Salmon on Cedar
By Dennis Linden
Here’s a delicious and fun recipe to kick off the grilling season created by our own Steve Fruchter, in Melissa’s Retail Sales Department. Delicious, as Steve manages to pack no less than ten fresh and packaged items from the company’s own product list into each and every forkful. Fun, especially if you have never tried the fine art of grilling a fish on cedar wood plank. Steve’s imaginative ingredient list, combined with the cedar’s smoky aroma and moisture, gives this salmon dish a unique flavor and succulence that is well worth the bit of extra time involved in prepping the wood.
Cedar plank cooking is the modern version of a Pacific Northwest tribal tradition of tying whole salmon to stakes of aromatic wood, like cedar or alder, which were then place around a large fire and letting the slow smoky roasting do the rest. Early Spanish explorers refined the process using wet wood slats. Today thin, uniform planks of cedar can be purchased in any hardware store’s barbeque equipment isle. Here in the Pacific Northwest, where cedar is prolific, this writer uses cedar shake material soaked for twenty-four hours. It is very important to soak the wood for at least the 30 minutes that Steve calls for in his recipe. The fish should be cooked over a medium flame so the wood has a chance to steam; a high heat fire will dry out both the wood and fish too quickly.
While the salmon component of this recipe gets top billing, Steve’s relish-like “base” serves as the flavor foundation for this entire dish. His mix of tangy Marzano tomatoes, fresh bell pepper, sweet onion and pungent shallot, laced with just the right hint of spicy heat from the Cherry Bell chile is the constant of each bite. What a great idea! This equal opportunity condiment also compliments the creamy-crunch of the fried polenta almost as perfectly as it pairs with the cedar-rosemary infused salmon! In fact, after preparing and thoroughly enjoying this tasty dish, I made a second, double batch of Steve’s relish to use in other ways. Not quite sure what those ways are yet; I’m thinking that chicken or even pork might be helped with it. All I do know is that this tasty relish has a future in my own kitchen and I look forward to that culinary exploration!
Steve Fruchter has been a member of the Melissa’s family for almost 19 years. He works with several wholesale, retail, and club store accounts across the country. “I provide our customers with updates on new Melissa’s products and seasonal produce available, offer promotional opportunities and facilitate their orders,” explained Steve. “It’s a business of good relationships and mutual partnership. The buyers and merchandisers know they can come to me for advice regarding Melissa’s products and programs.”
Away from the office Steve admits to being a bit of a foodie who really enjoys creating his own take on recipes found on-line or served in local restaurants, using healthier ingredients. “What can I say, it’s an occupational hazard. I spend my professional day talking to our customers about all the healthy, fresh choices we offer seasonally; so it’s become second nature to come home and experiment with those same fresh ingredients at my own table!”
Speaking of fresh ingredients, please note that the salmon in Steve’s ingredient list includes a link to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch web site. “I also have a deep compassion for people, animals, and our beautiful blue water planet. We all benefit from each other in some way or form, and we take from society and our environment. So shouldn’t we all give something back to the world in which we live in? That “give back” can start by only supporting sustainable fisheries in our own ingredient choices”.
Elegant as it is tasty, this is the perfect special-occasion grilling dish for two; just add a few candles, a warm summer evening and the right vintage for a memorable culinary treat! Enjoy!
Cedar Plank Salmon with Sautéed Polenta
Melissa’s Packaged Ingredients
1 package Melissa’s Polenta
1 package Fresh Peeled Shallots, diced
1 ounce Pine Nuts
Garlic & Herb Sea Salt Grinder
Melissa’s Fresh Ingredients
2 sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1½ teaspoon Garlic, minced
1 Green Bell Pepper, small-sliced
1 Cherry Bell Chile Pepper, seeded and small-sliced (Option: Any hot pepper variety to taste)
1 medium/large Sweet Onion, diced
20 Marzano Tomatoes, whole and halved
7 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1¼ pound Salmon -- refer to Seafood Watch
Season salmon with minced garlic, 2 sprigs of rosemary and sea salt grinder to taste. Place salmon on cedar plank that has been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes. Close BBQ & cook on high flame for 17 minutes. Cut into two equal servings for plating.
Leave half of Marzano tomatoes whole for flavor burst, and cut rest in half for a stewed texture.
Sauté tomatoes, onions, shallots, cherry pepper, bell pepper and pine nuts, then set aside.
Slice off two ¼ inch thick pieces from the polenta chub (lengthwise) and sauté each side until brown, about 5 minutes.
Place a portion of the vegetable mixture in the middle of the plate, then top with one piece of sautéed polenta and crown with one-half of the salmon filet.
Chef’s Wine Suggestion: A Central California Pinot Noir.