We live in a house divided. No, not by love, and not by politics, but by salmon. Yup, salmon is the hottest of hot-button topics in our family.
Back in the day, my brother and father would spend the summers fishing in Alaska and they’d return with a bounty of seafood that would put Long John Silver's to shame. I’m talking ice chest upon ice chest filled to the brim with all sorts of goodies — snow crabs, halibut, and seemingly never-ending amounts of salmon. The freezer would be packed for months, which was awesome for a salmon-lover like me, but not so much for my older sister. She got so over salmon that serving it to her would be like a food-form of Chinese water torture.
After years off, my brother and father are headed back north this summer to take the grandchildren on their first fishing trip. And, for those of us in my family who still heart salmon big time, we can't wait to get together without those “others” and eat to our hearts' content. The recipe I'm most excited to cook is this spiced-rubbed salmon that marinates for a few hours and then gets grilled or broiled — depending upon the weather and how motivated we're feeling. Flaked and served over a seasonal salad, it makes for a seriously healthy weeknight dinner.
end trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
For the vinaigrette: Combine red wine vinegar, half of the lemon juice, and shallot in a medium nonreactive bowl and set aside at least 5 minutes before using. Whisk in mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sugar, a pinch of salt, and pepper until smooth. While whisking constantly, add oil in a thin stream until well incorporated. Taste and add more salt, sugar, or pepper as desired.
For the salad: Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover by 1 inch with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium-high and boil until potatoes are knife tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add asparagus and peas and cook 2 to 3 more minutes until they’re bright green and knife tender.
Drain and run under cold water to cool off. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half, toss potatoes, peas, and asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and set aside until ready to use. (Can be made up to 1 day ahead.)
Trim tops off the fennel, quarter and core it and then using a mandoline, slice paper thin. Toss it with the remaining lemon juice and a pinch of salt and set aside until ready to use. Pluck a few sprigs of fennel fronds and save for garnish.
For the salmon: Combine paprika, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix well. Pat salmon dry and rub with the spice mixture. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Let sit at least 15 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
The salmon can be rubbed with the spice mix up to 8 hours in advance. Store refrigerated until ready to use.
Heat an outdoor grill to medium (about 350°F to 450°F) and rub the grill grates with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Using another paper towel, remove excess rub, and pat dry on both sides of the fish. Drizzle over 1 tsp of canola oil and rub all over the fish. Place the salmon on the grill, and cover the grill. Cook, flipping once, until grill marks appear and salmon turns opaque pink, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Remove from grill, tent with foil, and let rest a few minutes. Flake the salmon into bite-sized pieces and season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. To serve, divide arugula among bowls, evenly divide asparagus, peas, potatoes, and fennel. Drizzle with vinaigrette and top each plate with the salmon and a few sprigs of fennel fronds.
If weather doesn’t permit grilling, go ahead and heat your broiler to high and arrange a rack 6 inches from the heat source. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and broil the salmon until it flakes at the edges and is medium at the center, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp