Fresh salmon is amazing. Ask any bear living along the Pacific Coast, and it will fully agree, assuming it’s not considering you as its next meal. It is rich, meaty, and delicately flavored. As a result, whether you cook it over a fire, grill it, or prepare it in the oven, the sauce should enhance, not overpower, the salmon.
After purchasing a salmon fillet recently, I considered my options and decided on a sauce similar to the ones I’ve enjoyed in Japanese restaurants — slightly sweet, salty, with citrus undertones. I also was influenced by a package of fresh rice noodles I picked up in a Chinese noodle shop in Oakland. My intention was to buy fresh chow fun noodles, which are long, flat rice noodles, but a woman who saw me studying the packages suggested Vietnamese rice noodles that are rolled and sold in long ropes. She explained that the noodles absorb the sauce and open up some when heated. They’re different from the tubular noodles we use for Mac and Cheese, but it’s the same idea: the shape of the noodles determines how it will work with the sauce you’re using.
I marinated the salmon for about 2 hours and then baked it in the marinade. I basted it a couple of times while it cooked. I sauteed scallions, garlic, sugar-snap peas, bok choy, broccoli rabe and spinach and added the noodles. When the salmon was done, I added a bit of broth to the pan juices and reduced it just until it thickened some, and added it to the vegetables and noodles and served the salmon on top. It was exceptional.
You can use rice, noodles or whatever you’d like with this recipe. The photo above shows the salmon served over flash-sauteed spinach cooked in a blend of avocado oil mixed with a touch of toasted sesame oil and a few shakes of low-sodium tamari sauce. You can also make a sumptuous rice or noodle bowl. If you are cooking the salmon on a grill but plan to serve the salmon with noodles or rice, make extra sauce separate from the marinade to flavor the rest of the meal.
And, for a salad to serve on the side, how about our Carrot and Daikon Salad?
Asian Inspired Salmon
4 salmon fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each, skin on.
2–3 garlic cloves, minced
1–1/2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons light honey or maple syrup
3 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
4 tablespoons tamari sauce or low-sodium tamari sauce (can substitute soy sauce)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado oil
Broth as needed
1 tablespoon lightly dry-toasted sesame seeds
2 scallions, sliced very thin
Place fresh salmon fillets in baking dish.
In a small bowl add garlic, ginger, vanilla bean seeds, honey or maple syrup, lemon juice, tamari sauce and oil and whisk together. Spoon over salmon, cover dish with foil or plastic wrap, and allow to marinate up to 2 hours, basting a few times.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove foil or wrap and place salmon in the lower third of the oven and bake just until salmon is almost done, about 8 – 15 minutes depending on thickness of the fillets. It should look a little raw in the middle, but it will continue to cook when you remove it from the heat. The most important thing is that you don’t overcook it.
Remove the fillets to a platter. Scrape last of the sauce from the baking dish into a small saucepan and add 2 – 4 tablespoons of broth (or water). Add the used half of the vanilla pod for more flavor or save it for another purpose (like your sugar jar). Place pan over medium high heat and reduce the sauce by about half or just until it begins to thicken. Taste then add more tamari, lemon juice or a dash of toasted sesame oil until flavors are balanced. Spoon over salmon fillets, then add sliced onions and sesame seeds.
If you want to flash saute spinach to serve with the salmon, you will need about 1 pound of spinach or 2 packages of baby spinach leaves. Put 2 teaspoons neutral oil and 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil in a large skillet. Heat until oil is hot, then toss in spinach, turning it with tongs until it is all coated. Add a little tamari and a spoon of water or broth, cover for a couple of minutes, then check to make sure that the spinach has fully wilted. Place on platter and plate salmon on top, then follow the instructions above.