What a difference a couple of weeks make. Having fully pivoted into high spring, we have shifted away from storage crops and braises towards just-picked salads and herb-heavy sauces or garnishes. Everything is so perfect and new that a little goes a long way, allowing for the much subtler warm-weather eating that those of us with seasons have been pining for so ferociously for so long.
For example, here’s something from a while back, and at the time it was pretty decent. Broiled salmon, parsnip purée (this was not too long after Easter, hence the parsnips; we used the last of them around then) wilted local spinach, and our own ramp pesto. Transitional and spot-hitting, though had time permitted a nice red wine reduction would have helped add a little decadence and finesse.
But today, it’s all different.
It’s usually the case that when I can see a dish or a meal in my mind ahead of time, it comes out pretty well. For some inexplicable reason, I had a hankering for salmon tartare. On the other hand, maybe not so inexplicable; this weather and the attendant bounty of edible greenery have gotten me all fired up and excited to cook again. So some good, fresh fish was procured, the grounds and garden perused, and a few choice items were brought forth from the fridge.
To begin, there was some of the lamb pho left; I had recently pulled some out of the freezer for something (beans, I think) and the rest I simply brought to a boil, removed from the heat, and whisked in some miso. Now the grilled chicken broth made a wicked miso soup last week, but the lamb pho took it to a whole other place. Just a seriously insanely hearty, nourishing, and profound bowl of wow. Next up were maki of asparagus and salmon, both with homemade sriracha mayo for that extra special “spicy fill-in-the-blank roll from the local joint” flavor.
Then, a salad of various garden greenery with another takeout note: grated carrot dressing with a little ginger, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. It came pretty close to that exalted, orange junk-healthy condiment which may be the only substance known to science that can make iceberg lettuce interesting to eat.
Then, the tartare. Rabid pangs of hunger had by this time abated, affording me a little time to slow down and do it right; the sushi was half-assed at a high rate of speed so we could cram it down our gullets stat. I minced the fish and added chives, dandelion petals, the first radishes of the season, a little shallot, homemade ponzu, sesame oil, and a little lemon juice and mixed it thoroughly.
Normally I skin salmon by putting it skin-side down in a hot pan for 30 seconds or so, then flipping it onto a board and lifting the skin off. If the skin sticks, it’s OK, because I lower the heat, add salt and black sesame seeds, and let it cook until it’s a browned, crispy cracker- it’s better if it sticks, in fact, because that helps keep it flat until it’s crisp. The rigid skin is then perfect for use as an edible tartare-eating utensil. I sprinkled some panko on top and we had at it, but this time pausing to breathe between bites. We have arrived.