Occasionally, this blog becomes my confessional. I think most personal blogs probably do. But even for a confessional, this is a little extreme. I’m practically sweating in my boots. You see, today’s admission is one that a dedicated food blogger and chef should never have to make.
I blanked on Thanksgiving. Yup, that’s right. The first major food holiday of the season and I just realised 30 minutes ago that it’s only 2 days away.
But never fear — I’ve cut and pasted the different intro that I wrote for this post onto my desktop. I’ll work it in further down — because, just like that, this delicious Indian-inspired dinner has become a quick-to-put-together alternative to your traditional all-day turkey and sides.
My menu of marinated, steamed salmon with sorrel and yogurt sauces on a basmati pilaf is a local, sustainable, seasonal, pescatarian Thanksgiving feast that makes for a Pacific Northwest harvest celebration just as good as turkey and sweet potatoes, in my humble opinion. Not to mention that it’s also low-carb, gluten-free, high in Omega 3s and pretty darn good looking too.
In fact, if I hadn’t just gotten off the phone from booking us a table at Poet’s Cove for Sunday, this is exactly what we’d be having at our own Thanksgiving dinner. But it seems I couldn’t even convince myself to go alternative.
What can I say? Old habits die hard and this body remembers turkey. (Even if the mind can’t remember Thanksgiving.)
Sorrel is the perfect almost-year round edible plant for a Pacific Northwest garden or deck. I transplanted my potted one a while back when I noticed it was looking pretty neglected. I filled the new pot with compost, cut all of the withered leaves and stems from its sad little self, watered it in well and then let it be.
After a couple weeks with at least 2 all-night fall showers — the kind that wake us up at 2am and again at 4 with their pounding and leave the forest around us dripping wet, the air scrubbed clean and smelling fresh — I peeked out the window to find that my sorrel had bounced back.
And I say I can’t grow anything. Looks like I just have to give things some attention to get them to grow. Fertile soil helps too, apparently.
Despite being the key ingredient in a number of soups and stews across Northern and Eastern Europe, sorrel can be tricky to cook with. Raw, it makes a flavourful addition to a salad or omelet, and its sharp, lemony tang and bright green colour also made for a great match with the basil, mint and parsley in the above Salsa Verde. We had that on some Flat-Iron Fajitas.
Just please don’t cook it to death. Young sorrel goes dark within seconds of going on the heat, and the colour only turns gray with time. Overcooking can also up sorrel’s slime factor immensely. And I think we all agree slimy food is bad.
Now that doesn’t mean don’t cook with it. It just means use some care. You’ll notice that in the recipe below, the sorrel is on the heat for less than a minute. If you work fast enough and have the water for the salmon boiling as you just finish pureeing the sauce, you won’t have to reheat the sauce and risk losing anymore of that fresh vibrant green.
Consistency is important too. A sauce should nap the back of a spoon. That is, it should lightly and evenly coat the spoon, without being too thick. Don’t let thickness happen to you. Thin down your sauce with a little hot water.
So…I will admit that it’s unlikely many of us will choose to make this dish this weekend. But don’t forget about it, OK? It comes together fast enough to make a weeknight meal — if you’re efficient in the kitchen, it should be on the table in under an hour — and it’s a wonderful combination of local ingredients that go down nicely with a glass of white.
In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!
The salmon and yogurt sauce are inspired by (and liberally adapted from) recipes from Vij’s At Home: Relax Honey by Vikram Vij & Meeru Dhalwala.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the complete recipe.)
: Although each of the components of this dish have some spice to them, you can keep the sum total relatively mild by removing the seeds and pith from the chili in the sorrel sauce.
- Wild Salmon, skin & bones removed — 1 lb (450 g)
- Vegetable Oil – 3 Tble (45 ml)
- Garam Masala – 1 tsp (5 ml)
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Cayenne Pepper – ¼ tsp
- Full-fat yogurt – 1 Cup
- Dried Fenugreek Leaves – 1 tsp
- Garlic, minced – ½ tsp
- Cayenne Pepper – ½ tsp
- Salt – ¼ tsp
- Olive Oil – 2 Tble (30 ml)
- Onion, minced – ⅓ cup (80 ml)
- Serrano Chili, chopped (see notes) – 1 whole
- Garlic, minced – ½ tsp (5 ml)
- White Wine – ½ Cup (120 ml)
- Sorrel, young leaves, stemmed & chopped – ½ cup, lightly packed (120 ml)
- Cilantro, large stems removed & chopped – ½ cup, lightly packed (120 ml)
- Fresh Basil, chopped – ¼ cup, lightly packed (60 ml)
- Capers – 1 Tble
- Butter – 1-2 Tble (30 ml)
- s+p – to taste
- Cut the salmon into 2” cubes. Mix the oil and spices in a bowl, then add the salmon and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- While the salmon marinates, put on some rice, make the spiced yogurt and start the sorrel sauce:
- Line a strained with a clean & damp lint-free dishcloth or basket-style coffee filter and pour in the yogurt. Allow to drain over a bowl for 10 minutes. Mix the drained yogurt in a small bowl with the spices. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Heat the oil in a small, heavy saucepan over med.heat until shimmering. Add the onions and sweat until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to med. high, add the garlic and chili and cook another minute without allowing the garlic to brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine and to reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes.
- Add the sorrel, cilantro, basil and capers, and stir until wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Set aside, uncovered, while you cook the salmon.
- In the bottom of a double boiler with a steamer insert, bring about 1” of water to the boil. Place the salmon in the steamer, ensuring no pieces overlap. Cover, reduce the heat to med. and steam for about 4 minutes, until the salmon is firm to the touch and just before beads of white fat appear on its surface (see note). Remove to a plate and tent lightly with foil.
- Quickly re-heat the sauce over med. high. If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon of hot water at a time until it lightly coats the back of a spoon. Do not keep the sauce on the heat for too long, or it will discolour.
- Just before spooning it onto the plate, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter to thicken and enrich the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, spoon a pool of sorrel sauce into the middle of each plate, then form neat pile of rice in the middle (or use a ring-mold). Top it with 2 or 3 pieces of salmon and spoon a little yogurt sauce on the very top of the stack. Mine is garnished with a crispy kale chip.
- I used wild sockeye salmon, which is currently in season.
- Steamed rice is a perfect accompaniment. Use stock instead of water, as well as 1/2 tsp of rice, to add flavour or try this pilaf recipe from Vij’s At Home
- Dried Fenugreek Leaves (aka Kasoori Methi) are found in South Asian markets.
- Include the pith and seeds of the serrano chili only if you like a lot of heat. If you prefer things on the mild side, scrape out the pith and seeds with a teaspoon before chopping up the flesh.
- The more you cook salmon, the more you will learn to anticipate the appearance of the white beads. Perfectly medium rare salmon is removed from the heat just before these little drops of fat appear.
- Leftover yogurt sauce will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week and is completely awesome on a baked potato, by the way.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Diet type: Pescatarian
Diet tags: Reduced carbohydrate, High protein, Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): 4
Copyright © © 2009-2011 Island Vittles/Theresa Carle-Sanders. All rights reserved. Don.