Everybody loves salmon. Well, almost everybody. It’s tasty, flavorful, impressive and not so easy to ruin, no matter how you choose to prepare it. The best salmon is the wild kind, but it is not very easy to come by. Most of the salmon sold in Israel is imported from Norway, where it is grown in fishponds.
Chef Jonathan Borowitz of Café 48 likes to use salmon as the center of a meal. “When you shop for salmon,” he says, “try to buy chilled, not frozen. Look for a bright orange color, without tears or stains, which attest to wrong treatment. Make sure the fish is stored properly all the way from the fishmonger to the plate, and enjoy.”
STEAMED SALMON WITH LEEKS
The classic combination of butter and white wine is irresistible. It is important not to let the butter and wine bath boil but rather simmer gently. Boiling will tear the flesh of the fish.
✔ 300 gr. butter
✔ ½ bottle dry white wine
✔ Bunch thyme
✔ 12 shallots, peeled
✔ 5 leeks, white part only, cut into 2-cm. pieces
✔ 4 fillets of salmon, bones removed, about 150 gr. each (Keep the skin on, so the fish doesn't fall apart during cooking)
✔ Pinch salt
✔ Red chili pepper, thinly sliced
For the seasoning, prepare a bouquet garni: a small terrycloth bag with 2 or 3 bay leaves, a handful of black and white pepper and allspice.
In a tall pot, melt butter over low heat. Add wine and thyme, shallots, leeks and seasoning bag. Bring to a simmer and let wine evaporate for 10 minutes over low heat.
When the mixture is simmering gently, place salmon fillets carefully in the pot. With a spoon, baste the fish with the butter mixture. Cook for about 6 minutes or until salmon changes color to pink.
Remove the salmon carefully to the serving plates and add a few shallots and leeks to each plate. Spoon the sauce over the fish and season with salt.
JAPANESE-STYLE SALMON CUBES WITH BEAN NOODLES
400 gr. salmon, bones and skin removed, cut into 2x2-cm. cubes
For the marinade
✔ 1 cup good quality soy sauce
✔ ½ cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
✔ 1 cup sake (or white wine)
✔ 2 Tbsp. sugar
✔ 2 Tbsp. white miso (optional)
For the noodles
✔ 2 Tbsp. oil
✔ 1 cm. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
✔ 1 red chili, thinly sliced
✔ 4 broccoli stems, florets only
✔ ½ pack bean noodles
✔ 3 cups cherry tomatoes
✔ 5 sprigs green onions
To prepare the marinade: In a small pot, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat, pour into a dish with lid, cover and let cool. When cooled, place the salmon cubes in the marinade and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
To prepare the dish: Soak the noodles for 20 minutes in cold water.
Blanch the broccoli in boiling water and quickly transfer to ice water to preserve the green color.
Cut tomatoes in half. Slice the green onions into 2-cm. pieces.
Heat a skillet and pour oil in when the pan is very hot. Add the marinated salmon cubes; do not discard the marinade. When salmon is seared on all sides (about 1 minute), add ginger and chili and mix briefly (about 30 seconds). Add broccoli and sauté for 2 more minutes. If the skillet is dry, add 2 Tbsp. of the marinade. Add the soaked noodles, tomatoes and green onions and stir for 1 minute or until the noodles are covered in sauce. Serve.
GRAVLAX WITH HORSERADISH AND ZUCCHINI SALAD
The process of curing fish has existed for a long time, as it has been used as a way to keep fish from spoiling. The process usually involves an abundance of salt or sugar and sometime oil. Nowadays, curing is done mainly for the flavor.
“That is why I prefer to cure the fish halfway, thus preserving its natural flavors,” says chef Borowitz.
✔ 1 whole fillet of salmon, bones removed
✔ 1¼ cups sugar
✔ 100 gr. table salt
✔ 100 gr. kosher salt
✔ ½ cup vodka
For the rinse
✔ 2 cups rice vinegar
✔ 2 Tbsp. sugar
For the salad
✔ 6 green or yellow zucchini (or both), thinly sliced or julienned
✔ Olive oil
✔ 6 Tbsp. lemon juice
✔ Pinch salt
✔ 2 cm. fresh horseradish, grated
Mix curing ingredients together and sprinkle evenly on the salmon. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Remove fish from the refrigerator. Mix together rice vinegar and sugar. Wash the fish in the mixture, remove and pat dry.
Slice the cured salmon into ½-cm. slices.
Toss the zucchini strips with oil, lemon and salt. Let marinate in a bowl for 15 minutes.
Arrange the salmon on plates and place the zucchini salad on the side. Garnish with grated horseradish.
SEARED SALMON WITH PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS AND BOK CHOY
Cooking salmon in too-high heat will result in overly drying the fish, says chef Borowitz.
“When heat is too high, you will notice white liquid dots. Too low heat, on the other hand, will dry the outer layer while keeping the middle raw. The best way is to cook it in medium heat.”
For this recipe, use the Dashi fish stock powder found in Asian stores. The dashi has a unique smoked flavor. But you can use fish stock or white wine instead.
In this recipe, we make use of another of the salmon’s many advantages – the crispy skin.
✔ 12 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned
✔ Atlantic or coarse salt
✔ 2 Tbsp. canola oil
✔ 4 150 gr. salmon fillets, skin on
✔ 3 stalks bok choy
✔1 bag dashi, dissolved in ½ cup of hot water or ½ cup white wine
✔ 2 cups snow peas or wide green beans
✔ 50 gr. butter
✔ Dill for garnish
Heat oven to 150°.
Blanch bok choy in boiling water and place in ice water.
Blanch snow peas or green beans in boiling water and place in ice water.
Arrange the mushrooms in one layer on a baking sheet. Season with salt and bake for 10 minutes. The mushrooms will shrink a little and release liquid. Remove from oven but keep the oven on. Reserve the mushroom liquid in a small bowl for later.
Heat a large oven-proof skillet and add oil when pan is hot. Carefully place the salmon fillets skin side down and sear for 2 minutes. Add the blanched bok choy and the baked mushrooms to the skillet. Pour the dashi stock or the wine into the skillet. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and place skillet in the oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Add peas (or beans) and toss gently. The skillet should not be completely dry at this point. If it is, add a little water or stock. Divide the fillets and vegetables among four plates and season to taste. Garnish with dill.
Recipes and photos courtesy of Café 48, an urban chef’s restaurant in Tel Aviv. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, offering guests an open kitchen experience and easygoing ambiance. 48 Nahalat Binyamin Street, Tel Aviv, (03) 510-1001.