Sometimes I see proteins as the blank canvases of cooking. I mean, fruits, vegetables, and grains all have the potential to be enjoyed by themselves without requiring additional flavors. But I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed any meat, poultry or seafood item without something else… at least some salt.
And of all the blank canvases of meat in the world, salmon is one of my favorites on which to paint. Chicken doesn’t have enough going for itself alone… it’s not an exciting foundation. Steak – at least if it’s high quality – should be interesting enough by itself that it doesn’t need much to enhance the flavor, and if you are trying to enhance/alter the flavor, it requires a pretty robust treatment. There’s no subtlety with steak as far as I’m concerned.
Salmon, on the other hand, has a distinct taste that shines through but still plays nicely with others; it works well in so many preparations. My earliest salmon-cooking experiences (in my first apartment, just after I graduated from college) were based on a recipe from the South Beach Diet book- just mixing together some lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, brushing the mixture on top of the fish, and broiling it. It’s still one of my favorite recipes; every element manages to stand out yet meld together. But there are many other salmon recipes I love- pasta with salmon and roasted garlic, a one-skillet meal with salmon, broccolini, and basmati rice, and my aunt’s recipe for coating salmon with pesto and chopped pistachios. And no, I’m not giving you any further information about those recipes right now… stay tuned for future salmon blogs. Suspenseful, I know.
The other day I uncovered my June 2010 issue of Bon Appetit, which featured this great summer meal guide filled with appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and desserts. A recipe for Salmon with Coriander Rub and Lime Cream caught my eye. So last Friday, Nick and I braved the masses of people driven by hurricane hysteria and went shopping for dinner supplies. (And three boxes of macaroni and cheese to get us through the weekend, in case we did end up hiding out from Irene. Plus, they were 60 cents each…. my food budget would be so much easier if I didn’t care about my health.*)
Anyway, the more I learn about sustainable seafood, the more pissed off I get when I try to buy fish at the grocery store. Farmed Atlantic salmon sent here from Chile? No, thank you. Fortunately I spotted some other salmon behind the counter that turned out to be wild-caught, from Alaska. Monterey Bay Aquarium would be proud. (I feel like everyone knows about this resource, but if you don’t, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has lots of helpful information on what seafood to enjoy and avoid.)
The recipe is pretty uncomplicated, and I followed it directly, so I don’t have a ton of comments to add. I used “European-Style Sour Cream” that I had on hand… pretty sure it’s basically the same thing as creme fraiche. But it made a super-rich and luxurious lime cream, which I was tempted to eat directly off the spoon. (Okay, I did…) The coriander and cumin seeds probably were not ground quite as much as they were supposed to be, but they seemed to work just fine. I was happy to have my first reason to use our new mortar and pestle.
One more thing- since I was just happy to find an acceptable salmon at the grocery store, I didn’t concern myself with the fact that it was not skinless, as the recipe calls for. I don’t know if this really affects anything, although I could see that maybe the skin prevents the salmon from absorbing the dry rub as much.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if a meal includes cilantro and lime, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will love it.
*Okay, so I wrote this before the hurricane knocked our power out for over 48 hours, which meant we weren’t even able to enjoy the mac and cheese. Guess we’ll have to wait for a blizzard this winter.
Salmon with Coriander Rub and Lime Cream (from Bon Appetit June 2010)
Serves 6. (I had about half the amount of salmon called for since there were only two of us, but I kept the same amounts for the dry rub and the lime cream. And yes, we ate almost all of the cream….)
1/4 cup coriander seeds
4 tsp cumin seeds
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 3/4 tsp finely grated lime peel
6 6-ounce salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
9 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro
Toast coriander and cumin seeds in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darkened and very fragrant, stirring often (about 3-4 minutes). Remove the seeds from heat, let them cool. Grind seeds to a medium consistency and pour into a large glass baking dish. Add olive oil, pressed garlic, and two tablespoons grated lime peel. Whisk to blend, and add salmon to dish. Turn to coat. Cover and chill for 1 to 3 hours, turning the salmon occasionally.
With rack positioned in top third of the oven, preheat to 450 degrees. Brush a heavy rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. Brush excess spices off each salmon fillet, leaving a thin coating. Arrange fillets on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until just opaque in center, about 7 minutes (I think ours took several minutes longer…).
While the salmon is baking, whisk the sour cream together with the lime juice and remaining 3/4 teaspoons grated lime peel. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange salmon on platter. Sprinkle generously with cilantro, and serve with lime cream.