Wild Taku River Sockeye Salmon with Sweet Herb Vinaigrette

By Beacon Staff

It’s now possible to find wild Alaskan salmon at Costco, local organic kale at the supermarket and pesticide-free and organic tomatoes at the farmers’ market – all in the same day. Sustainability has come a long way since I first started cooking all-organic food for clients in 2005, when the only place you could find organics was at the farmers’ markets or specialty health food stores.

Wild sockeye salmon (also known as “red salmon” for the deep red color of the fish) can be found in the Copper River, but this particular fish was gillnetted in the Taku River near Juneau, Alaska. It’s high in protein, vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s essentially the same in taste as the Copper River sockeye.

This sweet herb vinaigrette is a recipe that I created about 15 years ago that offers a lighter twist on the classic sauces and is also great with lamb chops or as a salsa with any white or red-fleshed fish. It’s simple and quick to prepare and should be made several hours in advance for the flavors to combine.

The accompaniment is an organic baby Italian kale called “Lacinato” – it’s grown locally in the Swan Valley and the produce guys at Harvest Foods in Bigfork enthusiastically recommended it so I picked up a bunch with great results. It was younger and more tender than the Italian kale that I’m used to so it was great pan-sauteed. Italian kale is typically a bit tougher so it’s better utilized in soups and stews.

Pan-seared Sockeye Salmon with Sweet Herb Vinaigrette

One-pound wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, cut into four equal portions, rubbed with olive oil and set aside. Olive oil for cooking, salt and pepper to taste.

For the vinaigrette

Tomatoes, 3 medium diced small (about 1.5 cups)
Red onion, 1/2 cup, diced small
Dill, 1/3 cup, finely chopped
Basil, 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Mint, 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup
Honey, 1/4 cup
Olive oil, 1/3 cup (not extra virgin)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine tomatoes and herbs in a medium glass or stainless bowl. Whisk vinegar and honey in another medium bowl, drizzle in olive oil, salt and pepper until combined. Add liquid mixture to tomatoes and herbs, stir and set aside to allow the flavors to blend. Taste for seasoning before serving to adjust salt.

Heat a stainless sauté pan large enough for four portions of fish to fit easily without touching. Add a bit of regular olive oil until shimmering and lightly salt and pepper fish, then when oil is hot but not smoking put fish in pan serving side down. Cook at medium heat for about a minute or until fish is lightly browned on top. Flip fish, drizzle a small amount of the vinaigrette on top and finish in oven for about three minutes or until cooked through. Right before serving, top fish with more vinaigrette.

Sauteed baby Lacinato kale with toasted almonds and chevre

Baby kale, 1 large bunch, washed, stemmed and julienned across the grain
Red onion, 1/4 cup chopped
Garlic, two cloves chopped
Almonds, two tablespoons finely chopped
Goat cheese, one small log (4 oz.) cut into four equal rounds and set aside to warm outside of fridge
Salt to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft but not brown. Add kale and cook just until wilted, about a minute, stirring. Kale will cook quickly when it’s in small pieces. Add almonds and stir until almonds are warm, about another minute or two. (It’s not necessary to add pepper to the kale because it’s naturally a little peppery.) Just before serving, top each portion of kale with the goat cheese and serve. This recipe can be doubled to be used as a vegetarian main course.

Marni Bistany is a private chef, healthy cooking instructor and food writer based in Lakeside for the season. Menus and recipes can be found at www.aspennatural.com.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.