It’s Springtime for Salmon, if you can get it

The most refreshing, balanced salad as a meal I've ever tasted.

I hear it’s been hot across the rest of the country, but in the Bay Area it just warmed up a bit this Sunday. And in warm weather, it is hard to eat anything but a salad or a sorbet (though it wasn’t, actually, all that warm here. Nobody has air conditioning–it’s a bit of a disaster if it gets above 85 F, but even so it always cools down at night. Okay, no more bragging, but there must be some reason for the astronomical property values.)

This is a springtime riff on a healthy salad I’ve been making from my grad-school days. It’s based on a traditional Italian salad of white beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic, with olive oil-cured tuna, parsley, onions, and lemon juice. I often swap ingredients based on what I have on hand, or to create different flavor profiles, but the basis of the recipe remains–beans plus cured fish plus herbs/greens plus aromatics in a lemon/olive oil dressing. It is my favorite healthy lunch. I usually eat it on toast or on greens as a salad. I was actually inspired to make this by the salmon at the Farmer’s Market. This is the first year since I’ve moved to the Bay Area that salmon stocks were healthy enough for the department of fish and game to allow a salmon season, so I grabbed some when I had the chance. That plus these adorable red onion scallions and mini spring lettuces from the market made me think of my go-to lunch. Peas from the garden round it out, and fingerling potatoes make up for the carbs I’m missing from the dried beans.
Though I haven’t yet adopted any sous-vide cooking devices, or even a true vacuum sealer (my cheapo variety Seal-a meal present couldn’t last the 6 years since I’d gotten it, and is now made up of a vacuum device not held together by brittle, broken plastic parts), but I do recommend the “sous-vide” (cooking, in a water bath, at the ultimate temperature you want the product to obtain) technique in many cases, especially salmon. I find 50 C to be the perfect temperature. I came upon this after reading an aside in Thomas Keller’s Under pressure that “salmon cooked to 120 F (48.9 C) tends to be moist and slightly tacky), wheras salmon cooked to 123 F (50.6 C) is  slightly firmer and no longer tacky.” So much like Barbara Lee, my congresswoman, 50 C works for me.

Raw Pacific Salmon

50 C Salmon:

    1. Heat a large pot of water to 50 C (122 F), or if you have a sous-vide water bath, set the temp on that. This is near the temperature of hot tap water. Also, bring a couple cups of water to a boil in case adjustments of waterbath temperature are needed.
    2. Make enough 5% brine to cover salmon. For 1 liter, add 3/4 cup table salt to 1 L cool tap water.
    3. Place salmon in 5% brine for 10 minutes. This helps season the salmon and reduces the amount of albumin (white goo) on the surface of the cooked salmon.
    4. Lightly pepper the surface of the salmon. Feel free to add other herbs at this stage, but start with small quantities, as they tend to taste more concentrated than they would with other cooking methods.
    5. Add olive oil and salmon to a Ziploc or other sealable bag. Squeeze out air and seal.
    6. Place bagged salmon in water bath. Swirl and check temperature. Add boiled water if necessary to bring temperature back up to 50 C.
    7. Set timer for 15 minutes. Check on water temperature occasionally, adding more hot water to keep temp at 50 C.
    8. Remove at 15 minutes and serve, or refrigerate without opening for use in future recipes.

Salmon cooked to 50 C.

Springtime Salad:

    1. Bring potatoes to a boil in heavily salted water. Boil for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
    2. Blanch snow peas. I do so by placing them in a strainer and placing it over the boiling potatoes for 1.5-2 minutes. I like them fairly crisp.
    3. Chop scallions thinly. I use the bottom half and save the rest of the green parts for another recipe. I don’t mean just the white portion–I like a mix of crunchiness and herbiness for this salad.
    4. Chop dill and parsley (or other herbs) finely. Tail and cut snow peas into 1cm lengths or so.
    5. Combine scallions, herbs, snow peas, olive oil, and salmon in large bowl and mix to combine. 50 C salmon will break up while mixing, so no need to work too hard flaking it, though very firmly cooked salmon may need to be flaked. In any case, make sure you remove any remaining bones before mixing. Remove skin if still present.
    6. Cut fingerling potatoes into slices while still warm–a serrated knife works best.
    7. Add potatoes to bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix.
    8. Add the juice of one lemon, remix, and taste for salt and pepper. I like to add plenty of each. You can also adjust the amount of herbs, olive oil, and lemon at this point.
    9. Serve in lettuce cups, or atop chopped lettuce.

      Seriously delicious

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