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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Salmon with Pumpkin-Nut Vinaigrette
fine sea salt
freshly ground pepper
olive oil for brushing salmon, and for pan
salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed
1/4 cup pure pumpkin
purée (not spiced) *
toasted pecans or walnuts
undiluted apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup herb-infused vinegar
1/2 cup extra
virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
shallot, peeled and sliced into slivers
1 pound baby
spinach, washed and dried
toasted pine nuts, for garnish
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.
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.
in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until done to your taste.
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.