the King of the Fishes
Ahhh salmon….where would I be without you my friend, my warm blanket, my glowing sunset, my fish? You complete me as much as any cooked seafood could complete someone without multiple laws and readily accepted social conventions being violated.
All joking aside, there are very few foods that I could almost eat every night, and salmon is one of them. Now that I am allowed to resume your regularly scheduled joking, I could not only eat salmon every night but I could also eat it with a goat and on a boat as long as my eating companions provide them. I am fairly strict about that — under no circumstances will I be providing a goat.
Yes, I love salmon.
I love the flavour, the richness, the texture and the way they look when the violins swell and the sun rays hit them just so.
I could just about eat it every day, but not quite and that is probably because I am just not trying hard enough.
I love salmon barbecued, roasted, poached, smoked and as a companion on rainy nights when my wife and kids need to take a much-needed break from all of the salmon and salmon-related paraphernalia, pamphlets and promotional goods I have laying around the house that are turning into a bit of a fire hazard.
Let us not speak of canned salmon at the moment except to say that canned salmon has its merits, with eating being one, but to compare the lusciousness and knock-me-out sexiness of cooked fresh salmon to its sent-away-to-an-outpost-in-a-remote-area-of-the-wilderness-for-a -reason cousin, canned salmon, would be an exercise in futility. And I should know, as I spent the better part of grade 11 completing a series of futile exercises and eating an inordinate amount of canned salmon sandwiches sans cans.
Let us also agree that as good as salmon can be, it can also be rendered horribly bad. I almost can’t stand to type these words as it brings an image and a scent into my brain that makes me so angry I want to eat some salmon and punch the wall. In that order.
It is true, when this food of the gods is left in the hands of someone evil who either overcooks it or leaves it in a steam tray at a buffet for too long or aggressively seasons it so as to confuse or overwhelm the taste buds then it can be transformed into a wholly inedible foodstuff that I wouldn’t even throw at a crazed bear that was trying to steal my last pot of honey. The bear would deserve more.
When thinking of which salmon recipe to unleash on you, the readers, I was momentarily stunned. I needed to take a knee and then after drinking some ginger tea and watching some TV, I went out for a while with my kids before remembering that I had to choose a salmon dish for this blog post.
I could have listed one of a huge number of “go to” salmon recipes that I have created over time, but I settled on this one for it’s simplicity, it’s ease, it’s relaxed nature and good vibes and it’s allowing bygones to be bygones. I have a bucket full of bygones that need excusing.
Recently, one of my friends asked me for a foolproof salmon recipe and I replied that in my experience almost nothing can be entirely foolproof as those fools are just so tricky and so well-trained these days. The fools of today would dominate the fools of days gone by. These are not your grandfather’s fools. While no recipe can be entirely foolproof, this one comes golf-ball-sitting-on-the-edge-of-the-cup-just-waiting-for-a-gust-of-wind close.
Obviously this salmon dish can be served on its own like a lone tree on a hill or as part of a fabulous meal like a hill covered in trees with nowhere to sit. I am nothing, if not a striver for fabulous meal creations, so I have chosen to accompany it with two simple, yet awesome sides. Are you like me? I hope so.
I think everyone will enjoy this recipe and it will make you look like quite the chef who may have accolades or sparkling grape juice (insert champagne if the cash flow is good these days) poured upon you until you have to kindly say “no more” followed by demanding them to stop wasting the beverages unless they want to drink chlorinated tap water all night.
This is a meal I’d make for just about anyone. This is a meal I’d make for my parents. This is a meal I’d make for my wife. And this is even a meal I’d make for my wife’s parents….I have a feeling like I’m probably leaving someone else off this list.
It’s a great meal!
2 lbs Fillet of Salmon
5 Roma Tomatoes
1 Cup Kalamata Olives
2 Cloves Garlic
Large Handful Parsley
Large Handful Basil
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
Mushrooms and Asparagus
2 lbs Mushrooms
1 lb Asparagus
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
1 Tbs Soy Sauce
Salt (if necessary)
2 Cups Mixed Greens
1 Large Tomato
1/2 English Cucumber
1 Small Red Pepper
1/3 Cup Slivered Toasted Almonds
1/2 Cup Feta
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1/2 Tbs Lemon Juice
Salt (if necessary)
1) Turn the oven to 400 degrees without asking questions. This will become useful to you later on.
2) Place the salmon in a large glass baking dish. I like using one that I could bake a lasagna in if I use my imagination and focus on baking Italian pasta dishes. The salmon should lay flat and shouldn’t be all scrunched up like your roommate’s face on a perpetual basis. Remember, as my uncle always told me, if the fish ain’t comfortable, then…(he always pointed frantically towards the sky, and then once he had me distracted, ran the other way holding an extra pair of socks).
3) Remove the ends of the tomatoes. This is not the time to argue that tomatoes have no beginning or end. I like cutting them in half lengthwise and then in half again and then into thirds.
If time permits, I aim to have twenty-four perfect 24ths of my original tomato or, if I’m feeling particularly enthusiastic, thirty-six 36ths. This why my wife often confiscates my knife and makes me sit in the corner.
Regardless, the tomato is best if in bite-sized pieces — plan ahead and ask for the diameter and circumference for all mouths that are coming over for dinner.
4) Remove the pits of the olives and leave the pits sitting on the counter. That’s right; those are the pits.
5) Peel and mince the garlic. Mince the herbs. Allow yourself to get lost in your pride at accomplishing your daily mincing. After enjoying yourself for the past few minutes, take the next bus back to planet Earth.
6) Toss the tomatoes, olives, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper. Keep mixing until the ingredients are sufficiently integrated. And that is by 2015 standards. Quit living in the past.
7) Cover the salmon entirely with your tomato mix like you would cover your loved one with a quilt on those nights when you want to pretend they are a mummy. Place to the side.
8) Quarter or half the mushrooms depending on their size and political affiliation. You can use wild mushrooms, white mushrooms or a mix of the two. Attempt to be creative and avant garde when selecting your mushrooms — give it a try — it’s really hard to do!
9) Remove the ends of your asparagus and humour your children by pretending to use them as very small, green gymnastics apparatus. Try not to concern yourself with why your children find this so funny.
10) Peel and mince the garlic. Close your eyes and soak in the feeling of deja vu.
11) Combine the mushrooms, asparagus, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, dried herbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Once mixed, pour contents either on a baking sheet or in a baking pan. For those who can’t choose, consider this — a baking sheet is just a really flat baking pan. You’re welcome.
12) Place both the salmon and the mushroom/asparagus mixtures in the oven at the same time or one after the other. It depends on whether they will complain that the other got to go first.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the salmon is cooked. Actually, definitely cook until the salmon is cooked regardless of how long it takes.
13) While the food in the oven is baking, prepare the salad as well as your opening remarks for the evening proceedings so that you don’t forget to thank anyone who helping you get this far like last time. Sorry dad!
14) Dice the tomato, dice the cucumber, and dice the pepper. Dat’s right mon, you be dicin’.
15) Lovingly scatter the greens into your salad vehicle. Does anyone still honestly use a bowl for salads these days? Place the diced veggies on top. Remind them all that this is an all-ages event.
16) Remove the ends of the radishes and slice thinly as you can. You may use a mandoline if you’d like or you can kick it old school, and use a knife. One of my friends calls his knife a really small saw. That friend is weird.
17) Crumble the feta cheese and add the feta and radishes to the salad.
18) Open the avocado like you would a Christmas present that is clearly a bottle of wine and feign surprise when you see that it is, as you expected, a bottle of wine! Why are they always giving you wine? What does that mean?
Well, when you open the avocado, it is an avocado on the inside. Fight the desire to drive to the liquor store and buy some wine. That is called conditioning! You are smarter than that!
Remove the large pit and dream of planting it in the backyard as the first step towards becoming the richest, and therefore the greatest, avocado farmer in town before remembering that you had promised your great aunt Helen that you wouldn’t.
19) Scoop the flesh of the avocado into the salad and also add the slivered almonds.
20) Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk until incorporated. Wonder if this is similar to how towns become incorporated as well. Better to keep that thought to yourself. Add the dressing to the salad and toss.
21) Check the salmon in the middle for done-ness and attitude. Because of the excessive moisture provided by the tomatoes (it’s true, they do have a problem with too much moisture!) the salmon may take a longer time to cook. If the asparagus and mushroom dish is ready before the salmon, remove it from the oven and cover to keep warm.
I can’t emphasize enough that I just don’t recommend serving raw salmon or under-cooked veggies under any circumstances aside from malice and spite, and even then, you have to ask yourself if this is the best way to display those complex, and most likely totally irrational, feelings you have inside yourself.
Place the food on the table and call your guests to dinner. Prepare yourself for the appreciative oohs and aahs and “way to go”’s and “where is my hat”’s from your dinner company.
My mouth has been literally watering the entire time I wrote this piece and my keyboard and lap are covered in drool…again. It is that good a dish. I can almost smell the aroma of the salmon and I need to get some food as I am this close to gnawing on something nearby.
This meal is worth the time and money. In many ways it is the meal you were always meant to cook. Fulfill your destiny. Now!