Rinse and Repeat

Aside from having the occasional relentless sushi craving, at which time I could easily devour four maki rolls by my lonesome, seafood has not been a mainstay in my repertoire as of late. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve cooked plenty of seafood dishes, cephalopods included, but it’s been quite a while.

Does the oyster-shuckin’ day even count?! And if not, then it’s been almost a year since seafood has had a presence here – yikaroonies! Needless to say, that has got to be remedied.

Because here’s the deal – here’s my beef with seafood: you have to plan for it. Yeah, I know, that’s not normally a problem for me at all; I plan what days of the week my hair gets washed, for cryin’ out loud. But when I cook fish, I want it to be fresh as all get out. I want it to smell like the sea, and I want to buy it as close to when I hope to prepare it as possible – a day apart, tops. That’s where I run into an issue because I like to buy groceries on Sunday in the early afternoon, with hopes of eating any fish I’d purchase on Monday (don’t forget – Sundays are for the big time-consuming meals). Now, if anything goes awry on Monday, say a last minute plan with a friend, or a husband working late, or maybe I get a wild hair up my ass to finally go for a run after work (which, when the mood strikes, I must take advantage of said urge), the plans for fish-cooking are ruined.

You still with me? Because this is real life – I had to toss a couple of lovely halibut fillets into the freezer a few weeks ago because the Monday cooking didn’t happen, and cooking that same fish on Tuesday seemed like such a travesty. And yeah, it’s not like I wasted the fish and threw it away, but still – frozen halibut just isn’t the same.

You may be sensing some degree of stubbornness on my part, and that’s spot on. But this time around, I did bend the rules just a tad. I stuck to my regular method of purchasing fish on Sunday. When Monday rolled around, I stuck to my plans of cooking that night. Of course, Chris tried to throw a wrench into my plan and work late, but I just snacked and waited patiently, vowing not to ruin my fish this time. At the last minute, I decided to cook half of the fish (only 2 fillets), so that I could – get this – cook the other two on Tuesday night (because another issue I have with fish is that leftover fish tastes like poo, and that’s not good for anyone). Yeah, I know – crazy, huh?! But here’s where it gets even crazier – it was still just as good on Tuesday.

I’m sure the red pepper and harissa pesto that was nestled under those perfectly-cooked fillets helped in the taste area, but the point of my story is a point you’re not going to hear me make too often: I was wrong. (ps – you might want to do a screenshot of this page before I update this post and delete that sentence.)

With that point out of the way, maybe I can slowly work a weekly seafood dish back into my weekly cooking, like we used to do back in the day. We’ll see how it goes…

In the meantime though, take yourself to the grocery store on Sunday (or Monday, if you’re feeling frisky) and buy the prettiest pink wild Alaskan (sustainable) salmon you can find, as well as the remainder of the ingredients for the pesto. If you can’t find harissa, you can use tomato paste, which is what the original recipe used – I just wanted more spice in my life. Come straight home from work on Monday and cook half of the fish, one for you and one for your lucky guest. Whip up the pesto while the grill does the rest of the work. Eat said fish, and thank yourself for such a lovely dinner.

Rinse, and repeat on Tuesday.

Salmon with Red Pepper-Harissa Pesto
adapted from Cooking Light, October 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 15 minutes (enough time to toss some edamame into the microwave for steaming in which case you’d have a full freakin’ dinner!)

printable version

4 6-oz wild Alaskan salmon fillets
3/4 t salt, divided
cooking spray
3 medium-sized bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed & drained
1-2 T bottled harissa
1 t olive oil
1/4 c blanched almonds
1 garlic clove

heat grill pan over med-hi heat. sprinkle fish with salt. coat pan with cooking spray. grilled fish for ~4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily (I like to leave some of the middle less cooked, as it cooks a little after it’s taken off the grill).

meanwhile, combine remaining salt and other ingredients in a small food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. serve pesto with fish.

The Mysterious Case of Blended Salmon

salmon burger

I suppose I’ve seen salmon patties in the grocery store before. In fact, I’ve even seen tuna patties. I can’t say they caught my eye in any special or unusual way. Usually, if I’m at the fish counter I’m drooling over the halibut anyway, so the salmon doesn’t really catch my eye no matter what version it’s in. Lemme take that back – the “on sale because we just caught too many and we need to get rid of them and so we’ve moved these over to the shelf, perfectly packaged, with the smoked salmons” versions get at least a double take. But a salmon burger? I mean, c’mon, if I’m going to eat a burger, I don’t want to mess around with the mess-around. You feel me? Call me crazy, but I’d choose a thick juicy beef burger 99 out of 100 times over anything else – veggie, turkey, lamb, salmon, tuna, bean, whatever.

This must have been that 1 out of 100.

salmon in blender

That and the fact that I must admit, I was intrigued by the idea of putting salmon in a blender. Having cilantro and jalapeno on the ingredient list really sealed the deal. I use my food processor (standard and mini) for all sorts of things: vinaigrette, rib marinade, ramp pesto, even pie dough. Until now, I’d never thrown a hunk o’ fish in there. It made me feel sorta mischievious for some reason, as if I were a criminal in a strange novel.

salmon blended

As she dropped the chunks of glowing, vibrant salmon into the processor, she casually turned to her left, and then to her right, seemingly ensuring there was no one watching from afar. And then, without further adieu, the lid was turned and tightly secured and the cord plugged into the outlet, thus sealing the fate of the salmon, a mere pawn at this juncture. With only one brisk, but calculated, press of the “on” button, the thick bright filet of salmon was, in a matter of seconds, pureed and forever transformed into another being: a wonderful paste-like substance, pink-orange in hue. With the addition of a few seasonings and flavorings, it beared a striking resemblance to other burger batters of the past. A smile of satisfaction, and downright excitement, was immediately present on her face. The deed was done, and there was no turning back. This salmon, and all salmon, would never be the same.

salmon patty

As profound a statement the former might be, it’s true. We’ve found a new use for the food processor and a new reason to stock up on hamburger buns. Plus, as all good burgers are better grilled, these are great indoors on the grill rack or outdoors. People, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

grilled salmon burgers

For most recipes, I can usually think of a few changes that, for me, would lead to potential recipe repeats. Repeats in this kitchen are few and far between, because my “try-this” stack is way too big. For this recipe, I’m not sure I’d alter too much. I really like the herbiness of the cilantro with salmon, as it further brightens the taste. The cucumbers are also well-suited for this environment – you need a bit of the crunch texture when you eat a burger, and otherwise there is none here, unless you were to opt for onions or some sort of chip; I think the cucumber is perfect. If you like a little heat, I might just add a whole jalapeno or two and leave some of the seeds.

Cilantro just isn’t your thing but you still wanna process some salmon? Try these:
Asian Salmon Burgers w/ Pickled Cucumber on Pumpernickel
Chipotle Salmon Burgers

But if you try them, you have to let me know. Deal? ok, good.

Salmon-Cilantro Burgers w/ Cilantro Mayo
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2009; serves 4

1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
3 T fresh cilantro, divided (chop 1 T)
3 T fresh lime juice, divided
salt and pepper
1 (1 lb) salmon fillet, skinned and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 T green onions, chopped
2 T jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Cooking spray
4 hamburger buns (I used whole grain), toasted
12 slices English cucumber
4 leaf lettuce leaves

  1. Combine mayo, 1 T chopped cilantro, 1 T lime juice, and a large pinch of salt and pepper into bowl; cover and set aside.
  2. Place salmon in food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add breadcrumbs, remaining cilantro and lime juice, jalapeno, green onions, and about 1/4 t of salt and pepper; pulse 4 times or until well blended. Divide into 4 equal portions, shaping into 3/4-inch-thick patty.
  3. Heat a grill pan over med-hi. Coat with spray. Add patties and cook 2 minutes on each side.
  4. Spread 1 T of mayo onto buns. Add patty. Seal the deal with lettuce and cucumber.