COOKING ADVENTURE #92: Blackened Salmon with Mango Avacado Salsa
Let’s be clear: this winter didn’t want to end. It was/is clinging to Maine like a bug clings to the outside of a speeding car, air rushing against it. That’s how much we wanted winter to go. It’s like it was trying against all odds to stay and make us miserable. Now that I’ve made my point, I’ll also make the point that because of this weather, my diet has consisted primarily of delicious comfort food…lots of pizza, pasta, and of course, chocolate. And that has made several pair of my pants feel just a tad too tight for comfort. So, I decided that I was going to try and get back on a healthy track and start preparing some food that was better for me overall. On the list of foods that are fabulous for you: salmon, avacado, and mango. And wouldn’t you know it, I came across a recipe that utilizes all three. I was delighted. And admittedly, a little nervous. I hadn’t cooked fish in a long time. I hadn’t eaten salmon in practically five years. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this even if it turned out brilliantly. I like being surprised in a good way. Love it in fact.
So…like I said, I hadn’t eaten salmon in…five years. I remember the first time that I had salmon. I ate it raw. It was at a big party that Wayfarer Marine was throwing when my dad worked there. I was maybe ten and there were some of the most decadent hors d’oeuvres on the planet, including raw salmon. I seriously couldn’t get enough of it. I think one of my parent’s even told me that I’d had enough at one point. So how did I go from loving it to…well…not being so thrilled about it? Had it cooked. Didn’t really help that when I had it cooked I was going through an emotionally traumatizing day and, for some reason or another, the richness of the salmon made me sick to my stomach. And I’ve associated that feeling with salmon ever since.
But this day… it was going to be a new day. I was going to conquer my fear of salmon and I was going to create something that I would make again. Well… I hoped to anyway. I had found the recipe while cruising on Pinterest, checking out some recipes that were Paleo. I’m not into the whole Paleo diet myself. I’m sure if I tried to go a month without potatoes, chocolate, and well, bread, I’d wither and die faster than any plant I’ve ever owned. (Which would be a record. Just saying.) So, that being said, I do occasionally like to try these kinds of recipes to see what I’m missing out on. I found this wonderful recipe over at Against All Grain.
First move, getting a grill going. And here is our first problem. I don’t own a grill. But I do have a grill pan, a lovely shade of cornflower blue in a wonderful Le Creuset pan that’s as heavy as a bowling ball. I pulled that out from the cabinet, poured some olive oil into it and turned on the heat. After having a quick glance at the ingredients list, I grabbed some mini garlic cloves, cracked them, removed the sticky, crinkly peels and tossed them in the pan to brown. I then moved onto what I consider the most heavenly fish marinade of all. I took about 3 tbsp. of butter and melted it in a bowl in the microwave. Then, I sprinkled in a little dose of each of these spices: thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, sea salt, paprika, oregano, cumin, onion powder, and chili powder. Now, the original recipe is for about 4-6 filets of salmon. I was only having two so I downsized it quite a bit. And literally just sprinkled. I stirred all of these together.
Now…the fun part. I unwrapped the glorious salmon and plopped it into the butter spice mixture. At this point, my garlic cloves were beginning to burn as I’d turned up the heat in the pan so as to sear my salmon. As I panicked and set the paper with the remaining salmon filet on it on the corner of the trash bin so that I could wash my hands, I was rewarded with the sound of rustling from behind me as it dropped in. Thankfully, I had just replaced the bag and there was nothing in it. Talk about luck. Phew. I turned down the heat in the pan, finished marinating the fish in the glorious spiced butter and set both into the pan. A wonderful sizzling reached my ears as I let my shoulders drop a tad in relaxation and moved onto making the salsa part of the recipe.
This should have been the easiest part of the recipe. It was the part that I wasn’t worried about at all. The directions are simple: dice up mango, avacado, and cherry tomatoes into little cubes, stir in some ground sea salt and lime juice and you’ll be good as gold. So here is the point where I introduce the mango. This mango…is unlike any other mango I’ve had. And that is because it has been residing in my fridge for…a little while. Not sure…maybe a few weeks. Now, in my experience, most fruit has gone past its usefulness in that amount of time. It’s done. It needs to be thrown. This mango though…After peeling it and attempting to take a knife to it, I discovered that it was still not ripe. Still. And the knife could barely cut through it. It may as well have been a new kind of rock, one that smells kind of fruity and tropical, but can’t be pierced by any type of sharp tool. They could cut diamonds with it.
And that means that I probably shouldn’t have used it. But hell if I was going to drive all the way to the grocery store just to buy a ripened mango. It wasn’t worth the gas. So I slaved over the sweet stone for a few extra minutes until I was able to cut free enough pieces, diced them up and continued on my way. The avacado…much more agreeable. No problems with it whatsoever. And it was a lovely healthy green, ripe and everything. That’s the way to do it avacado. That’s the way to do it. Next came the lime. Again… a problem arose. Although in hindsight, I now realize that I was trying to cut the lime open using a paring knife and that…is not the knife for that job. If that was the only problem with the lime, I’d leave it right there. Alas, t’was not.
The lime was dry. I will repeat that. The lime was DRY. No matter how much squeezing I did, I couldn’t get one iota of lime juice out of one half of that thing. I tried the other half and was rewarded with a smidgen, just enough to make the flavors of the recipe work out. But I ponder what force of nature makes citrus fruits suddenly dry up like that while they appear to be perfectly healthy? I only ask because I had a similar episode with an orange this week as well. Peeled it, cracked the orange open and lo and behold…the driest orange on the planet. Barely any juice in it. But the fruit showed no signs of anything being wrong with it on the outside. I’ve avoided eating the other orange all week. I just don’t want another disappointment like that.
Moving on. I started using the paring knife on the cherry tomatoes, squishing them instead of cutting. Fortunately, my brain rebooted at this point and realized that a TOMATO knife would be the better choice. Needless to say, the rest of the cutting went off without a hitch and I added the tomatoes to the other ingredients. Then with a little dash of sea salt, I mixed everything together.
While all of this was happening, I was also flipping the salmon fillets over using a pair of salad tongs. Those are the only tongs I have. Don’t judge. They worked perfectly fine. My fish came out of the pan with a rosy hue to it, but was cooked through, crispy on the skin side and browned on the other. I also didn’t experience any issue in the fish getting stuck to the bottom of the pan which I’d worried about. I spooned some of the salsa over the top and indulged.
This didn’t disappoint. In fact, one fillet and some salsa satisfied me for the evening. I never say that. If I have something that I love for dinner, I usually go back for seconds. I always do. This was just rich enough and a fantastic combination of flavors that it satisfied my palette and my stomach all in one fell swoop. Against All Grain, although you and I might not have the same views on bread, thank you from the bottom of my heart for introducing this recipe to me. I believe I will be one of my favorites.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be making what I was supposed to make this week–Enchiladas! Because even though I said I was trying to eat healthier, I still need my comfort food every now and again. Stay tuned!