My recent trip to British Columbia was all about Salmon. I ate a lot of Salmon. We did not eat salmon EVERY day…but on the days that we were not eating salmon, we were talking about eating salmon. On Gabriola Island, we were eating a lot of pink salmon, which seemed to be the most willing to be caught by our fisherman friends. I consider myself a salmon snob because I am mistrustful of the salmon offerings on the east coast. But I found out that many local BC people are so spoiled for good salmon that they don’t like to eat pink salmon (they call them slimy humpies!). These people prefer sockeye salmon. I think both are delicious!
My mother’s friend Keith, fisherman, boat builder , grower of figs and expert food forager extraordinaire, served us pink salmon that he had caught himself. He has an outside preparation area for processing his fresh caught oysters and fish.
Left- Oyster shucking station. Middle- Prepping the salmon. Right- After filleting the fish, Keith cut the last bits off the bones for sashimi. We did the salmon fillets on the grill in foil packets with mustard and fresh green fennel seeds. This kind of weedy fennel is growing wild all over the Pacific Northwest coast. I saw an entire vacant lot full of it in Seattle on my way home!
My mother’s neighbor gave us some more pink salmon, which I made into a salmon, potato and corn bisque. I regretted blending it though. Someday I will make it again as a salmon, potato corn chowder instead. I also had fried salmon, grilled salmon and smoked salmon. But wait there’s more…
In Vancouver, I had dinner with my sister, Silvi, and her mama, Ieva, who lovingly prepared salmon on Silvi’s request. I was on the phone with Ieva making the dinner plans and Silvi gave me a serious, plaintive look and said “I want a salmon”. Silvi’s look told me, “Don’t mess with the order of my existence by planning some weird dinner. Late summer time + dinner with my mom = Salmon”.
Silvi asked Ieva if we could put her salmon recipe on the blog and she replied that it was too simple. Silvi pointed out that it may be simple, but that she herself did not know how to do it. That is what happens when your family has a salmon cooking expert…no one else bothers to learn how to make it!!!
We served the salmon with a wonderful green salad with beets, radishes and tomatoes from the local farmer’s market. We also made (what I had meant to be) a ground cherry and almond gazpacho. The flavour was so intense though, that it would really make a better sauce…a sauce for salmon!
- A nice big slab of salmon (about 2 pounds)
- olive oil
- herbs (such as rosemary)
- Preheat the oven to 425
- Place the salmon, skin side down in a shallow baking dish and smear it with a bit of oil. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and herbs.
- Bake the salmon for 13 minutes. It is important not to over cook the salmon, as it will become mushy.
- Remove the salmon, cover it and let it rest for about 5 minutes.
- Serve with a green salad and if you like the ground cherry and almond sauce (below). I have eaten Ieva’s salmon many times with Ieva’s Greek Salad and I cannot recommend this combination enough!
Physalis Peruviana go by many different names. I have seen them labeled as ground cherries (in Maine), Cape Gooseberries (in NYC), Poha (in Hawaii), Goldenberries (in Vancouver) something I couldn’t read in Hindi (In India). Other pretty aliases include Aztec Berries. Peruvian Cherry and Pok Pok. In other words, this fruit gets around. They are about the size of a marble and are in a husk (like a tomatillo), but they are often more orange than green and they are as sweet and tangy as a tomatillo is sour. I was just in Maine, where I learned that ground cherries had an excellent crop this year. Here on the East coast, the variety is greener and less sweet than the ones pictured here. I actually prefer the flavour of the little green ones that we get in Maine and NYC, but that may just be due to the fact that they don’t really ever make it far from where they are grown here. You kind of have to catch them at the farmer’s market or have a gardening friend who has planted them. The orange ones are often imported from South America and they are clearly bred for maximum sugar. Whichever variety you can get your hands on, this sauce is sweet, tangy and rich.
GROUND CHERRY and ALMOND SAUCE
- about 2 cups of ground cherries husked and rinsed
- about 3/4 cup of blanched almonds (they can be whole, sliced or slivered. You could also use almond meal)
- 1 very small clove of garlic, minced
- about 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- fresh basil for garnish
- Lightly toast the almonds in a dry skillet or toaster oven until they are a pale golden colour.
- Grind the almonds into a flour using a blender.
- Add the garlic and blend for half a minute.
- Add the ground cherries and blend until the mixture is mostly smooth. Ground cherries are full of tiny seeds that will not break down, but they should be the only texture. Don’t worry if it is a bit unappealing at this point.
- With the blender on, slowly add the extra virgin oil. The oil will thicken and emulsify the sauce. If your sauce becomes silky and thick without adding all of the oil, don’t feel obligated to add the rest of it.
- If you wanted to get really fancy about it, I suppose that you could strain the seeds out…but we did not.
- Season with salt to taste. You will need quite a bit to balance the sweet/tart flavour of the ground cherries and the richness of the almonds and oil.
- I suggest making a shallow pool of the sauce and serve the salmon on top, garnished with fresh basil.