Saturday, April 16, 2011

Springtime Salmon with Basil? Is it possible to do this locally when we just had snow?

The weather this season has been anything but your typical Spring. Just this month we've had gorgeous sunny days, rainstorms, windstorms and yes SNOW. This spring in general has been outrageously stormy and rainy and to put it simply, I'm really tired of it. I miss the sun and the spring veggies and herbs it brings. So, I needed to insert a little sun and springtime into my life. What a better way to do that than with food. Right? Well, it's a great idea, but it proved a little difficult to do this in a local manner.

My favorite way to make salmon when I'm hitting the winter doldrums is Giada De Laurentiis' recipe for Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon. We're lucky to have local salmon all year round here. In Bellingham we even have fresh local whole-wheat pasta. However the lemon and basil would be a little more difficult to come by.
The lemon I bought at our local co-op and to be honest, that is about as local as I can get, even during the summer here. There are just not a lot of lemons to be had here in the northwest.

But basil? Wooohooo! I hit the jackpot. Haggen and our local co-op both sell a living basil that is produced on Camano Island and it's available almost year-round. This stuff is great! It lasts forever in a glass on the windowsill because the roots are still attached to the plant and in the summer you can even plant it outside. I usually don't buy herbs at the store because they are much cheaper to grow at my house but with basil I always seem to have problems. Our growing season is very limited here and the slugs love to devour it. Enter living basil. It's my local herb lifesaver and is available in more places than you think.

Now my last important ingredient was the salmon. Thankfully, not only do I live in the northwest where salmon is plentiful all year long, but I also have a fantastic father-in-law who fishes. He is very generous and often shares his salmon (and other oceanic delights) with us. We just happened to have some of his King Salmon in the freezer and I pounced on it. Mine, mine, mine! Now to get started.

Here's what you'll be needing.

*1/2 lb. whole-wheat spaghetti (dry or fresh)
*1 clove garlic, minced
*2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/2 tsp. pepper
*1 tbl. olive oil
*4 (4 oz.) pieces of salmon (but what is fresh, local and in season)
*1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
*3 tbs. capers
*1 lemon zested
*2 tbl. lemon juice
*2 cups arugula (spinach or beet greens)

Get these few things set up first before you begin. The salmon cooks quicker than you think and everything will need to be put together quickly before serving. First, get the serving bowls ready and put in a small layer of the washed/dried arugala. Second, in a tiny dish combine the garlic, 2 tbl. olive oil, salt and pepper. Thirdly, mix the lemon zest, lemon juice, capers and basil leaves in a separate bowl. Yay! Now your prep is done so get the water boiling for the pasta.

I don't know about you, but the first time I cooked salmon I was a little nervous. Few things are worse than eating dried out fish of any kind and salmon can be even more difficult because the thickness of the cut of fish can vary. This leaves the thick part undercooked while the thin part is crusty. Don't worry here's a little trick my husband taught me. If you want to speed up the cooking of the thick part of the salmon steak, put the lid on the pan for a few minutes. This steams the fish a little and concentrates the heat without drying it out. Neat huh? When cooking the salmon for this dish, you'll need to use medium-high heat and warm up some olive oil in the pan. Let it ripple a bit and then gently place the salmon into the pan skin side down. Spoon a tiny bit of lemon juice onto the salmon. After a few minutes flip the fish over continue until the salmon is medium rare. I like mine a little pink in the center.

At this time the pasta should be done. Drain pasta and transfer back into the pot. Toss the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper with the pasta. Then add the basil, capers, lemon zest, and extra lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture. Now you're ready to plate your meal.

Remember those serving bowls with the arugula? Put a serving of the pasta on top of the arugula. Then place a serving of the salmon on top of that. Voila!!!
Serve this with a balanced Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc and you'll feel like summer is just around the corner, even though there may be snow,hail, or a rainstorm, just outside your window.