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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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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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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