This is the season for wild salmon, and the timing couldn’t be better.  The weather has warmed, and I’ve been craving light flavors and meals that can be eaten outdoors.  Salmon is incredibly easy to grill or roast, and, best of all, it only takes about 10-15 minutes to cook, making it an ideal mid-week dinner.  It’s also extremely versatile.  I start by rubbing a large fillet (ask for the head end—as opposed to the tail end—which is thicker and cooks more evenly) with a mixture of herbs, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.

Wild Salmon

From there, you can roast the salmon in a 425-degree oven, or grill it using a fish basket.  The serving options are endless:

  • Serve with a fresh salsa or a smear of pesto (basil, parsley, mint or ramp pesto are all fantastic with salmon)
  • Serve over minty smashed peas with a drizzle of crème fraiche
  • Flake into orzo pasta salad with black olives, dill, scallions, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and lemon basil vinaigrette
  • Instead of herbs and lemon, rub with chile powder, cumin, garlic and lime juice and flake into tacos with cabbage slaw
  • Instead of herbs and lemon, rub with curry powder, garlic and lime juice and serve with cucumber raita and rice

Wild salmon is also fantastic in salads, and it pairs particularly well with the flavors of spring.  I stumbled upon some fiddlehead ferns at my local market (provoking some dancing and yelping on my part), which I sautéed with butter and lemon (see my tips for cooking fiddlehead ferns below).  I tossed them with baby greens, shaved fennel and flaked salmon, and served everything in a big tangle with a few black olives and sliced almonds thrown on top for good measure.  Once we started digging in, I remembered that I had some Rainbeau Ridge goat cheese in the fridge (heaven!) and crumbled that on top as well, taking the salad, well, over the top.  Roasted or grilled asparagus would also be fantastic in place of the fiddleheads—the asparagus can be cooked right alongside the salmon—as would blanched garden peas.

I have a two-year-old daughter, and while I’m a firm believer in serving her whatever James and I have for dinner, some meals require adaptations (expecting a toddler to chomp through lettuce is a bit of a stretch).  For her, I cooked up a handful of pasta in a small pot while the salmon was cooking, adding some peas (frozen, admittedly) during the last 2 minutes of cooking.  On the back burner, I simmered a bit of cream (probably about a quarter cup) with a grated garlic clove until slightly reduced.  Once the pasta and peas were done, I tossed them with the reduced cream and stirred in some flaked salmon.  The verdict?  “Yummmmy!.”  That’s four stars from my three-footer.

Salmon pasta

The dinner was simple but had a veneer of elegance—elevated by the sunshine and the breeze on the back porch.  We even finished in time to take the dog on a springtime walk around the pond.  Now that’s a mid-week meal to remember.

*A note on fiddlehead ferns: I prefer sautéing fiddleheads in a generous knob of butter with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.  Give them a stir now and then, and cook until just crisp tender; it only takes a few minutes (be sure not to overcook them, or they can get slimy, kind of like okra).  Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle some lemon juice over top.  Delicious!  I always feel like I’m a nymph in an enchanted forest when eating them, but that’s just me.

Roasted or Grilled Herbed Wild Salmon

Use whatever herbs you have on hand for this simple but delicious preparation.
Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

  • 1 pound wild salmon (skin-on)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove , minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives or green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (e.g. dill, basil, parsley and/or thyme)
  • Juice of quarter lemon
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F, or preheat a grill to medium-high.
  2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the garlic, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil over the salmon, using your fingers to gently rub the mixture all over the flesh. Let sit 15 minutes.
  3. Roast the salmon on a parchment-lined baking sheet, or grill it in a fish basket (brushed with oil), skin side down, 10-15 minutes, or until the salmon flakes with a fork, but is still bright pink in the middle.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought salad dressing. Making dressing from scratch is not only incredibly easy, but it also tastes miles better than the store-bought stuff, and it’s healthier to boot. Think of this version as the little black dress of vinaigrettes—you can dress it up with a pinch or two of herbs or shallots, or add a spoonful of honey or maple syrup (you can also use all balsamic or all apple cider vinegar, instead of a mix, depending on your preference). I throw everything in a jar and just shake it up before using. Leftovers will keep for a week in the fridge.
Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

  • 1 large garlic clove , smashed
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil , or more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl or jar, combine the smashed garlic clove, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let sit 5-10 minutes (or longer) to let the flavors infuse. Add the olive oil and whisk or shake to combine. Give it a taste and add more olive oil, salt or pepper as desired. Do Ahead: The dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The garlic flavor will intensify as it sits (which I happen to love), but you can remove the garlic clove before storing for a milder flavor.

Wild Salmon Springtime Salad

Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

  • Mixed salad greens
  • 1 head fennel , thinly sliced or shaved on mandoline
  • Cooked fiddlehead ferns , asparagus or peas, cooled
  • Roasted or grilled salmon
  • Black olives
  • Sliced almonds
  • Goat cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pile the mixed greens and shaved fennel on serving plates. Top with the fiddlehead ferns, asparagus or peas. Flake a good amount of salmon over top and garnish with a few black olives, sliced almonds and crumbled goat cheese (if you wish).