Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa // Not Without Salt

When the light is golden and hazy I take my time walking down our street to look beyond Ballard and over Queen Anne hill to see the tip of the Space Needle punctuating the top. It towers above the Evergreens just before the hill dips and descends into Lake Union which isn’t seen from my walk but I like knowing it’s there.

Nearly everyday we drive over a bridge. When its arms are stretched upwards to allow a towering boat to pass through it’s a bit maddening. I can’t stay mad for long as I strain to look down its passage and if it is at just the right time of day with the sun peering through the clouds, the water under the bridge sparkles in a way that gives me a bit of a flutter and a burst of pride that I get to call this place home.

In Seattle every day there’s a farmer’s market, our compost is twice as big as our garbage bin, and we can be standing at the edge of the water with the cold ocean lapping at our feet in five minutes or in the mountains in under an hour. When the bustle of the city overwhelms we shimmy up to my parent’s house and in just over an hour we amid the rolling hills, a couple of ponies, a vibrant garden and enough bugs and threat of snakes to remind me that I’m a city girl.

I adore Seattle. It’s home and most likely will remain that way for quite a long while but I sort of feel like a fraud because you see, I don’t much like seafood. Gasp.

It is for the promise of fresh seafood that people flock to Seattle. You think of Seattle and I imagine one of the first images you see is rain and then you probably imagine a large, plump fish with silvery skin flying across a crowd and into the arms of a sturdy, orange-slickers wearing Public Market employee.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa // Not Without Salt



It’s my distaste of salmon that I’m most embarrassed about. When I say I’m from Seattle the subject of salmon often comes up. Whoever I’m talking to recounts their love for the pink-fleshed fish and most often I’ll nod as if in agreement as I continue to let them praise the fish. Salmon is practically Seattle’s mascot, either that or a little gray rain cloud.

I once heard or read Andrew Zimmerman, or maybe it was Mark Bittman, talk about how you can grow to like certain foods you once disdained. First you eat it from a place you trust and secondly, you eat it often. I’m a firm believer in this practice as I’ve used it to get over my aversion to mushrooms and oysters. Yes, I’ll eat oysters straight from the sea with just a few drops of lemon squeezed over its briny flesh. So I imagine my love of salmon isn’t far off.

Recently I conquered step 1 when I ordered the crispy skinned salmon at Matt’s in the Market. The details of the dish allude me now but I think peas were somehow involved and I do remember that I cleaned my plate. Now I’m working on step 2. At my birthday dinner earlier this year we made salmon rilletes and most recently, in an attempt to counter-balance all the recipe testing we’ve been doing for the book, I made Gabe and I a light dinner of poached salmon with an herby and lightly spiced cucumber salsa.


Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa // Not Without Salt Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa // Not Without Salt

The salmon lapped up a bit of Pernod then sat in a warm vegetable-laden bath until just cooked. While the salmon bathed I made quick work of the salsa throwing in a hefty bit of dill, just enough serrano to pop in some heat and plenty of lemon – zest and juice. The flesh of the fish bent under the amount of  salsa I piled on top. If I couldn’t see there was fish under the cucumber maybe I’d forget I was eating it.

But you know I actually enjoyed it. Maybe it was mostly for the satisfaction of knowing I was eating something so vibrant and healthy –  I could practically feel the Omega 3’s reinvigorating me or perhaps I felt that Seattle was cheering me on with each bite. Or more likely it was because it was quite good – tender and lightly herbal fish that made the perfect canvas for a bright salsa or salad of sorts. The plate was nearly cleaned. Just a few more encounters with salmon then I’d say I’m hooked (fish pun embarrassingly intended).



 Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa // Not Without Salt


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Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa

The poaching was inspired by the first part of this Salmon Rillettes recipe (which is excellent by the way) and the cucumber salsa was inspired by Bon Appetit.

This recipe is very adaptable. Whatever vegetable scraps you have can be used to fragrant the broth and the Pernod isn’t absolutely necessary. In fact you could just scrap the poaching all together as a grilled pice of salmon would be quite perfect with the salsa – that’s my next version of step 2. 

Add a bit of tangy yogurt to the salsa to make a creamy dip reminiscent of tzatziki.


Serves 2

2 salmon fillets

1-2 tablespoons Pernod

salt & pepper


Season the fish with the Pernod and salt and pepper. Let the fish sit for 30 minutes while you make the poaching liquid.


Poaching liquid:


2 celery stalks, halved

1 medium onion, quartered

1 scallion

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon juniper

a handful of dill

1 cup white wine

4 cups water


Bring all of the ingredients to a gentle boil in a large saucepan and simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and slide the fish into the hot liquid. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the fish and check to make sure the fish is cooked through. The flesh should flake and look opaque throughout.

Serve the fish warm with cucumber salsa.


Cucumber Salsa


1 cucumber, peeled and small diced

2 tablespoons finely chopped dill

1-2 tablespoons finely minced shallot

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 serrano chili, seed and finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper


Combine everything in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

The salsa will keep for a couple of days in the fridge although it may become a bit more wet because of the salt in the recipe.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa // Not Without Salt

60 Responses to “Poached Salmon with Cucumber Salsa”

  1. Sarah

    Matt’s in the Market is one of the best restaurants around (they catered my wedding!)! They can make anyone a salmon lover! My husband works at Pike Place Fish, so I’m lucky to have fresh salmon at home all the time, but we definitely get stuck in a rut. I’m excited to try this recipe! It looks so light and fresh.

  2. dervla @ the curator

    Ok, i agree with you about the taste of salmon, although you’re making me reconsider it with this recipe. I do eat other fish though, it’s just salmon that I never order/cook. Good job for conquering Seattle’s mascot!

  3. Bowen Appétit

    I’ve done this with so many things I didn’t like – coffee, tomatoes (gasp, really), whiskey, anything bitter. Just keep trying them, and eventually everything I’ve targeted has made its way into things I eat and enjoy regularly.

    And have you tried smoked salmon? Cold- or warm-smoked varieties might be a good way to ease into the flavors.

  4. Annalisa

    Love this post for its practical encouragement and tips on trying new things. Sometimes I feel a tiny bit ashamed for not being perfectly adventurous with everything new, so it’s great to know that someone who loves food as much as you still has qualms to work through–and is doing so. I had to make a new year’s resolution a couple of years ago to find fish/seafood recipes that I liked so that I could feed my family these healthy foods. Found a couple I liked! Next one I’m hoping to try is Ina Garten’s mustard-roasted fish.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Annalisa – I’m happy to try anything but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t love everything. I’ve just heard too many people whom I trust go on and on about seafood that it’s time I grow up and like it. 🙂 Also, I need all those nutrients.

  5. la domestique

    I am obsessed with poaching fish at the moment- I just love the ease of cooking fish this way and the moist, tender result. Your cucumber salsa looks so good atop the pink salmon.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Domestique – It really is lovely. So easy, the texture is perfect and it just tastes light. I do love the contrast of crunch and soft flesh you get when you roast or grill though. Trying that next.

  6. Kathryn

    I too am a little ashamed about my complete lack of enthusiasm for anything that lives in the sea. I’m a few steps behind you in the journey to embrace all things fishy but I’m getting there (slowly). Thank you for sharing and for the encouragement to continue trying!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Kathryn – Happy to travel this road with you. Come to Seattle!! I’ll show you to a few of my favorite seafood places. Including the pike street fish fry because fried fish is easy to love. 🙂

  7. Monica Kelly

    The first time I made salmon @ home, I used the following really easy recipe. A bit unexpected and delicious. Better in the cooler months. It is a “shaked and bake” type recipe. You will need the salmon skinned. Mix equal parts cinnamon and chili powder [about 3 T of each]. Coat the salmon. Then bake @ 500 degrees for 20 minutes.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Monica – Chili powder and cinnamon? Sounds so intriguing. Thanks for sharing the recipes. I love all the recipe suggestions I’m getting.

  8. Kristina Wagner

    I admit I dont like Salmon either… a few bad experiences can really ruin it. I know it is incredibly good for you though and I need to make an effort to eat it again… maybe I should try this recipe. The salsa looks so fresh and fantastic!

  9. Ashlae

    I once had an aversion to mushrooms, too. And I suppose I still do, but I’ve been much better at “forcing” myself to eat them lately. As for sea creatures – I’ve never been a fan. But I suppose it’s time I put on my big girl pants and like ’em because I hear they’re packed with all sorts of stuff that’s good for the body. But the taste! The texture! I need to grow up. And eat some salmon.

    Also, hope to join you in Seattle one day. It’s on my list of places-I-want-to-live-before-I-die. 😉

  10. Todd @ HonestlyYUM

    Absolutely stunning. Salmon is probably my favorite protein, however, my wife doesn’t eat fish. Consequently, I don’t cook fish that often and am always lacking good recipes. I tend to take note when I find a fish recipe that I know I can trust. You haven’t let me down yet!

  11. sundiegoeats

    As much as I love salmon I do understand how it can be excessively “fishy” at times. But when prepared well with the right sides its amazing.

    And what you love about Seattle is also what I love about San Diego. End of winter you can literally spend the morning on a sunny beach and then drive less than 2 hours to Julian and end the evening playing in the snow and drinking hot spiced apple cider 🙂

  12. Richard

    I love Salmon and this recipe is incredible. I also did last week salmon with maple syrup on the BBQ (so good). I used to have huge disdain for fried onions, now I love them, strange huh.

  13. kelsey

    And to think I was gushing to you about all the fish I brought home from Pike Place! Oh that gives me a good chuckle now. You’re like… uhh… yeah! I do love salmon tremendously, but I admit I’ve never poached it. In Alaska it’s always been a lemon/evoo dousing and onto the grill. Will be trying this. xo

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Kelsey – hahaha. Well, I was just more impressed that you carried all that fish on the plane. It’s that sort of dedication to the fish that has me pining for my own love affair with the nutritious sort-of-slimy creature of the sea.

  14. molly

    you know, i love salmon, stereotypical northwesterner that i am, but i well know the feeling of not adoring the native fare (hello, meat everywhere, in the midwest). that said, of all the ways i eat salmon, i think poached is one of the very best. i use nothing more than well-salted water (2 tablespoons, salty, salty), and top it with lashings of cucumber raita, and think it one of the finest meals around. especially lovely for summer entertaining, when you can poach a whole side, and be done, voila!

  15. sara forte

    what a stunning dish. Looks so lovely and fresh. I am trying to train myself to like olives. I guess I don’t mind them, but I would always pick them out or order something without. I’m going to try your training tastebuds tricks. I love where you live too, glad you’ll always be there for me to visit 🙂

  16. Rosemary

    Lovely dish. I’m not a huge salmon lover, but I did find a sure way to enjoy it every time. Poaching is definitely nice, but I found cooking it at the lowest temperature in an oven for a longer time leaves it juicy and tasty.

  17. sarah

    I’m the same way about seafood, although I do like salmon – it’s the only fish I can eat. And I try so hard to like foods that I don’t – sometimes I end up falling in love with them. But so often, not.

    And, I must get to Seattle sometime. You paint such a lovely picture of it! Hopefully one day…

  18. El

    Like most fish, Salmon has to be incredibly fresh to taste good. Your recipe looks divine!

  19. Scot in Colorado

    I just found your blog today and I’m really looking forward to trying some of the recipes, esp. the Rhubarb Floats.
    About the salmon… I used to hate fish, even tuna. Then I vacationed in Randall and Mossyrock, Washington and a new friend changed my mind.
    These days salmon is what I make on those days when I’m absolutely dragging my tail. This recipe is so quick, you won’t believe it!

    Take a glass pie pan, pour in a shot of Cuervo Gold tequila – top shelf won’t taste as good, add the juice and zest of a lemon. lay a good sized piece of skinless salmon in it, wait a second or two and turn it over. Prick it w/ a fork then sprinkle a dash of salt, pepper, and maybe some of that Italian spice mix that we all buy but never admit to. Turn it over and do the same to the other side. Put a few, slim pats of butter covered with very thin slices of lemon on top of the fish. Place a plate on top of the pie pan, set it aside for about 10 minutes, then pop it all in the microwave, on high for 7 minutes. Carefully remove it afterwards and let it sit, still covered, while you finish your side dishes. Salad, herbed buttered rice, creamed spinach or potato somethings. (mashed, or baked pair up nicely! No fries, not good w/fries, besides, you don’t really want fried foods with this.)
    When you plate it, spoon some of the pan juices over it and your salad, spinach or spuds.
    Start to finish – about 20 minutes.
    The fish stays firm and flakes perfectly. It does NOT taste fishy and you know it’s good for you!
    I see a few people dropping recipes here in the comment section so I hope this is ok to do

  20. Irina @ wandercrush

    Here’s to your growing relationship with wonderful salmon! You know, maybe you should also try some wild sea trout, which tastes like a milder salmon to me.
    Anyway, I love the idea of pairing it with cucumber salsa. Sounds like the perfect summer dinner.

  21. Laura Dembowski

    Wild king and sockeye salmon are my two favorite foods. But for as much as I love and eat them, I’ve never had poached salmon. I will have to try it with the salsa- both sound so amazing!

  22. Sera

    I grew up in Seattle, and while I do love salmon now, there were times when as a kid, too much salmon is too much salmon. My step-dad is a fisherman and loved trying to catch them. This also happened to a friend of mine and to this day, despite being an adventurous foodie, he doesn’t love salmon.
    This recipe sounds amazing!
    I would also like to contribute that a perfect cut of salmon sashimi can alter your thinking too. And here in Seattle, there is plenty of amazing sushi to be had!
    Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Little Cooking Tips

    Now THAT is a nice idea! Poached salmon and cucumber sauce!
    We love salmon, although most of the Omega-3 intake in Greece is from the sardines which are in excess here:)
    Thanx for sharing!

  24. Richard

    I love poached salmon. I like to poach on the bbq (in a sealed container). My wife is not a big fan of fish, so I generally cook the salmon for myself and she prefers chicken breast.

  25. sundiegoeats

    I feel like when you’re eating a heavier salmon dish you have to be in the mood for salmon but when its paired with lighter fare like crisp greens or this cucumber salsa – I’d be game anytime 🙂

  26. Ole @cookingbrains

    I totally share your pain. Most seafood just isn’t my thing. I think that’s a pitty, because the oceans are so abundant and have so many great-looking things to offer, but as soon as I put a bit of octopus or a clam in my mouth, I realize how off-putting I find the fishiness. Salmon is one of the only fish (next to trout, cod and some others) that I actually like – not just tolerate. I’ve been looking forward to poaching some salmon for quite a while now. I will do something less healthy – cream-sauce 😀 – but will definitely give your salsa a go. It just looks marvellous.

  27. Er

    Cucumber salsa? Sounds delicious and so refreshing! This is a beautiful dish to cook on a Summer evening, don’t you think? I’m adding this to my must try list!

    xx Erin

  28. Kelven

    So glad that I was able to find your blog. Love the photography and the brightness in your photos. A great showcase for your amazing recipes. I am going to have to bookmark this particular recipe though… Going to have to try this at home 😀

  29. Elena

    I am definitely going to try this recipe! Thank u! I love seafood and I cook as much healthy as I can, so this salmon/cucumber would be perfect!

  30. dervla @ the curator

    I’m so glad to find someone else saying they don’t like salmon either (although you do now). I am also totally embarrassed to admit that I have never liked salmon, and despite the health benefits could never bring myself to choose it at the fish counter. I’m making inroads though … and bit by bit I’ll like it. I love the idea of feeling the omega 3s run through you as you eat. I’ll imagine that next time!


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