Delicious Things are Springing up!

Springtime is well underway across the land and winter is finally behind us. For me, this in-between time, the changeover from spring to summer, is irresistible. The salmon have returned; tasty spring produce is gracing the farmers tables. There’s fresh asparagus, sweet peas, sweet onions and baby greens—such as tender spinach, nutty arugula and frilly mizuna; and wild porcini and morels are lurking in the forest!

Whether you think of these warmer days as “advanced spring” or “preliminary summer,” it’s the time of year when pretty much everyone starts to want lighter foods. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that some of my favorite dishes for late spring sing with the flavors of the season.

My Grilled Salmon recipe is perfect to launch the outdoor-cooking months. You can use either fillet portions or a whole side of fish. The salmon is topped with a quickly made relish of fresh herbs and marinated, crisp rings of sweet onions.

“Green” Rice Prima Vera is verdant with peas, asparagus, and chives and a garnish of frilly fresh pea vines. Pick tender young vines—the top 4 to 6 inches—from your pea patch, or look for them in farmers markets, Asian grocery stores, or well-stocked produce departments. If using homegrown pea vines, be sure they have not been sprayed; and never use the vines of ornamental flowering sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), which are poisonous.

Served up together, these two recipes make beautiful pink-and-white-and-green harmony, both visually and gustatorily.

Have a tasty Spring! – Kathy Casey

Grilled Salmon with Herbed Sweet Onions

Makes 6 servings

Onions
1 large Sweet onion, Walla Walla  vidalia etc cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil or cilantro
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon 1/2-inch-long pieces fresh chives
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 skinless salmon fillet portions (about 4 to 6 ounces each)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lots of fresh herb sprigs for garnishing

To make the onions, carefully separate the rings and place in a resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper flakes, and oil. Pour the marinade over the onions and close the bag, expelling excess air. Turn the bag to coat the onion evenly, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours, turning the bag occasionally. Just before grilling the salmon, gently toss the onions and marinade in a large bowl with the chopped herbs.

To grill the salmon, prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to high. Meanwhile, pour the olive oil onto a large plate. Swipe each side of the salmon fillets through the oil, then season well with salt and pepper. Grill the fish for about 1 to 4 minutes per side, or to the desired doneness, moving the fillets to create crisscross marks. Different-sized fillets will cook differently—just use good judgment and try not to overcook your salmon.

Place the grilled salmon on plates and divide the onions evenly among them, piling high and spooning marinade over all. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve immediately.

Chef’s Note: For a summer buffet table, grill a whole side of salmon and serve it on a large platter, festooned with the herbed onions and fresh herb sprigs.

Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco

“Green” Rice Prima Vera with Asparagus, Peas & Pods

Makes 6 servings

Rice
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained well
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup 1/4-inch-diced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Vegetables
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup snap or snow pea pods, trimmed, stringed, and cut into diagonal slices
3/4 cup diagonally sliced asparagus
1/2 cup fresh or partially defrosted frozen green peas
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
Fresh pea vines for garnishing

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Put the drained rice in a 6-cup baking dish.

Combine the water and parsley in a blender and blend to chop the parsley very fine.

Melt the butter in a medium nonstick or heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds; do not brown. Add the parsley mixture, being sure to scrape all the parsley into the pan. Add the lemon zest, juice, cream, and salt and bring to a boil.

Stir the mixture into the rice, being sure to scrape up and include all the goodies. Seal tightly with foil and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and keep warm while finishing the vegetables.

To cook the vegetables, during the last few minutes before the rice is done, heat the oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Sauté the pea pods and asparagus for about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the shelled peas and sauté for about 30 seconds more, or until just tender. Season the vegetables to taste with salt and pepper, then fold the vegetables and chives into the rice. Garnish with pea vines.

Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Posted by Kathy Casey on April 30th, 2010  |  Add Comment |  Posted in Recent Posts, Recipes

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