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.
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.
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
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.
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.
2 celery stalks, halved
1 medium onion, quartered
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.
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.