protein of choice as often as we can get it – not as easy as it sounds in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Cory and I started enumerating our favorite fish tonight over dinner, and it turns out that Cory’s favorite happen to be one his plate. We got especially hooked on it when we were in Hawaii a year and a half ago because, really, does it get any better than when it’s fresh off the boat, raw, and prepared in a poke? If you can’t get it that way, it’s best prepared simply, with as little cooking as possible.

Orange bell peppers and broccoli cook on the grill
Nikon D50

With that in mind, we set out to create something yummy that would complement not only the flavor of the fish itself but also the memories of our time on the Island. What we whipped together tastes fresh and light, with just the right texture between the rare ahi and crispy slaw and the sweet and tart flavors brought in by the salsa and lime. The avocado ties it all together and just makes everything better, just like it always does. Enjoy the tacos with the grilled veggies and a chilled dry white wine to tie together a healthy and satisfying summer meal!

Fresh ahi wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla, topped, with salsa, served with grilled vegetables and white wine
Nikon D50

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May 162008

I just so happened to be wandering the aisles of New Sagaya today, lamenting my recent travels and the Martian death flu that resulted in me not cooking in a full two weeks, steadily depleting my frozen stores of homemade soups, breads, and lasagnas, and dreaming of making yet another Margherita pizza, and before I knew it I was in front of the seafood case.

*cue soft-focus light and an angelic choir singing*

It was a beautiful sight that greeted me.

Fresh (fresh!) red salmon! Not frozen, but fresh! And not any red salmon, but Copper River red salmon!

It had been so long since I had seen fresh red salmon, I must have started salivating right there. I quickly ordered a small fillet, kinda glad that someone had neglected to scrawl the price on the glass with a grease pencil.

And let’s just say that it’s a damn good thing I got paid that economic stimulus free money today. Yessiree, at $25 a pound, I’d better have had some serious cash on hand for that kind of extravagance. But I’m an Alaskan who believes that you’ve gotta get the seasonal seafood when the getting’s good so I was more than happy to shell out.

But here’s the real salmon snob coming out in me here: I don’t understand the premium placed on Copper River salmon. I know that it’s shipped all over the country to be served in fancy-pants restaurants and so the whole law of supply and demand dictates that that particular fish is going to be spendy. Despite that, I honestly think that regular ol’ any-river-in-Alaska produces tastier – and more economically priced – sockeyes. But I’m only human and it was the first fresh salmon to be in a seafood case since September and I had a free six hundred bucks in my pocket! Right then, in that moment, I could afford to pay a premium for the first reds of the season.

It was in my oven less than half an hour after being dearly bought and it was in my tummy shortly thereafter. And it was yummy. Salmon season, how I love thee so!

First salmon of the season, dearly bought
Nikon D50

Same recipe as last year, just with a new photo and a good story »

Nov 032007

Many years ago I was very, very anti-fish. I eschewed that which went forward on no legs — just fins — preferring my critters to cluck or moo.

As I got older I started to get skeptical about my anti-fish rule. There were some species that were tasty, and swordfish is really the first actual fish that was prepared like a fish (i.e. not in stick form) that I would readily ate. A couple of years later we moved to Washington state and my parents fell in love with all the salmon there. I refused to eat the stuff, hating everything about it. At some point when we lived there I started to come around — really, it’s tough to resist fresh wild salmon, especially when it’s prepared well like my parents do.

Before too long I was eating the stuff enthusiastically and my salmon-hating days were all but forgotten (in fact, I hadn’t remembered that I used to hate salmon for a good eight years or so until I sat down to write this entry). But there was trouble in paradise — I started going to college in Texas, the land of beef, where if a fish and a cow met they would probably annihilate each other just like matter and antimatter. So for many moons I was salmonless, refusing to eat that Atlantic and farmed pale facsimile of salmon.

Salmon salad
Nikon D50

After college I moved to Alaska though — and soon re-discovered my favorite fishy friend. It’s so abundant and readily available out here — even in the winter — that I soon started to look for different ways to prepare it. Don’t get me wrong, sprinkled with rosemary and garlic and grilled is awesome, but there’s more than one way to cook a fish. I needed something that would fit into my diet more easily (i.e. not just dinner) because I certainly wasn’t eating enough of the stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across an article on NPR’s Kitchen Window that featured canned wild Alaska salmon. I was immediately intrigued and mentally filed it away. A couple of days ago I ran across a couple of cans of the stuff in the grocery store and the recipes could sense that their time had come.

So today when I was feeling pretty peckish for lunch, I mixed up the salad, pulled out some greens, and sliced into a fresh loaf of my favorite sandwich bread. First impressions? This salmon salad is superb — it almost reminds me of a super-gourmet tuna salad, but with much better flavor and no mayo (and hence a heck of a lot less fat). To me, this is the perfect way to re-create a bad recipe: add a couple of very flavorful, very healthy ingredients (dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, dill, and cranberries) and omit the unhealthy and untasty bad stuff (mayo, yellow mustard, egg yolks, and pickles) and replace one fish (tuna) with another that has less mercury and more omega-3s. You’re left with something much better tasting and much better for you. If that’s not a winner I don’t know what is.

The salmon salad sandwich, ready to be devoured
Nikon D50

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Jul 032007

Grilled Copper River Sockeye Salmon

I hate to tell you this, but if you live anywhere that is not Alaska or Washington and you think you’ve been eating salmon, you’ve been lied to. That pale, flavorless fish dubbed “Atlantic salmon” that is farmed and sold all over the country is a very poor facsimile of the real thing.

This time of year in Alaska, salmon doesn’t get any real-er. The reds are running and the prized Copper River salmon is in season. This wild fish is deep red in color when raw — it’s as deep in hue as a tuna steak but much, much brighter. Think Crayola red, and you’re just about right. It has superb flavor unrivaled by its commericalized cousin. It’s just asking to be grilled simply adorned and devoured.

It only comes around once a year — get it while it’s here!

Grilled Copper River Sockeye Salmon

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