1.16.2016

The Pumpkin Craze

It seems like every fall we are bombarded by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pumpkin recipes: pies, cakes, breads, tarts, rolls, gelati, custards, and so on. Mostly deserts.

Rarer are savory pumpkin recipes, although I have seen a few for pumpkin gnocchi, or soup, or roasted pumpkin slices with some sauce or other.

Either way, I notice that most people are either on the pumpkin bandwagon (with gusto), or they prefer to do without pumpkin in their lives.

Many years ago, Mark and I bought a heavy-duty cedar plank in Seattle for roasting salmon in the oven. This was not one of those disposable, one-time-use planks we see everywhere today. I roasted a lot of salmon on that plank, and still do.

The first recipe I made using the plank came from a magazine almost 20 years ago. My version is a riff on that original. And it isn't so much about the salmon, as it is about the sauce.

The pumpkin vinaigrette was the component that made this dish so special, so unique. It doesn't employ the usual pumpkin spices. Their absence might make this recipe more appealing to pumpkin naysayers.

Over the years, I have taken the original vinaigrette recipe and reworked it to make it both easier to make, and more accessible for year-round ingredients.

The original recipe called for apple cider, and real cider certainly isn't available year round. I ended up using undiluted apple juice concentrate. It brings a great apple taste - in fact, more flavor than the cider - and always very easy to find.

I switched out the hulled pumpkin seeds, which are hard to find in many places, and used either pecans or walnuts. for the original recipe called for a garnish with hulled pumpkin seeds. I used salted sunflower seeds, but have switched to pine nuts. Either works great.

Of course, the original recipe called for homegrown, house-roasted pumpkin purée (I did use freshly roasted pumpkin for making the recipe today), but I have found that canned pumpkin works just as well.

The choice of olive oil and vinegar make a big difference in the taste of the sauce. Use the best you can find. While I like cider vinegar, it really doesn't improve the apple flavor of the vinaigrette and it can be harsh, so I use an herb-infused vinegar. Tarragon vinegar will be the most readily available, but you can infuse your own vinegars using fresh or dried herbs.

One of the biggest changes I made to the overall recipe was heating the vinaigrette. The original was served cold on hot salmon. I am not a fan of the hot-cold combination. Heating it really made all the difference.

In the end, the cedar essence imparted by the plank is overwhelmed by the fullness of the vinaigrette, so I no longer plank the salmon for this recipe. Besides, not everyone has a cedar plank.

And that, my friends, is how a recipe evolves!

~ David

Roasted Salmon with Pumpkin-Nut Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
extra virgin olive oil for brushing salmon, and for pan
4 6-ounce salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed

1/4 cup pure pumpkin purée (not spiced) *
1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup undiluted apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup herb-infused vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced into slivers
1 pound baby spinach, washed and dried

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. 

Mix the sea salt, pepper and mustard in a small bowl. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush lightly with some of the oil. Place fillets on the foil, skinned side down. Brush the tops with olive oil. Divide the salt-pepper-mustard mixture among the fillets and rub evenly over the tops. Allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the vinaigrette.

Place pumpkin purée, nuts, apple juice concentrate, oil, and vinegar in a blender and purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, as needed. Pour the vinaigrette into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Place fillets in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until done to your taste.

While salmon is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add slivered shallot; sauté until shallot softens and begins to brown. Add spinach and sauté until just wilted.

Divide sautéed spinach among 4 heated plates, and top with the roasted fillets. Spoon some sauce over the salmon, and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Serves 4.

* Note: If you want to use fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, simple preheat the oven to 400°F, slice your pumpkin/squash in half from blossom-to-stem end, the place on a lightly greased baking sheet for 45 minutes to an hour. Let cool, and scoop out the flesh.

34 comments:

  1. Sounds delicious! I don't think I've seen tarragon vinegar before (although I haven't been looking). Could you use something like a white wine vinegar and some tarragon instead? What's the base vinegar for an herb-infused one?

    Also, I love that measuring cup with the metal label and the little spoon! Where do you pick up your fun food props?

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Caroline - I think you could use any light vinegar (white, white wine, cider, or even sherry) and infuse any herbs that you like. I have found tarragon vinegar to be the most readily available in grocery stores. If you really want a treat, use Kressi vinegar from Switzerland (it's what I use) - I order it from Swiss Treasures online.

      I love my cups and spoons and have amassed quite a collection to Markipedia's dismay! (Although he usually buys them for me after I admire them...) Many have come from Anthropologie - they put out a bunch of different sets every year. The ones you mention in this post were both from Anthropologie last Christmas.

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  2. I love salmon and this recipe seems to be an easy one. I will use some smash pumpkin since I have one jar around. Getting busy tomorrow.

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    1. Sounds like a plan, Cindy! I have often used a couple fo tablespoons from a tin of pumpkin to make this.

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  3. David, I'm loving everything about this recipe. I occasionally make a pumpkin sauce for pasta - a by-product of excess pumpkin soup, but have never even thought to use it as a sauce for salmon. I love it!

    And you're right, the influx of sweet pumpkin recipes at thing time of the year (mainly from your part of the world) is astounding. I must say, I'm not the biggest fan of sweetened pumpkin - let alone spiced. It's quite the opposite here. It's all about using it as a vegetable, as you're probably aware. It's even nice raw - thinly shaved and tossed through salads!

    Finally, I need to find a plank of cedar. I adore the flavour it imparts on salmon. To die for!

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    1. Yes, we are guilty for all those sweet pumpkin recipes. I do love a good pumpkin pie, but...

      I have never tried it raw - will give that s shot! And, yes, the cedar plan is wonderful. When you come here, I will get one for you to take back.

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  4. Oops. That reads funny. I didn't mean to say I was gorgeous. I meant to say your salmon was gorgeous. GREG (Oops I did it again)

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  5. I love everything about this! From the well-loved cedar plank to the savory use of pumpkin to how you evolved the recipe! I love salmon as well, I need to get it back in rotation! Thank you for the delicious reminder :-)

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    1. Salmon is one of our favorites. Just can't get enough of it! Let me know what you think, Ahu!

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  6. I'm not a gusto pumpkin lover but I'm not a hater, either. I can take it or leave it. Your vinaigrette, however, is something entirely different. It sounds delicious, David, and pairing pumpkin anything with salmon is completely new for me. This I would stand in line for. A pumpkin latte? Not so much.

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    1. Thanks, John - I am with you on the pumpkin latte. Not good. My cousin sent a fun note about pumpkin spiced motor oil... made me laugh!

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  7. Hi David, always on the prowl for a good salmon recipe, this looks amazing, I bet pumpkin and salmon are heaven together.

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    1. It is pretty wonderful, Cheri - hope you get to try it!

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  8. David, never occurred to me to combine the lovely flavors of pumpkin and salmon - but looking at your post and your pictures and your recipe, I think you convinced me...seriously, this looks just terrific!
    Liebe Grüße, Andrea

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    1. Thanks, Andrea - I think the girls and Thomas would love it, too.

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  9. David - This looks wonderful. I love how you've refined the recipe over so many years. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. It is a lot of fun to tinker over the years, Nicole!

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  10. This is so beautiful David. Simple and elegant, a great way to elevate pumpkin into something special! I can imagine using that vinaigrette in many different things, particularly as a topping for roasted field mushrooms (we eat those regularly in my house!). Love hearing how your recipe evolved also. I've never cooked salmon over a plank (that is so cool!) but I do adore smoky, woody flavours in food. We're lucky to be able to benefit from those years of refinement ;)

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    1. I need to try this on wild mushrooms, Laura - what great idea! I hope you can find a plank someday. Maybe someone in Australia needs to start a cottage industry. I know John at Ne Needs Food wants one, too!

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  11. Thank you for bringing a savory dish to the pumpkin party. This beautiful, beautiful dish leaves me inspired!

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    1. Thanks, Brooks! I am glad I was able to inspire you!

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  12. What a wonderful and creative gourmet recipe. And I thought I've seen already every pumpkin recipe possible. Love everything about this dish, texture, flavor and colors.

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    1. Thanks, Daniela - I am glad I could contribute something new to the pumpkin table!

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  13. I love pumpkin but use it much more in savory than sweet recipes: gnocchi, soups, risotto, pasta, curries, appetizers etc. Actually, the only time I used it in a dessert was when I made pumpkin cinnamon rolls with a maple syrup glaze... As you can tell, I am not a fan of pumpkin pie and usually I prefer cutting through the sweetness of the vegetable with savory ingredients. However, I have never used it with fish, so this was an interesting discovery. Love how you show how your recipe evolved over the years.

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    1. Fiona - I think I remember you saying something about pumpkin on Nuts About Food. I agree - I much prefer the savory, but always feel guilted into making a pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving.

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  14. David, I'm a huge fan of pumpkin recipes both sweet and savory. This pumpkin-nut vinaigrette looks absolutely beautiful,and delicious!

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  15. Isn't it interesting how recipes evolve?! After the new nutrition guidelines told us to eat way less sugar, I just had some squash with butter and a mere hint of brown sugar instead of my usual packed with brown sugar squash. I really enjoyed it, so I completely believe you on that savory pumpkin stuff...

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    1. Inger - I think it is funny how the nutrition guidelines change year after year! (And how recipes evolve!) Maybe, in a few years, they will find out that sugar is good for us...

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  16. I would never have thought to pair pumpkin and salmon! And would never try a recipe that pairs them--except for one from you! Very interesting!

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    1. You will really love this, Susan! I promise!

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