It’s hard for me to believe, now, that I ever uttered the words, loud enough for all around me to hear, “Salmon again? I’m really really tired of salmon every night!”
How could I ever have been tired of salmon? Well, my grandfather, father, two uncles and a couple of cousins were all avid fishermen, going out every weekend unless the waves in the bay or on Hood Canal were three feet high or more. And after my grandfather retired, he was out in the boat, line in the water, every day from dawn to dusk. Among them all, they caught a lot of salmon, their preferred catch. An occasional cod or sole was acceptable, but it was salmon they were after, and salmon they got, which of course they shared with all the family members who lived in Shelton and nearby.
Keep in mind, back then there were far fewer regulations regarding season, amount of catch, closed waters, etc., and far more salmon available and feeding, especially during spring runs. Thus, we ate salmon most days of the week, and I heard myself whining about wanting a hot dog or a hamburger, not salmon again. As they say, be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.
What triggered the salmon memories? The hoopla and hoorah about the arrival of the first shipment of Copper River salmon, of course. It happens every year in May, and every year they make a bigger amount of noise about getting your hands on some Copper River Salmon, at whatever price. And yes, every year the price goes up along with the salmon fever.
What makes the Copper River salmon so special? Primarily, it has to do with how far a salmon has to swim to get where it wants and needs to go every year to carry on life. The farther the fish has to swim, the more fat it stores up before it begins the journey, and the more muscle (firm flesh) it builds as it goes. And the Copper River salmon from Alaska are fit, fat, and fine eating.
But (and there’s always a “but”), they are not the only fish in the sea worth getting your hands on. I personally watch for sockeye, wild caught and not previously frozen. Sockeye is firm, full of flavor and great for summertime grilling. The key words here are, of course, “fresh” and “wild caught.” The last fish on my preference list is the farm raised (a.k.a. Atlantic) salmon, which is exactly what it sounds like, farm raised. It swims virtually nowhere, has the least amount of Omega 3 we’re supposed to be getting from fish, its flesh is soft and sometimes even mushy after it’s cooked and, I think, has the least flavor of any of the various types of salmon.
So, whether you splurge for the Copper River king, or opt for the slightly less expensive sockeye, or even the coho or steelhead when they’re in, it’s salmon season and time to enjoy while it’s at its peak. And you’ll never, ever again hear the words “Salmon, again?” from me.
I have more than a hundred salmon recipes, making it difficult to pick out two or three, but here are some of the cream of the crop. Remember one key rule, no matter how you choose to prepare your salmon: DO NOT OVERCOOK. It’s so easy to do, so keep a wary eye on your fish as you cook it. First, a simple but delicious recipe for baked salmon filets, especially if you’re fond of garlic.
SALMON WITH ROASTED GARLIC
2 med. heads garlic, broken into separate cloves and peeled
½ cup (approx.) olive oil
3 T. unsalted butter
8 salmon filets, 6-8 oz. and thick and firm
4 t. fresh lemon juice (I use Meyer lemon when I can get it)
4 t. chopped fresh rosemary (salmon and rosemary are a natural together)
1. Place garlic in a ramekin and pour enough oil over to cover. Wrap the ramekin in a double thickness of foil and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the garlic is very tender, probably about 30-35 min. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and 1 T. of the cooking oil to a food processor. Add the butter and puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Place salmon filets on a baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle each piece with about a half teaspoon of lemon juice, then spread about 1 T. of the garlic puree over each. You can do all of this ahead of time and keep chilled until ready to cook. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bake the salmon uncovered until just cooked through, probably about 15 min. depending upon the thickness of your filets. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Sprinkle rosemary over and serve. This is delicious with fresh spring asparagus or sugar snap peas. Serves 8.
I found this recipe about four years ago when I had a lovely big sockeye filet in my fridge and was ready to try something different. It sounded as though it would overpower the fish; much to my surprise, it was an unusual but outstanding way to enhance the salmon flavor.
ROASTED SALMON WITH WALNUT PEPPER RELISH
½ cup walnuts
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. honey
2 T. diced roasted red pepper
1 T. walnut oil
2 T. olive oil (always use extra virgin)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T. chopped fresh chives
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 piece wild salmon, about 3 lbs. and about 1-½ inches thick
1. To make the relish: Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until toasted, 7-10 min. Let cool, then finely chop and transfer to a bowl. Add the next 5 ingredients, 1 T. of the olive oil and 2 T. of the parsley, ½ t. salt and black pepper to taste. Toss to combine. You can make this ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. When ready to cook the salmon, preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine the remaining T. of olive oil and 2 T. parsley, the chives, lemon zest, ½ t. salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Rub this mixture all over the salmon, lay it skin side down in a baking dish and roast until just cooked through, about 12-14 min. and be careful not to overcook. Remove from oven, let rest for 5 min. then transfer to a platter and top with the walnut relish.
At Rosario Resort on Orcas Island, which John and I used to visit when out cruising in our boat, they did a simple grilled salmon with fruit that was so tasty, as well as low calorie and healthy), I adapted it for us to do at home. The citrus and melon bring out the flavor of the grilled salmon.
GRILLED SALMON WITH CITRUS/MELON
2 oranges, peeled and with pith removed
2 salmon filets, 6-8 oz. each and at least 1-inch thick
2 t. olive oil, or safflower oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 T. fresh lime juice, plus additional when serving
½ cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cut into wedges about an inch and a half thick
Chopped fresh cilantro
1. Cut the oranges between the membranes with a small sharp knife to make individual segments. Set aside.
2. Prepare barbecue on high heat (or you can do this under a broiler). Rub the salmon on both sides with oil and sprinkle generously with black pepper. Grill until just barely cooked through, basting with 1 T. lime juice, about 4 min. each side (and be sure you get those nice grill marks). Also grill the cantaloupe wedges just enough to heat through and make grill marks, about 2 min. per side.
3. Arrange salmon and cantaloupe on a serving plate; garnish with orange segments. Sprinkle with additional lime juice and chopped cilantro and serve. Serves 2.