For days I’d had this perfect Memorial Day meal in mind involving barbecue, potato salad, wilted lettuce from the garden, rhubarb crisp, a cool glass of something served at the worn picnic table in the backyard, peonies in the background on the brink of their hot pink display. With even a hint of sun, I figured it could be a gateway meal into summer. Sometimes a fantasy works out, sometimes not.
Oh, I tried. Harvested fennel, defrosted the salmon, picked up potatoes at the farmers market, but life intervened and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t rain this time.
Delayed gratification can be delicious. In the midst of a warm, sometimes sunny week this meal finally happened and truly is one to repeat throughout summer. With ingredients from nearby – salmon from our neighbor, our own homemade dill pickles, potatoes for the salad from Rents Due Ranch, lettuce, fennel, tarragon, chives and rhubarb from the backyard – this is a seasonal local meal. There’s Loki Fish if you don’t have a generous fisherperson living next door. Loki is our local purveyor of excellent, fresh, frozen or smoked salmon, available at West Seattle, Columbia City, Ballard, Broadway and University Farmer’s Markets.
So, this is our Gateway-to-Summer Meal
Fennel Barbecued Salmon
Fennel Grilled Salmon Recipe
Jerry Traunfeld’s idea, from The Herbfarm Cookbook. “From midsummer to mid-autumn, fennel towers over the herb garden with its bamboolike stalks that shoot 6 feet in the air. Around the Mediterranean, these stems are put to use as a bed on which to grill fish, and it’s easy to do the same on your own backyard grill.” Since we have the towering stalks of fennel all over the place, this nudge from Traunfeld spoke to me.
I’d be hard pressed to call this a recipe. A way to barbecue salmon is all it is. Mess with seasonings as you like, but do try cooking it upon a bed of freshly harvested fennel stalks.
Ingredients: Trim 2 or 3 6-foot fennel stalks to make a bed that fits across the grill/ Trim most but not all of the lacey fronds from the stalk/ Salmon of any amount (Traunfeld suggests this method for whole salmon)/ Lemon, salt & pepper
Directions: When coals are ready place trimmed stalks of fennel on the grill/ Immediately place seasoned salmon, skin down, on the bed of fennel, place halved lemons directly onto the grill, cut side down. (Fennel and salmon can be arranged away from the fire on a cool grill, which is then placed over hot coals.) / Cover and cook for 10 – 20 minutes depending on size of fish/ Our thinnish piece was done in under 10 minutes/ Fennel will char and create its own unique smokiness, flavoring everything/ Remove lemon halves after they’ve charred a little/ When salmon is done, discard fennel and serve salmon with grilled lemons and a whiff of fresh fennel.
On a plate with Tarragon Dill Potato Salad and Wilted Lettuce the salmon is almost an afterthought. Almost. Afterwards rhubarb in one of its many dessert guises, this time it was sauce over vanilla ice cream.