The school year has started up again, the nights are getting longer, and autumn is creeping ever closer but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the clear azure skies here in PDXville. The lovely summery weather is still going strong with 80+F days and the salmon has been absolutely delectable. Mmmm, toothy, fresh, and oh so succulent. Needless to say, plans of making a pork rib ragù with saffron risotto went flying out the window after we took one look at the seafood case. This meal highlights some of the many perks of summer in the Pacific NW: amazing seafood, fresh veggies, and prepared so quickly you can laze out on the deck enjoying those last rays of sunshine as juicy pico de gallo trickles down your arm.
The blackening seasoning recipe here is from Salmon: A Cookbook by Diane Morgan, another Portlander! It’s one of those rare recipes I haven’t tinkered with. Okay, I did switch out kosher salt for sea salt but that’s it, I swear. (It’s a disorder, I can’t help myself! ;)) Seriously though, this savory with a hint of sweetness spice mixture includes thyme which really goes well salmon and just enough spice from the cayenne pepper to wake up your taste buds. Actually, I find myself using this for pork chops as well cuz it’s just that versatile and tasty.
One of the pitfalls of being a 2 person household is that we never seem to be able to finish even half a container of pico de gallo before we have to throw it out. Fortunately, in the summer I can kill two birds with one stone by making just enough for dinner with the cherry tomatoes that have also enjoying the extended season. This recipe is easily upscaled to 4 or more peoples but sometimes it’s nice to not have to deal with leftovers, ya know? The same goes for guacamole but one of the nice things about fat (besides insulation :D) is that it freezes well so just pack up that excess avocado-y goodness in a zip bag to pull out for your next fiesta.
No tips for you. This simple recipe will wow your dining companions with little to no hardship. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed :). For a recap on how to pick fresh salmon and how to tell when it’s cooked, please read these tips.
2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
Combine all ingredients in a small, air-tight jar (I like to use a clean jelly jar). Shake well to mix ingredients. Keeps for ~ 6 months in a cool, dark place with the rest of your spices :).
Pico de Gallo
2 ripe vine-on-tomatoes, diced (or 2 romas or 1 c cherry tomatoes)
1/4 sweet onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp Sambal Oelek chili paste (my favorite as it’s just chillies and won’t change the taste of your dish) or 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 tsp sugar if your tomatoes aren’t that ripe
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. As with most salsas, the flavors will continue to develop over time so I like to make this first and let it sit but even if you make it just before you serve the tacos it still provides a tangy fresh flavor.
Blackened Salmon Tacos
1 tsp vegetable oil
8 oz salmon fillet, pin bones removed
1/4 small red cabbage, julienned
Guacamole (if you have the time and ripe avocados by all means make your own–I like to mix in 1/4-1/3 c of the pico de gallo recipe above per avocado and violà guacamole!)
6 inch corn tortillas
Rub 1 1/2-2 tsp of the blackening seasoning on the salmon (flesh not skin side).
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over med-lo heat till aromatic but not smoking. Cook salmon flesh side down first. Turn onto skin side when you can see that the salmon has become opaque halfway up from the skillet ~4-5 minutes if you have a 1-inch thick fillet. Cook for an additional 4 minutes. Flip salmon again so skin side is up. Using your spatula gently insert it between the outside edge of the fillet and the skin. Gently slide it across between skin and the fillet like you’re slicing opening an envelope. The skin with easily separate from the cooked fillet. You can also check the salmon for doneness by inserting a sharp knife into the fillet. You should feel no resistance with medium doneness, if you like your salmon med-rare, you should feel some resistance at the halfway point. Remove from heat and flake apart on a plate or shallow bowl.
After you’ve flipped the salmon the first time, start heating tortillas. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. If your tortillas are fresh, made that day or just out of the package, you can simply heat them directly on a dry, seasoned or non-stick skillet over medium heat for 15-20 seconds per side then stack them on a plate and wrap them in a kitchen towel which will not only help keep them warm but also steam them a little, keeping them pliable. If your tortillas are a little elderly, give them a light spritz with water (I just wet my fingers and flick them at the tortilla while imagining my husband’s face ;)) then repeat the same steps for fresh tortillas. This will allow them to steam heat giving you warm fluffy tortillas instead of chewy mini golf discs. When assembling the tacos to each his own. I like a couple tablespoons worth of salmon, a tablespoon of salsa, a tablespoon of guacamole and some strips of cabbage. Serves 2. ¡Buen apetito!