Thursday, June 21, 2012

Salmon Dinner with Bonnie

A few weeks ago I was the lucky recipient of some locally caught salmon out of the San Luis Obispo Bay in Avila Beach, CA.  What to do? Okay,  I'll invite the sister of the fishermen over for dinner. Her brothers are avid fishermen but don't live here full time so they took their bounty home leaving Bonnie and I to fend for ourselves with these lovely fillets. She says she isn't a big fan of salmon but I think I changed her mind. Fresh salmon is a world away from the store bought pale pink stuff from who knows where and when it was harvested.
See the pin bones on the wider fillet? Remove them.

Grilled Local Salmon w. Morel Mushroom Vinaigrette
Braised Lentils, sauteed Morel mushrooms
Mario's Fennel and Corn ragout
Homemade Yogurt Ice Cream w. Berry Sauce
A couple of girlfriends having a good time
 I am currently reading Mario Batali's " Molto Batali-Simple Family Meals". The book is arranged according to seasons.  One of his summer dishes is "Fennel and Corn in Umido".  It was so delicious looking that I had to try it.  The results were just as delicious. It makes a ton, even though I halved the recipe, so I shared it with another friend when she had me and a bunch of other peeps over for dinner. I think we finished it off.
Hopefully you can look this up as I couldn't link it.
This "ragout" is a combination of 2 fennel bulbs,3 cloves garlic,  1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 stalk celery cut and chopped and sauteed in olive oil until soft. About 1 c. canned plum tomatoes are added as well as corn that has been taken off of 3 ears. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with some tarragon leaves and chopped fennel fronds. I love this book and this recipe!

Side dish #2 was lentils done in the French manner ( my fav) although all I had were Italian lentils:

1 1/4 c. French green " Le Puy" or other small lentils
water to cover by 1"
1/2 onion stuck with one whole clove
1 small carrot peeled and finely diced
1 whole clove garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf ( fresh if you have one)
1/2 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. extra virg. olive oil for finishing

Rinse lentils and drain. Place in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients up to the olive oil. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pan and let simmer 20-25 min. They should be tender but not mushy.  Drain and if you want reserve the cooking liquid for soup.  I chopped up the onion ( discarding the whole clove) and mashed up the garlic and folded them back into the lentils. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the olive oil.
Set aside for further embellishments.

The Farmer's Market had a few baskets of fresh Morel mushrooms...I was shocked and excited at the same time. Bobby Flay demonstrated a wonderful dish of Grilled Salmon with Morel Vinaigrette in February, 2007 on the Food Network.  I saved it in my Recipe Box ( a very handy tool) and have been waiting for the stars to line up whereas I would have wild salmon and fresh morels. He used dried but I held out for the fresh and it was so worth it.  You can use his original recipe here but I had the need to fiddle with it so I sauteed morels, shallots and garlic in butter and olive oil.  I made a simple little vinaigrette with Dijon mustard,white wine vinegar and olive oil like he did and set that aside.   Half of the morels were folded into the lentils and the rest were tossed with the vinaigrette to spoon over the grilled salmon.
To grill the salmon, season with salt and pepper and rub some olive oil on both sides.  These fillets still had the skin on them but I had to remove the "pin" bones. Just run your fingers over the spine of the fillet and take clean needle nosed pliers and pull out the bones. You know those little pliers that are hanging around in the toolbox? Well make sure you wash them well before and after pulling out the bones or your toolbox will stink to high heaven and your salmon will taste of whatever they were used for last. 
Heat your grill. Sounds easy, right? Well I have to tell you this was the first time I have used the propane Weber since Steve passed away. He was the grill master. Now I usually have other grill-types around when something requires grilling. Luckily Bonnie has some experience so she and I managed to get the thing going.  I know Steve always turned off the middle burner and let the side burners heat up for an indirect type of cooking. So I did that.  Mind you we only had 2 pieces of fish so that was plenty of heat. 
Place the salmon skin side down and don't touch it until the skin seems like it will pull away from the grate and not tear. The crispy skin is dynamite. This should take 3-5 min.  Flip over and cook another 3 min. I like mine pretty dark pink inside and not translucent but you can take them as far as you want, just don't dry the beauties out.  They will continue to cook after you remove from the grill too. I remembered to turn off the propane tank which I can't say some of my guests did. 
Back inside and time to plate up!  Toss the reserved morels into the lentils along with chopped parsley and if you want some crumbled goat or feta cheese. Place a heaping spoonful on each plate slightly off center.  Drape the salmon over some of the lentils.  Arrange some of the Fennel-Corn ragout on the plate opposite the salmon.  Spoon the morel vinaigrette over the salmon.
We both couldn't believe how good salmon this fresh tasted!

We were too anxious to eat so I didn't concentrate on food photos this time.

I had a local wine, Shale Oak's Albarino chilled which was perfect for Bonnie who only drinks white. Since I like both I opened a local Rhone blend which is what I would serve today if I was making this again.

A future blog will be featuring the ice creams I have been making using the Cuisinart Ice Cream maker.  This one was a basic vanilla but I didn't have enough heavy cream so I threw in some Greek Yogurt with good results.  A little "clean out the freezer of berries" sauce and we were happy campers!