Hello! The last two weeks have sped by in a frenzy of fishing. The Other Fisherman and sons have been running around the Kenai Peninsula at all hours of the day and night chasing sockeyes. There is a substantial booty of them in the freezer, but not quite enough yet according to their calculations.
How they arrive at what they consider to be “enough” most likely is determined by a few things such as opportunities to go fishing, if the day will show promise of salmon in the river or bay, weather and tides, and what the fun meter requirements are. They don’t care if they sleep much and that messes up my sleeping. I like my sleep. They make sandwiches to take along — lots and lots of sandwiches. Sometimes they get eaten, sometimes not. Sometimes I eat a leftover fishing sandwich for breakfast because it is easy, I’m tired and I’m lazy. It’s summer in Alaska, and I can sleep in the winter and make nice breakfasts.
There’s nothing better than fresh anything. We are fortunate to have access to many fantastic species of fish in Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet and our rivers. Summer also means fresh, locally grown vegetables. I am happy when I have any of these superb ingredients to cook with and have been taking advantage of this seasonal bounty on a daily basis.
Son Robert had a great time at the Homer Farmers Market on a Saturday and came home bubbling with excitement over all the vegetables he bought. We have had a date to make cioppino for a while now, but salmon fishing has taken priority. He bought a couple bulbs of fennel in anticipation of making the cioppino that are still in the fridge, so when he returned home from a Kenai River fishing trip with one of the biggest and most beautiful red filets I have ever seen, I made this delicious recipe.
The reduced wine sauce is similar to a beurre blanc sauce, as it includes wine, butter, shallots and lemon juice. If you have everything prepped and the salmon ready to bake, it will shorten time spent in the kitchen before dinner is served. Serve this dish with a hearty salad and offer a crusty baguette. A simple dessert made with seasonal fresh fruit and there’s a perfect dinner party menu. Suggested wine is a French chardonnay.
Slow-Roasted Salmon with White Wine, Fennel and Herb Sauce
4 salmon filets (about 6 ounces each), skin and pin bones removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, cut into six pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub each filet with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with a little salt. Place the salmon in the oven to bake. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
While the salmon is baking, make the sauce.
In a 4-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the wine, shallots and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat to a medium-low and simmer the wine until reduced to half, approximately 1/3 cup. This takes about 10 minutes.
Add the sliced fennel and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and simmer until the fennel is crisp tender, about 5 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon or a heat proof spatula, stir the butter into the wine mixture a chunk at time, until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning, cover to keep warm.
Check the salmon. It will be done well when the fat between the layers begins to turn white and opaque and the fish flakes easily. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a filets should register 125-130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: When salmon is cooked gently at such a low temperature the flesh looks underdone because the color is so beautifully pink and vivid, but it is fully cooked.
Just before serving, stir the fennel fronds, dill and chives into the warm sauce.
Place the salmon fillets on warm plates. Spoon some of the sauce including the sliced fennel over each piece of salmon and serve immediately.
I wait all winter and spring for the farmers markets to open, so when it’s finally market time, I often bring home more than I can use. Everything is beautifully displayed and colorful. I can’t resist buying too many things. This cook at a farmer’s market is being a kid in a candy store. By the way, a candy store opened this summer on the Homer Spit, Sea Sweets. I highly recommend a visit, even if you don’t have children to take with you.
I crave a good vegetable pasta salad in the summertime, one you can serve and then have enough leftover to eat, fork in hand, standing at the fridge holding onto the bowl with the fridge door open at 10 p.m.
Farmers Market Pasta Salad
For the Salad:
16 ounces uncooked spiral pasta
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
6 ounces sliced black olives
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 cup carrots sliced into thin coins
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup sliced green onion
For the dressing:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, rinse with water and let cool. Combine the vegetables in a large bowl.
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Stir your cooked pasta into the vegetable mixture, then pour the dressing over pasta salad and toss to coat.
Once pasta salad is combined, taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.