Well, not really. But I did get him to eat salmon… finally. Rob has never been a fish person, but living on the Oregon Coast has given him an experience with fish that has he can’t deny; the fresh fish here is downright amazing. Fantastic. Fabulous.
Last weekend, Rob’s parents were visiting us on their journey through a whirlwind Oregon adventure. Driving down the Coast, they realized sooner than later that there are no “national” chain restaurants here (there’s not an Olive Garden to be seen, fortunately or unfortunately?), so experiencing new restaurants and foods was luckily on the menu. And when they arrived, I wanted to show a true, seasonal, local Pacific Northwest meal.
But that meant Rob would have to eat salmon.
The Oregon Coast is utterly amazing, and a main reason is because of the food. So when I asked Rob about how he’d feel if I cooked Chinook salmon for his parents, he surprisingly was all for trying it out again. There have been many times I’ve asked Rob to try salmon, “Just *bleeping* taste it!” each time with no avail. He makes his “fish face” (it’s a term of endearment), and is quite polite about it all, but has never enjoyed the experience.
“So, why now?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “I just want to give it another try.”
The wife in me knew that maybe he wanted to show off for his fish-loving parents (which provoked a little audible giggle), but the cook in me was ecstatic. Yay! Rob will eat one of the most amazing ingredients to come out of the Pacific Ocean!
I cooked my favorite kind of meal: simple, tasty, with flourishes only to enhance the flavor of what already is. With ingredients this fresh and beautiful, there’s no benefit to altering them, only to support them. Like the humble adjective to the bold action verb in an interesting sentence, the specific sauces and sides add more than just color to a dish (sorry, we’re in the 5th week of school – my teacher nerdiness is bound to come out sometime).
While the fish was obviously a fresh purchase, there are things that I like to keep on hand in my kitchen that makes entertaining super easy. Those humble sides and sauces, when seasonal and well planned, can be made ahead and create a painters palate of a menu. For this particular dish, I took some local corn and tomatoes and did a hot sauté for a quick relish. The creamy addition were melted red onions with green apples – sweet, tangy, and rounded out with a douse of white wine (yes, sometimes I actually do put it in the food). Finally, and while everything is best in threes, the finale sauce was a special (and favorite) no-cook fresh strawberry, maple, and rosemary coulis. Strawberries, believe it or not, are at the end of their season up here, and there’s something about the sweetness of a berry that pairs so Scandinavianly well with salmon. Trust me; channel your inner Tuula and Johaan.
While putting the it’s-really-not-a-lot-of-time-but-tastes-like-it-was-prepared-for-days time into creating the special touches to add to a dish, it let’s the true star shine. The salmon tasted like salmon, and like what cooked salmon should taste like: the smell of a foggy ocean morning mixed with cucumber and butter. Finally, Rob understood.
While the meal was great, being able to reconnect with family was even better. There will be stories to repeat forever (like how my Irish in-laws had to go to an Italian restaurant in Ireland because, “You can only eat so many carrots and potatoes!”) and stories to be reminded of forever (I’ll leave those be). The trip was a whirlwind, but so much fun, and we spoiled ourselves with a steady flow of great food and wine. After all, if you can’t indulge with family, then with whom can you indulge?
Baked Salmon (serves 4)
- 2 lbs. wild Chinook salmon (preferably fall season, Pacific Norwest rivers)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ c white wine (either a chardonnay or pinot gris)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare the salmon by patting it dry, then rubbing it with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle a large pinch of s&p, and place, skin side down, in a square baking dish. Pour over the white wine, and cook until salmon is just cooked through. NOTE: rare to med-rare salmon tends to have the best taste, but know where your fish came from before consuming undercooked protein.
Serve with the following sauces:
Corn and Tomato Relish (makes 1 pint)
- 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
- 1 large tomato
- ¼ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Heat the corn and tomato in a sauté pan over high heat. Season with s&p and the thyme. Cook for only about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften a bit (but do not break apart), and the corn warms through.
Melted Red Onions with Apple (makes about 1 pint)
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ Granny Smith apple, small diced
- ½ c white wine
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Over medium-low heat, sauté the onions, apple, and red pepper flakes in the oil until they start to soften (seasoning with s&p from the beginning will help with this process). Deglaze the pan with the wine, picking up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine until the mixture is smooth, and it looks like the onions have “melted” and submitted to the low, constant heat of the pan.
Strawberry Maple and Rosemary Coulis (makes about ½ pint)
- ½ pint strawberries, hulled
- 1 tbsp good quality maple syrup
- ½ tsp fresh rosemary
- juice ½ lemon
- small pinch of salt
Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until thick, smooth, and almost frothy.