Grilled Asian Salmon with Avocado Cucumber Salad

Monday, November 4, 2013

I realize there are about a thousand ways to do salmon, but I think this is one of the best. A super easy marinade of Asian-inspired flavors seasons the delicate salmon without overpowering it. I can't stand it when a marinade completely overtakes the protein or vegetable it's supposed to enhance, not bulldozer over. Next, my trick for a perfectly grilled salmon. It's quick and easy enough to pull off for a weeknight meal, and will be your new favorite way of making salmon. To top it off, a super tasty and healthy side dish of creamy avocado and crispy cucumber tossed with cilantro, lots of fresh lime juice, and sesame. This recipe was a huge hit for the whole house, kid and adult alike.

I bought the salmon as a whole filet. Usually for two adults and 3 smaller kids 1/2 - 3/4 of a side of salmon suits us perfectly. You can buy as much or as little as you like for the salmon. If you prefer to work with smaller portions on the grill, go ahead and do that; you don't need to have one long filet as pictured. The marinade will stay the same; you'll just probably have more left over if you make less salmon. That's all. But this recipe easily serves 4 people.

Grilled Asian Salmon with Avocado Cucumber Salad
for the salmon and marinade:
1 long fillet of salmon (or smaller portions -- however you'd like to cook it)
3 Tbsp soy sauce or soy sauce substitute (I use a coconut amino sauce due to my soy allergy)
1 tsp wasabi powder (or prepared wasabi paste if you have it; if using the paste use a little less!)
1 tsp dried Chinese mustard (you can sub with Dijon if you have to)
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp fresh ginger
safflower oil or other neutral oil (vegetable, canola, peanut -- a lighter oil; i.e. not olive)
avocado cucumber salad -- recipe follows
Take the salmon and using the back end (i.e. not sharp side) of your knife, run it against the flesh gently and the skin to remove any scales. Run the fish under cold water and pat very, very dry. Set aside.
To make the marinade:
Whisk the soy sauce, wasabi powder, mustard powder, vinegar, zest and juice of the lime, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Take the garlic and ginger and mince the two together. Every few chops, drag the flat side of your knife, scraping down and pressing the garlic and ginger pieces into the board to help break it down even further. Continue to chop and scrape to create a garlic-ginger-paste. If you have  mortar you can use that too. Add the garlic and ginger to the mixture and mix to combine. Let stand at least 10 minutes for flavors to meld.
Gently brush both sides of the salmon with the oil. You want a good covering to help prevent sticking, but you don't want to drench it in oil either. Brush about half of the marinade on the top portion of the salmon (don't bother with the skin) and let stand to marinade. While marinating, preheat your grill to high.
The trick to a good salmon on the grill is searing on high heat then lowering the heat almost completely so it can cook through nicely. When you're ready to grill, place your salmon first flesh-side down onto the grill. Don't move it, don't flip it, don't touch it -- grill until the fish releases itself from the grate with a gentle nudge from a spatula. Turn the salmon over onto the skin side, reduce the heat as much as possible to low (if using charcoal, move the salmon to the colder part of the grill) and cover with lid.

Cook until the salmon is cooked through but still very slightly rare in the middle. The cook time will depend on the size and thickness of your salmon, so gage doneness by firmness of the fish (the softer it feels, the rarer it is; the firmer it feels, the more done it is) rather than by time. This filet took about 13 minutes total cook time. While the salmon is cooking, baste it with more of the marinade occasionally. You might have some left over.

When done, remove from the grill and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Avocado Cucumber Salad
1 large ripe, Haas avocado
1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 jalapeno (seeds included for spicy; seeds removed for less), chopped small
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
toasted sesame seeds for topping (optional)

Cut the avocado and cucumber in roughly the same size pieces. Combine with the jalapeno and cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lime juice, sesame and olive oils (sesame gives taste; olive gives texture) and mix very gently to combine. Be careful not to break up the pieces of avocado. Top with a sprinkling of the sesame seeds.

To serve, I do a portion of salmon and the salad right on top. I love the color contrast and the juxtaposition of the warm salmon with the cold salad.

No comments: