I have been living away from home for nine years, minus the odd summers back in Minnesota during college. Because of this it’s rare that I get to cook for my family. To me, food equals love so it’s sad not to share it with them more often, but it means that when I am home I try to make the most of it.
This past week home was no exception. On my second to last day I was able to prepare them an especially delicious dinner thanks to Foodbuzz and Alaska Seafood, the marketing board that represents the Alaskan fishing industry. They invited bloggers to submit proposals for a meal involving wild Alaska seafood prepared using one of their cook it frozen techniques. I love seafood, so this sounded enticing enough, but then there was the kicker – the two top entries would earn themselves trips to the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco. After the amazing time I had last year, I knew I would do anything go to again, and so I submitted my idea.
Since the festival is being held in California I thought it would be fun to do a meal with a fusion of Californian and Alaskan flavors, a bit of Caliaskan or Alasaforian food if you will. (I promise my awkward creation of cutesy words will stop here, it’s not really me.)
For the main course I was inspired by Alaska’s wild Sockeye Salmon. As a kid, my uncle would go salmon fishing in Alaska, his catches now immortalized on YouTube, so as a result it’s an iconic Alaskan food for me.
It’s also sustainably caught, which resonates with my ethical (although often imperfect) eating principles. Sometimes sustainability can seem like a buzzword, one that doens’t mean much and is just thrown in with the hopes of selling more product. Thankfully, it’s not always the case. In the case of Alaska seafood, it means that fisheries can exist long-term without compromising the surrounding ecosystem. They avoid overfishing, habitat damage, and pollution. They’ve been practicing sustainable fishing for five decades. In other words, since long before it became trendy. It’s hard not to respect that. The fact that the fish has a rich, assertive flavor and a gorgeous bright red color doesn’t hurt either. Nothing like marrying my ethical principles with my desire for great taste.
For my Californian ingredients, plump figs and luscious Californian wine immediately came to mind.
I married these flavors together in my Grilled Salmon with Fig and Caramelized Onion Sauce. The recipe couldn’t be simpler. I prepared my salmon with a little salt and pepper and oil and slapped it frozen on the grill. That’s right – no defrosting the salmon. I will admit when I heard this I got nervous. It sounded like some kind of bad, fad cooking technique, like microwave cooking a whole meal. (Yes, there are whole cookbooks on that. I stumble on them at the library from time to time.) But experience made me a believer, it was quick and yielded perfectly moist grilled salmon with beautiful char. You can also steam, poach, broil, saute, and roast frozen fish. Who knew?
Meanwhile inside I caramelized my onions in a saute pan and added in figs, red wine and rosemary, among other ingredients for a sauce so bold that it stood up to the richness of the salmon. My figs were dried, but fresh are in season right now so if you could find them, they would be equally delicious, if not better in this recipe.
On the side, I served another marriage of flavors from The Golden State and The Last Frontier. Alaska is also known for its impressive array of wild berries like wild raspberries, strawberries and more, all perfect to top a crisp salad to balance out the richness and full flavor of the salmon.
And if I’m having salad there will be cheese on top.
Wisconsin may be known for it’s classic sharp cheddars, but California to me is all about goat cheese, and Chevre in particular (unintentionally perfect for National Goat Cheese Month too!). Laura Chenel of Sonoma County is pretty much the pioneer of American Chevre. Therefore it was only natural that it accompany the berries on this salad. And so my Nut-Crusted Baked Chevre Salad with Summer Berries was born. I used pisachios in my crust since I loved the slight pop of green color they added, but almonds or walnuts would also be delicious.
And when all was said and done, I couldn’t be more pleased with how the meal turned out.
The salmon was so moist and flavorful and I’m smitten with the fact that I no longer have to defrost it. It means I can be a bit more spontaneous in my cooking. It also tasted heavenly with the fig sauce. I love how the sauce brought in a nice sweetness to the savory fish, without being too cloying. I find creating dishes to be all about striving for balance and the fish definitely had it.
The salad was also a lovely accompaniment. Whenever I’m eating something full-bodied, like salmon, or duck, I find that a bit of greenery on the side is welcome. The light apple vinaigrette really allowed the ingredients to shine and the berries and cheese paired nicely together. And oh the goat cheese patties! They were practically molten on the inside and begging to be eaten hastily. My only regret was that I didn’t pick up any good crusty bread to schmear mine on.
I really enjoyed this meal and wouldn’t be surprised if my family asks for me to recreate it next time I’m home and even better, I’m excited to experiment more with cooking frozen seafood. You can check out more tips for cooking with frozen Alaska seafood as well as a bunch of interesting recipes at cookitfrozen.com.
Inspired by this recipe.
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-4 cups sliced sweet onions
-Salt and pepper to taste
-One 7 ounce bag dried mission figs
-1/2 cup red wine
-1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
-2 pounds frozen Alaska Sockeye Salmon, cut into individual portions
Swirl olive oil in bottom of medium nonstick skillet. Add onions and sprinkle in salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
Remove cover and cook, stirring often, until onions are caramel in color, 30 minutes to an hour. Stir in figs, wine, broth, vinegar and fresh rosemary. Increase heat to high and simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
To make the salmon, heat your grill to 400 degrees F. Rinse the fish under cold water to remove any ice glaze. Pat fish dry.
Brush fish wish with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper. Prepare grill as well by lightly oiling the rack to prevent the fish from sticking.
Grill for about 8-10 minutes per side, or until fish has nice grill marks and is cooked through.
Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Place on lightly oiled heavy baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes.
Sprinkle salmon with parsley. Serve over fig sauce.
-8 to 10 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
-1 teaspoon your choice of dried herbs
-1/2 cup bread crumbs
-1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus two tablespoons, divided
-6 to 7 cups mixed greens
-1/2 cup white raspberries
-1/2 cup blackberries
-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
-1 ½ teaspoons honey
-2 pinches salt
Form goat cheese into six rounds. Pour the 1/2 cup of the oil into a shallow bowl just large enough to hold the cheese in one layer. Sprinkle the herbs over the oil. Lay the goat cheese in the oil. Let the cheese marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes. Just before serving, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Stir together the bread crumbs and nuts in a small bowl.Remove the goat cheese from the oil, letting the oil drain off, and roll the cheese in the breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle any remaining crumbs on top. Place on a small baking pan. Place in the oven and bake for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned and just heated. Be careful not to overheat the cheese, or it will melt completely.
While cheese is baking, prepare the rest of the salad. Toss the greens and berries together in a bowl. Then, whisk together the remaining oil with the vinegar, honey and salt. Add the vinaigrette to the greens mixture and toss until well coated. Serve cheese rounds on top.
**Note: To prepare this post I was provided with complimentary salmon to use for my post. However, I paid for the rest of my ingredients myself and the opinions are 100% my own. Also, if you’re thinking the hands in some of the pictures look a little manly, that’s because they are my dad’s.