According to NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources, Atlantic salmon were once native to almost every river north of the Hudson River; now wild populations exist in only 11 rivers. A 2006 evaluation put Atlantic salmon’s risk of extinction between 19 percent and 75 percent.
Still, the Alaskan wild salmon fishery is thriving; even previously frozen wild salmon is delicious. My neighbor, Heather Ritchie, recently offered me this recipe, which we prepared for a potluck dinner. Not only did it vanish quickly, but, the ultimate test of recipe-worthiness, more than one person asked for the recipe. The distinctive crust of hazelnuts, faint sweetness of honey and brightness of basil aren’t traditional, but that pea thing was apparently just a climactic aberration. This gives salmon a whole new outfit.
Salmon with Hazelnuts, Honey and Fresh Basil
Serves 4 to 6
Grapeseed, safflower, or olive oil to coat pan
2 pounds salmon fillet
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups roughly crushed hazelnuts (don’t worry about removing skins.)
2 teaspoons olive oil for drizzling
1 cup basil, chiffonaded
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan in one of the three oils. (Heather Ritchie prefers one with a high smoke-point.)
Rinse fish, and pat dry. Lay in pan skin-side down. If there is a thin end, tuck it under so that the fillet is even in thickness.
Drizzle honey over the fish flesh. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with hazelnuts. Drizzle oil over nuts to guarantee they toast. Sprinkle basil chiffonade over all.
The basil will brown when cooking. If that is undesirable, add it half-way through the cooking time. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fish is lightly brown, and just beginning to flake.
Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought column weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.