Lemony Dill Halibut Salad: A Scandinavian Refresh

I created this halibut salad this weekend after we had some friends over for dinner. My husband had cooked about three huge pieces of halibut from our June trip to Alaska and we had about a pound of cooked halibut leftover. While cleaning up on Saturday, I put it in the fridge. On Sunday I decided to do something with it to avoid waste.

My taste buds steered me towards a lemony Scandinavian flavor profile that day…I had attended the Nordic Culinary Conference here in Seattle back in May and I think it was those thrifty creative chefs—Claus Meyer, Sasu Laukonnen, and Titti Qvanstrom—  who inspired my path that afternoon.  At the conference, the chefs discussed how they avoid waste, use local ingredients, and employ simple techniques to ramp up inherent flavors and achieve impressive dishes.

So…while staring at a Pyrex dish full of flaky white fish,  I challenged myself to make a fresh and appealing salad with the leftover. Rather than just mix it up with some mayo which is the  traditional route to go for those who do employ leftover fish in their kitchens…I decided to ramp up the flavors.

Leftover fish can be a tough sell.  I wanted a “refresh”.

So, I looked in the fridge and the garden and pulled my Cuisinart forth on the counter. My food processor is crucial for challenges like this. It speeds the process and makes fish tidier to work with.  From the garden, I gathered a handful of dill, and a rummage through the fridge yielded some decent celery and a big voluptuous lemon.  With that, I had a game plan!

The key to my Halibut Refresh? I added lemon juice BUT I added it at a critical point.

I didn’t want to dilute that burst of sunshine.  I wanted to make sure it played a key role so I sprinkled the juice directly on the halibut and processed the halibut, celery and lemon BEFORE I added the mayonnaise.  I am convinced that this simple sequence in steps made an enormous difference in my end result because the lemon got mixed into the fish and the fish absorbed it, becoming light, sunny, and citrusy in the process. I then added the dill and the mayonnaise.

Here’s the recipe. A ridiculously appealing Alaska Halibut salad with definite Scandinavian tilt. I enjoyed it on piece of Larsen’s Bakery Light Finnish Rye. A match made in heaven.

Lemon and Dill Halibut Salad

3 celery stalks, cut into big chunks

8 to 10 ounces cooked halibut (poached, grilled or baked is fine), broken up into chunks

1 large lemon, rolled on the counter and then juiced*

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh dill

2 to 3 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise,  or to taste

Salt to taste

To Serve:

For serving: slices of lightly toasted rye bread and fresh Bibb lettuce leaves

For garnish: citrus zest, thinly sliced red onion, extra dill

 

Put the metal blade in the food processor, add the celery chunks and process the celery with three or four pulses to chop it. Put the halibut in the food processor, drizzle the lemon juice directly over the cooked halibut. Pulse once or twice to mix and incorporate the lemon juice. Add the fresh dill and the mayonnaise and pulse three or four times just to mix. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

To create an open faced sandwich: Serve the salad on lightly toasted rye with a piece of lettuce and garnished with zest, extra dill, and thinly sliced onion if desired.

*Lemon Tip: To extract the most juice from a lemon, roll it on a counter before you juice it. You can also prick a couple holes the lemon, zap it in the microwave for twenty seconds, roll it on the counter and then juice it. These little techniques go a long way towards extracting all that sunshine from a lemon!

 

 

 

The Cooking School at Tutka Bay Lodge!

The visuals from my journey to the cooking school at Alaska’s remote and serene Tutka Bay Lodge last week.

Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I am still working on the full write up from the class, but in the mean time here’s some eye candy…

IMG_3337

72 Hours in Homer, AK: Bucket List on Steroids! Part One

RV Alaska June 2017A trip to Homer, Alaska, at the height of the fishing season and only two days before the summer solstice can only mean one thing. A bucket list on steroids. My husband, son and I flew up to Alaska last week and it was a quick and tightly focused trip to see some clients, do research, fish, and explore the region.

When we were planning the trip beforehand, we decided to rent an RV from  Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage. Chris has done this before but this was the first time I was embarking on the RV rental gig. We ran some numbers beforehand and realized that renting an RV and driving it the four hours to Homer out on the Kenai Peninsula was far more economical than flying down there, staying in hotels, renting a car, and eating out. The RV also gave us complete freedom to organize our trip according to our schedule and needs. And, combined with the daily 21 hours of daylight at this time of year, we were able to maximize our time in a very remote location.

After flying from Seattle to Anchorage we were greeted at the airport by the rental company shuttle which took us to the facility where we checked in, watched a safety video, and loaded our Minnie Winnie with gear, clothing and food. Our Minnie Winnie was spacious, gorgeous and appointed with Cuisinart cookware, bed linens and fluffy towels. We rented a toaster and the coffee pot.

Our first night was spent in Seward, Alaska simply because we didn’t want to drive so long after leaving from Seattle that morning. We stayed at a municipal campground in town, watched the cruise ships navigate into the dock, marveled at the massive halibut and rock fish haul on display and then left early the next morning for Homer,  the Halibut Capital of the World. Located on the Kachemak Bay and in the shadow of Kachemak Bay State Park, this place is a nature lover’s paradise.

The spacious and clean Heritage RV Park, located right on the Bay, became our home for three nights. Sitting right on The Spit and adjacent to the local (and stocked) fishing lagoon, this RV park is also within walking distance to town and the marina. This proximity to the attractions worked great because we didn’t have to unhook the RV and trek the lengthy rig in to town to see the sights. Our site was right on the beach and had some of the best Alaskan scenery I have ever experienced. We didn’t have to eat out because our fully equipped kitchen was stocked and ready.

During the three days, we covered a lot of territory even though the Spit is relatively small in size. Fishing for halibut. Making tacos at a local cooking school. Losing a BIG fish in the lagoon. Discovering a new water trail around the Bay, Watching fishermen fillet their fish. Kicking back and enjoying the Midnight Sun. Watching the sun set and indulging in Klondike Bars and berries at midnight on Father’s Day.

For more on my 72 Hours in Homer, watch for Part 2: The Cooking School at Tutka Bay Lodge. 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Seafood with The Dillingham Salmon Melt!

Dillingham Sockeye Salmon Melt

October is National Seafood Month so without a doubt you are seeing a lot of press swirling around this highly nutritious protein. To celebrate, I could certainly feature an array of ideas, species and dishes but in an attempt to keep things simple I’m going to share my recipe for an affordable, quick and comforting dish–the Dillingham Salmon Melt.

I created this simple lunch dish for myself last spring while I was researching, developing, and testing recipes for canned Alaska sockeye for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. This recipe was created early on in my adventure, and I made it one cold and rainy Seattle day. It was ridiculously easy and incredibly comforting for lunch so I am happy to share it with you here.

I’ve dubbed the recipe the Dillingham Salmon Melt because Dillingham, Alaska is home to the Peter Pan Cannery, one of the longest continually operating salmon canneries in Alaska. I’ve toured that  historic blue clapboard cannery twice and it’s a true maritime icon…not to mention a salmon processing workhorse!

The Dillingham Salmon Melt

Prep Time: About five minutes

1. Get a can of Alaska sockeye salmon, which can easily be found in the canned fish section of the supermarket.  You can get a small or large can, and I should note that the salmon will most likely contain the skin and the bones, which do NOT need to be picked out because they were cooked and softened during the canning process. Open and drain the can, discarding the liquid.

2. Preheat the broiler. Put the salmon, with the skin and the bones, into a food processor or mini chopper. Add some fresh dill, chopped scallion, and a hefty squeeze of fresh lemon. (I find that the lemon really brightens the salmon flavor.) Run the food processor for four or five seconds, pulsing the button as necessary in order to process the fish evenly. Add two or three blobs of low fat mayonnaise and pulse two or three times to combine. (If you don’t have a food processor, don’t worry. Just use a fork and combine thoroughly.)

3. Cut your English muffins in half and toast lightly in the toaster, transferring to a baking sheet. With a tablespoon, scoop up the salmon mixture and place it on the English muffins.

4. Take 1/2 cup or so of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and toss in some grated cheddar or Parmesan. Sprinkle this evenly over your salmon sandwiches and drizzle the sandwiches with a little melted butter if desired. Put the salmon melts under the broiler and watch carefully, cooking until they are browned and heated through.

5. Serve on a bed of lightly dressed greens and enjoy!

If you’d like more information on canned Alaska sockeye salmon as well as my recipe for Three Minute Salmon Salad, head over to Bristol Bay Sockeye.org.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip
Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

My husband and sons love to fish in the Puget Sound throughout the summer. As a result, we enjoy locally caught salmon-King, Coho, and Pink-year round.

We freeze lots of it using our Food Saver but we also cart quite a bit of it to Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse here in Seattle where it is cold and hot smoked, vacuum packed and flash frozen to our specifications. We have a fair amount of that smoked salmon in the freezer, and I’ve decided it’s time to start cranking through it. Afterall, summer IS just around the corner!

Just before New Year’s Day, I decided to redesign my favorite smoked salmon recipe, one that I clipped from a magazine years ago. Basically, that one is a traditional cream cheese based rendition. Over the years,  I adapted the technique so I could make it in the food processor. I also tweaked the basic ingredients according to whim.

For 2014, I decided to do a complete overhaul by removing the cream cheese and replacing it with Fage Nonfat Greek yogurt. After numerous attempts and adjustments, I’ve finally landed on a slimmer smoked salmon dip that can be made quickly and easily in the food processor and weighs in with a minimum of belly busting fat. For my Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip, I also added red onion, fresh dill, and capers…most of the basic components found in myBristol Bay Sockeye Platter recipe.

The recipe was “family tested,” which means it was served in the midst of kitchen chaos with spouse and kids at hand. Everyone gave it their seal of approval and said it was better than the original. Reviews included commentary on the freshness, the lightness, the flavor factor and the ease of use. It was served on crackers, dolloped onto sliced fresh tomatoes, and swiped into celery sticks. It could easily just be served with crudité or used with whole grain bread and lettuce to make a quick healthy sandwich rich in Omega Three fatty acids.

It’s worth noting that when I entered my new recipe into the Weight Watchers recipe tracker online, it revealed that a 1/4 cup serving totaled only 1 point in their Points Tracker. So, indeed, it’s a lighter leaner version.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

¼ small red onion, cut into chunks

1 Tablespoon capers, drained

2 Tablespoons fresh dill

8 ounces hot smoked salmon, skin removed

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Put onion, capers, and dill in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Pulse 10 times to chop and combine. Crumble salmon and add to food processor. Add yogurt, lemon juice, and horseradish. Process for 30 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary to combine.

Yield: About 2 cups or 8 servings.
Source: Melissa A. Trainer http://www.melissatrainer.com

Chill with Frozen Fish!

Frozen Bristol Bay sockeye. A super healthy and convenient superfood!
Frozen Bristol Bay sockeye. A super healthy and convenient superfood!

So, what’s your opinion on frozen seafood? Do you think it is inferior to the fresh seafood that you can purchase from the fish counter? Have you perused the freezer case in the seafood department lately? Do you regularly stock frozen salmon, cod, or other fish for quick weeknight dinners at your house?

Admittedly, I am quite picky about my seafood, but over the years I have learned that seafood in the freezer is an amazing asset! To be quite frank, keeping seafood in the freezer saves me time, money and the hassle of heading to the grocery store at the dreaded five o’clock hour.

In my household, we regularly keep wild salmon fillets as well as cold and hot smoked salmon in the deep freeze. I often just head to the freezer and pull out a few fillets for dinner. It works for me and it leaves me free to do other things. When defrosted, my previously frozen seafood often looks far better than the seafood kicking around the seafood case.

Even though I have salmon in the freezer, I decided to buy a whole sockeye fillet at QFC last night. I’ve been eyeballing these fillets for some time now, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a little consumer research myself. The wild Alaskan sockeye was from Peter Pan Seafoods and was caught in the FAO area 67, which is Bristol Bay. The sale price was $8.99 per pound and the fillet that I chose set me back about $12, which is a good deal.

Having toured many of the processing facilities in Bristol Bay, Alaska, I know that many of the sockeye fillets are promptly processed and frozen right after harvest. I know this, because I sported hair nets and stood there watching those freshly caught wild salmon race along the slime lines towards the freezer! This rapid processing, of course, protects many of the inherent characteristics of the salmon and brings a very hiqh-quality product to the market. The processors up in Bristol Bay work quickly because the wild salmon arrive in force over the course of about six weeks.

Frozen fish is a fabulous time saver.  Often frozen promptly after harvest, frozen fish, particularly salmon, is widely available and is a great time saver for busy cooks.
Frozen fish is a fabulous time saver. Often frozen promptly after harvest, frozen fish, particularly salmon, is widely available and is a great time saver for busy cooks.

Last night, I decided to simply let my sockeye fillet defrost slowly in the fridge. Today, I have to figure out what to do with it. Weighing in at less than two pounds, there really isn’t an excess of salmon for my family of five. I’m just perplexed on what to do with this amazingly bright red wild salmon. Grill it whole? Cut into chunks and pan sear? Cure it into an affordable yet luxurious gravlax for a weekend dinner party ?

So, do you buy the frozen seafood found at your local markets? If so, what do you choose and how do you use it? I have more to say about frozen seafood and will report back on my sockeye fillet, so stay tuned, folks!

Originally published on Amazon’s Al Dente blog on May 02, 2012