Tag Archives: grilling

Salmon with Cardamom-Peach Chutney

I can tell by my watch that it’s salmon season! Well, okay. Not exactly by my watch. But by the fact that the harbinger of the seasonal openings–Copper River–has launched and that means that commercial openings begin peppering the region, bringing in freshly-caught wild salmon from throughout the Northwest. What a happy time of year! I have yet to have my first bite of Copper River’s 2010 vintage but surely it won’t be long now…..

Another timely salmon note is that a sandwich I helped create for Burgerville has just launched in all 39 of their restaurants this week. The Grilled Wild Coho Sandwich will be on menus until July 5 (or as long as supplies last), the simple and tasty item sandwiches herb-sprinkled and grilled coho fillet on a Kaiser bun with lemon aïoli and frisée. They tell me it’s already selling “gangbusters”!! Which is GREAT because proceeds from each sandwich go to support eat.think.grow, a program in Portland that’s working to establish an edible garden at every school in the city. No small task! But one that I’m thrilled to support. I met the founding director Linda Colwell at the IACP conference in Portland last month, we both attended the highly inspiring Urban Farm Mini-Symposium. So glad to have met her there and learned about eat.think.grow, just in time to be able to support them through Burgerville’s generous program. And Linda and I discovered we both went to La Varenne too! Small world.

So the third confirmation of salmon season came this morning by way of email from a fan! She said that one of her favorite recipes of mine is the Grilled Salmon with Cardamom-Peach Chutney and she’s misplaced the recipe. And with salmon season upon us, wondered if I couldn’t share a copy of the recipe with her so she could recreate it a few more times this summer. Not only will I do that, but I’ll go ahead and share it with all of you! Hope you like it. And if you might be in the mood for grilling a whole salmon, here’s a post I did last year on that subject.

I seem to have a thing for chutney. At a book signing recently for my latest book, Gourmet Game Night, the folks at Metropolitan Markets had whipped up the Aged Cheddar with Dried Cherry-Almond Chutney recipe to entice passers-by. Everyone loved that chutney! So much so that every other person asked where they could buy it. (Sorry, ma’am, I’m just a cookbook author; you’ll have to make it yourself. Though now that you mention it….) And in that book, too, I made a rhubarb chutney that goes with sliced pork tenderloin for a little open-faced sandwich.

So this recipe below only proves that I may be in something of a rut when it comes to falling back on chutney as a complement in many of my recipes. But what’s not to love? I’m usually not a fan of fruit or sweet things meshing with savory, but chutney (the way I like it at least) has such distinctive savory tones with spices and onion and vinegar, that I’ll forego my savory-fruit prejudices. This recipe doesn’t actually come from my Salmon cookbook, but instead my Stone Fruit book. In fact, I bet this preparation would be delicious with any of the stone fruits. Mmmmm, plum in particular. I may have to try that one myself here soon.

Grilled Salmon with Cardamom-Peach Chutney

(from Stone Fruit in the Northwest Homegrown Cookbook Series)

4 salmon steaks or fillet pieces, 6 to 8 ounces each

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cardamom-Peach Chutney

14 green or white cardamom pods

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 large ripe but firm peaches

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/4 cup white vinegar

Pinch dried red pepper flakes


For the cardamom-peach chutney, combine 8 of the cardamom pods with the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a small, dry skillet and toast them over medium heat until lightly browned and aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the spices to a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and finely grind or crush them (the cardamom pods are flavorless and are perfectly okay in the spice blend). Set the spices aside. Peel and pit the peaches, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant and the onion is beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the spices over and stir to evenly coat the onion. Add the peaches with the vinegar, red pepper flakes, and remaining 6 cardamom pods.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are tender and the chutney is thick and aromatic, 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t stir the chutney so much that the peaches become a purée; the pieces should hold their shape somewhat. Season the chutney to taste with salt and set aside to cool. The chutney may be made a few days in advance and refrigerated, but let it come to room temperature before serving.

Preheat an outdoor grill.

Rub the salmon pieces with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Lightly brush the grill grate with oil, set the salmon on the grill (flesh-side down first, if using fillet pieces), and cook until just a touch of translucent pink remains in the center, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fish (or longer, to suit your taste). Set the salmon on individual warmed plates, spoon some of the peach chutney alongside, and sprinkle the cilantro over all. Serve right away.

Makes 4 servings

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Filed under Cookbooks, Northwest character, regional treats, seasonal eats

Chimichurri: Simple Sauce, Powerful Flavor

I guess it was two different influences that conspired to establish our menu for dinner last night. First, the Sunday trip through our beloved neighborhood grocery store, West Seattle Thriftway, where my eyes caught a “buy one, get one free” special on beautiful, boneless rib-eye steaks from Misty Isle Beef. Couldn’t pass that up, no way!

That same evening, we were chatting with a friend about random things in life and travel came up. “What’s on your wish list right now for one of your next trips?” she asked. Hadn’t thought about that lately. We have a lot of travel coming up this year–South Carolina, Santa Barbara, Italy, France–so what might come next hasn’t come up yet. But after a second or two, I blurted out “Argentina!” It’s maybe not next on the list, but I sure have a growing hankering for making a trip to Buenos Aires, having hear two different sets of friends rave about their trips there. And this friend, too, had been and echoed that the city’s like the Europe of yesteryear, and less expensive, great food, amazing architecture, on and on.

Next thing you know, it’s Tuesday and I’m considering what to serve with those rib-eyes. Must have been lingering images of Argentina that brought to mind chimichurri sauce, the traditional herb-garlic-vinegar concoction that is a classic complement to grilled meat (which seems to be the national food of Argentina, one particularly good reason to make the trip!).

Parsley is the traditional backbone of chimichurri, often with an accent of fresh oregano as well. Parsley’s not abundant yet in my garden, but thankfully had a bundle of parsley left from the weekend, so finely chopped most of that. (Yes, that’s curly parsley in the photo, I usually get flat-leaf. But the husband was on that particular grocery outing and I failed to be specific!) No oregano sprouting outside yet either, but I snipped a few sprigs of really tender new thyme. And while I was out there, some lovage just for good–and green–measure.

Green onions and garlic minced. Same for a red Fresno chile I happened to have on hand. A few good glugs of red wine vinegar, and a moderate glug or two of olive oil. A big pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper. No time flat, I’ve got a lovely, vibrant, aromatic chimichurri just waiting for some grilled steaks to party with!

What a tasty dinner that was. There are a slew of bright flavors in the chimichurri–herbs, vinegar, garlic, chile–that serve bold contrast to the richness of the meat. It wakes up and engages your palate with each bite in a way that A-1 (another personal favorite) just can’t replicate.

We ate up pretty much that whole bowl’s worth, a little bit of which was brushed on some sliced eggplant that I grilled alongside the steaks. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. And I guess I’ll be on a minor chimichurri kick now until I get down to Argentina myself and try some at the homeland. Can’t wait.


Filed under cooking at home, travel

For Dad: Grilled Whole Salmon

Boy, I just experienced something of a flood. And it’s not from the Seattle rain that fell this morning after a near-month dry spell. I had determined to honor my dad by sharing with you his family-famous recipe for grilled whole salmon. “I’ll need a few photos to accompany this,” I thought. Off to the
Handsome! Not sure what year, early 1940s?

Handsome! Not sure what year, early 1940s?

closet, where I pulled down an album devoted to him and chose these few favorite photos. Underneath the album is an old Nordstrom box I hadn’t opened in years, tucked in the corner of the closet shelf where I hold other mementos of him. Should I or shouldn’t I?

I did.

And I found a wonderful random trove of items that tug at my heart a bit but mostly make me smile in remembering the wonderful man who I miss so much.

Among them a golf ball shaped postcard I sent from St Andrews Scotland while on a church bell choir trip in 1980. A travel brochure for Kyoto, Japan (I was born in Yokosuka). A faux legal document from a non-faux law office proclaiming that the plaintiff (apparently my dad) had reneged (surely not intentionally) on a verbal contract to offer the plaintiff 3 large Beefeater martinis “in large glasses” at the Edmonds Yacht Club. Pretty much every birthday and Father’s Day card I

His early morning catch on a backpacking trip -- along the Dosewallips I think

His early morning catch on a backpacking trip -- along the Dosewallips I think

gave him over the years. And a small yellowed envelope with his report cards from Bremerton High School, 1940-41 school year. For a guy who became a civil engineer, a highly respected officer in the Navy and Director of Public Works for Lynnwood, he sure was a lousy student back then. Chemistry, C+. Third year German and “Electricity,” B-. Fourth year math, D+. Ouch!

This is going to be the 13th Father’s Day without my dad. It’s not quite as painful to start seeing the “great gifts for Father’s Day!” ads and emails as it was in the first few years. But it still serves as a brash reminder each year about that distinct chasm in my life, the place he filled in a tangible, earth-bound manner for so many years.

Thankfully we had a wonderful relationship that does feed me constantly with great memories, rich texture, confidences that guide me every day. The support and love he (and my mom) showed me at every turn in my life–every accomplishment and challenge small and large, from graduating a YMCA swim class to going to France for culinary school–was absolute and unwavering. It’s as much as any girl could wish for; for that I am most fortunate.

Dad’s strengths and skills were many and varied. He played a mean harmonica, especially when sitting around a campfire (“Yellow Bird” was a signature tune). He had a brilliant, detailed engineer’s mind for problem-solving. He had a distinct knack for putting people at ease, making friends, making people laugh.

But cooking? He wasn’t a terrible cook, but it wasn’t necessarily a high point for him. Though he did love having family over for dinner in later years. I have the funny memory of one dinner he’d cooked that began with a leek soup. I said how much I liked the soup and asked what all was in it. He goes down the list: leeks, onions, butter, potatoes, broth, cream…. “Damn,” he yells. “I forgot the cream!”

Dad was master, however, of the backyard grill. In our case, it was a backyard kamado pot that we’d brought back from Japan in the late 1960s. (Today’s wildly popular Big Green Egg is founded on the design of the kamado.)

His pièce de résistance at the grill was whole salmon–done simply, as is best with such a glorious fish. Partly wrapped in foil, the flesh’s maximum moisture is preserved while some of that smoky essence from the charcoal embers embellishes the flavor. It was the showstopper for special dinners or

Dinner with the Choplains

Dinner with the Choplains

to wow out-of-town visitors with our great local eats.

In fact, among the cards and notes received after Dad died was one from a very dear friend, Anne-Marie Choplain, pictured here in her home, where my dad and I paid a visit while he came to spend time with me in France while I was at cooking school. She wrote (in French that I’m roughly translating), “I’m touched in remembering the wonderful times we had together, the best grilled salmon I have ever eaten, a wonderful hike in the Olympics, a round of golf in Lynnwood, and his visit to France.” See? His salmon can be said to have received international acclaim!

It’s not always easy to find whole head-on salmon (best to call ahead to your local fish market), as the head will generally begin spoiling faster than the flesh and it also adds to bulk for transport. But head-on grilled salmon will retain a maximum of flavor and moisture, plus the added bonus of those two delectable salmon cheese at which the chef gets first dibs.

I just got back from the store with a whole sockeye, about 4 3/4 pounds, and will honor dad by recreating this recipe tonight, to share with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law. And a nice rosé alongside. (Here’s a follow-up post.) Dad could never sip a glass of wine (typically red) without first marveling at the color and character it had in the glass. And you couldn’t help but marvel with him. He took joy in so many things — it was a joy to have him as a father. Here’s to you, Dad, with deep and unending gratitude.

Grilled Whole Salmon Dad’s Way (from Salmon)

2 cups wood smoking chips (optional)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 whole salmon (about 5 to 7 pounds), head and tail intact preferably, cleaned and scaled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 large lemons (1 thinly sliced, 1 juiced)

1 lime, thinly sliced

Small handful flat-leaf parsley sprigs

Preheat an outdoor grill. Soak the smoking chips, if using, in a bowl of cold water.

Cut a piece of heavy-duty foil about 2 1/2 times the length of the fish. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of the melted butter lengthwise down the center of the foil. Wet the salmon on top of the butter. Season the belly of the fish with salt and pepper, then add the onion slices, lemon slices, and lime slices, distributing them evenly. Finally, add the parsley sprigs to the belly. Add the lemon juice to the remaining butter, stir well, and drizzle this over the surface of the fish.

Fold the ends of the foil up over the fish to meet in the center. Crimp the foil along the long side edges so they’re well sealed without too snugly enclosing the fish. At the top center, where the foil ends meet, fold back to make a loose opening, making sure the sides remain sealed to hold the juices during cooking.

When the grill is hot, if using a charcoal grill spread the coal out in an even layer. Drain the smoking chips and scatter them over the coals (if using a gas grill, follow manufacturer’s instructions). Carefully set the salmon packet in the center of the grill grate, cover the grill, and cook until only a slight hint of translucence remains in the center of the thickest part (gently pull back some of the foil and poke into the flesh with the tip of a knife to check), 20 to 30 minutes. Lift the salmon packet onto a heatproof platter, fold back the foil so that the cooking liquids are retained. Serve right away.

Makes 8 to 12 servings


Filed under cooking at home, food and family, seasonal eats

Dinner at Home: Grilled Whole Chicken

Great minds think alike, don’t you agree? My food-writing cohort and friend Nancy Leson spelled out a few days ago–in delicious detail–the steps she (and her husband Mac) uses to turn out perfect whole chicken roasted on the backyard grill. I’d served at home last Saturday night very much the same thing. Minus the Lawry’s Salt (though I do have a bottle on my shelf) and using a brine instead.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, a classic (oven) roasted chicken is a staple in this house, some nights absolutely nothing could taste better. But with heat like we had last week, no turning on the oven in this house. Grill-roasted chicken it was.

chicken and potatoes

Grill-Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

I brined the bird in a very simple mixture of water, salt (about 1/3 cup per quart of water), grated lime zest, crushed garlic cloves and a few dashes of Tabasco (could have used more!). I started the brine with just half the water, warm, stirring with everything else until the salt was dissolved. Then, because I was in a hurry, I added ice, stirring until melted and the brine was cold. In goes the rinsed chicken, then into the fridge for 24 hours. Wonderful mysterious transmogrifications happen in that time. (By the way, possible flavor combos in the brine are endless: herbs, spices, citrus zest, chiles, wine, onion, ginger, you name it.)

Like Nancy, we’re Weber kettle grill folks in this household and also swear by the chimney contraption to perfectly get the coals a braisin’ without using that awful lighter fluid. When the coals were good and ready, I spread them to opposite sides of the grill, in slender piles right up against the side of the grill. I also made a foil pan (triple layer, fold up the edges; or buy a foil pan at the store) to put between the coals. The chicken’s going to drip fat during cooking, this just helps tremendously with clean-up.

After taking the chicken from the brine, pat dry and set it in the center of the grill grate, right above that foil pan. Set the vents each about half-open, cover, and make a gin and tonic. Or open another bottle of Chinook rose. Or both, in succession. I don’t fiddle much with the bird while it roasts. It keeps the leaner breast meat farther away from the heat of the coals and avoids tearing the skin. I did turn onto the breast about halfway through for 15 minutes or so, just to amplify the crispy-brown character of the skin.

One important point is that the coals will likely need some replenishing along the way. And don’t wait too long; consider that a handful of new coals added to the glowing ones will take a good 20 minutes to kick in. Hopefully your grill grate has those little hinged openings; just lift them up and scatter 5-7 coals on top of the existing ones. After that, you deserve another glass of wine.
Dinner is served

Dinner is served

Also on the menu, some grill-roasted potatoes. I cut some Yukon Golds into big wedges, tossed them with a little melted butter, sliced garlic and salt and wrapped in a couple layers of foil. They went on the fire after about 45 minutes; also in the center, if possible, away from direct heat.

The menu was rounded out with a simple tomato salad, tossed with regular chives and garlic chives from the garden, in a simple vinaigrette. And red chard that I quickly sauteed with garlic. A colorful, delicious, aromatic, relaxing meal to have out back on the cool patio on one of Seattle’s longest and hottest days.

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