Summer Recipes Continued: Cedar Planked Salmon

This dish has long been a summer favourite of ours. In the interest of full disclosure, I take no credit for this recipe — this version of it (there are likely hundreds) originated with my Dad, who got it who knows where.   If you haven’t yet tried grilling salmon or any other fish on a cedar plank, you should.  The cedar imbues the fish with a sweet, smoky flavour, and your kids will find it highly amusing that you’ve cooked dinner on a piece of wood.

As long as you remember to soak your cedar plank in advance, this dinner comes together in minutes.  Be sure to get the freshest WILD salmon you can find — the fine folks at the Vancouver Aquarium’s OceanWise program can tell you why you should avoid the farmed Atlantic salmon that you so often find at your local fish counter. A nice wild sockeye will do.

Summer is the time for wild salmon, so treat yourself.

What you need:

  • One length of cedar, approximately 7 inches by 15 inches. Grocers and fish counters often sell planks at ridiculously inflated prices. You can use clean, untreated cedar from your hardware store — just be sure to give it a good scrub first
  • A side of fresh wild salmon, skin on. A side will usually feed 5-7 people, depending on the variety of salmon you get
  • vegetable oil, for brushing
  • kosher salt
  • half a cup of fresh dill, minced
  • 1 half of a red onion, finely diced
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • a spray bottle filled with water, for safety reasons

Important: About 6 hours before you want to eat, set your plank in a basin of water to soak. We’ve soaked for less than 2, and the smoke that emanated from the board made us all very nervous.

Method:

Preheat your barbeque.

Prepare the board: Take your board and pat it dry. Brush cooking surface of the plank with oil.

Prepare the fish: Generously sprinkle the plank with the kosher salt — it will seem like a lot of salt, but don’t skimp.

Lay your salmon skin-side down on the plank. If the tail end is thin, fold it under so that the fish is of uniform thickness throughout. I like to cut my salmon into serving-sized pieces before cooking, for the sake of convenience.

Cover the fish with the dill and onion.

Set the plank on the grill, close the lid, and cook the fish for 12-15 minutes, or until it easily flakes with a fork. I prefer my salmon on the slightly undercooked side, but your taste might vary.

Keep the water bottle on hand in case the board catches fire. I find that cooking the salmon on indirect heat by turning off the burner right under the plank keeps flareups to a minimum, but safety should be your priority.

When done, remove the salmon from the board, remove the skin, and serve with freshly cracked pepper and lemon, or a dill-mustard sauce, if you’re so inclined. We had it with grilled fava beans on the day that the photo, above, was taken.

If dill and onion aren’t your thing, we’ve had great success with this recipe too.

Guest Post: Patsy Spanos on Zoning in on Happiness

Sitting on the beaches of Greece with my family this summer, I rarely had to make a conscious effort to reach calm, diaphragmatic breathing – the kind of breathing you reach at the end of a yoga class. Yes, yes, an easy task to achieve when you are smelling the calamari on the grill, feeling the white warm sand pressing against the heels of your feet and watching the Agean sea glitter under the sun.

Looking for your pulse is usually the goal when you are in this setting…Oh wait! Here we go, I just found my heart beat– easy to do when you see your eight year old boy tackling one of your five year old twin boys and screaming out at the top of his lungs….”I’m going to fart on your face!”

Tune them out, tune them out. Now, where was I? Oh yes… drinking sweet nectar amongst the Greek gods, feeling the state of complete Utopia. George Clooney comes out of nowhere and asks, “Do you want me to put some sun screen on your back?” I know! I know! What does Clooney have to do with Greece? But this is my day dream in my day dream it’s Clooney smothering the coconut oil on my shoulder blades…Okay!

In the faint distance I hear my husband’s voice overshadow Clooney’s…”Honey!, Honey! Where is my beach towel? I can’t find my beach towel anywhere? Did you pack it?”

Travelling with four boys this summer (my husband included) had its hairy moments, but overall I have come back home to Stouffville, Ontario calmer, and most importantly, healthier than ever. Being in Greece all summer, I dove into the Mediterranean diet and life stlye.

image: wikipedia.org

When I say life style, I mean the carefree attitude the Mediterraneans live by. There is a Greek Island called Ikaria.  This island is a “Blue Zone” spot: a part of the world where people live the longest. Time is relative on this Greek island. People show up to events and occasions whenever they feel like it. Living in this manner means you never increase your heart -harming stress hormones. You know those hormones all too well…The ones that take over your body and send you into a frantic state because you and your child are running ten minutes late for a play date.

Now I’m not by no means suggesting you commit social suicide and take off your watch and show up late to every meeting and get fired, but I am implying that as mothers we should all be a little more kind to ourselves if we are running a bit late.

Following a Mediterranean diet for two months has made me feel like an Olympian athlete ready for the games. Getting my three boys ready for school in the mornings is pretty much equal playing ground. By Mediterranean diet, I don’t mean eating on the Danforth and treating yourself to a big plate of souvlaki with Greek salad and tzatziki…No! No! Meat is a once  a week treat…you must focus on whole grains, fish, beans, veggies, olive oil, and plenty of healthy greens.

Greeks consume daily these wild greens that grow in fields and sides of the road. They are incredibly tasty and are full of nutrients and have more antioxidants than green tea or wine. The more popular healthy green is “Vlita” (otherwise known as amaranth), and it can be found in specialized fruit and vegetable markets here in Canada. Vlita is simple to make. Thoroughly clean them, boil until they are soft, pour some olive oil and lemon juice over them, sprinkle some salt and opa! Ready to serve.

Eating and living healthy is the best daily spa a mother can give to herself.

Whether you live in the city of Toronto, a small town in Ontario or the Greek island of Ikaria, living healthy and making smart choices when eating is the key ingredient to living a long and happy life.

Start by making a simple fish dish for the family.

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

4 servings

ingredients

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces of boneless salmon fillets
two tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
two cloves of garlic, crushed
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper
4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350F. Place aluminum foil on baking sheet and brush it over with a tablespoon of oil. Place salmon fillets skin down. In a small bowl put a tablespoon of oil, garlic, lemon juice, and two tablespoons of thyme and mix. Spread the mixture equally over the salmon fillets. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Marinade for 10 minutes. Then bake salmon for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the fish looks visibly cooked and flakes easily with a fork. Place the lemon wedges on top of the fillets and they’re ready to serve.