Summer’s been a long time coming in Portland this year. We didn’t even break 80 degrees until after the 4th of July, I think. I really haven’t been complaining, I actually like it lukewarm and cloudy. But now, friends, now we have something to really complain about. Temperatures in the high 90s! Apocalyptic swarms of mosquitoes! Endlessly barking neighbor dogs right outside our bedroom window (which must stay open at night so we don’t swelter to death)! Nope, don’t care for that, much. What I do like, though? Summer sockeye salmon are in season. Say that three times fast!
I just bought two sides of sockeye that were on sale for a song. I usually shy away from buying seafood at Safeway, because god only knows where that shit came from. Trawled shrimp from Mexico (bycatch endangered turtles much)? Phillipine crab (carbon footprint much)? Eh, no thanks. But sockeye salmon only come from the northern Pacific (that’s local!), so when you see it for only $5.99/lb instead of $19.99/lb then you jump on it. You just do. Get the stupid club card thingy for the special deal and jump on that shit.
I portioned out my two sides of sockeye and froze all but two portions. This will make me so happy later when I don’t want to go to the store. I rubbed my two nice fillets with olive oil, lemon zest, fresh marjoram, smoked paprika and salt and pepper and let them marinate while Scott got the grill ready. We use our little gas grill mostly – it’s fast and efficient, the temperature is easy to control, and we can get good smoke by tossing a little foil pouch of wood chips onto the flame.
To prevent fish from sticking to the grill, you can use the old Martha Stewart trick of rubbing raw, cut potato on the grill prior to laying down your fish, or you can use the old tinfoil envelope trick. I prefer the latter because this keeps the fish nice and moist, too, and you can just jab some holes in the foil pouch to let steam escape (and maybe some smoky flavor in, too). Works like a charm. Plus then you really don’t ever have to worry about the fish sticking and flaking into the fire just because you didn’t do everything perfectly. And five minutes later (give or take), it’s done to flaky-yet-moist perfection.
And oh, these creamy grits, too. They take a little bit longer than the fish, so I got them ready while the fish was marinating. Bring some cream and chicken stock to a boil and drizzle in your grits (yes, this is the same as polenta), whisking all the while. Turn down the heat to a simmer, and keep whisking so no lumps form. When it’s nice and creamy and pudding-like, stir in a handful of crumbled veiny cheese (I used Gorgonzola, because it’s what I had) and some roasted corn kernels for extra-sweet corny goodness. A little crack of pepper would be nice, too.
I love something vinegary and crunchy with my creamy, so I made some beets and beet greens. These beets are store-bought from awhile ago, so I used them even though the beet greens are from my garden’s beets. My own beets have all been picked small and pickled, so I have bags and bags of beet greens languishing in my fridge (I’ve frozen quite a few of these, too). I rendered some diced bacon and tossed a about a tablespoon of minced shallot and a pinch of orange zest, then wilted the greens in the bacon fat. A pinch of salt, a dribble of vinegar, and we’re set. The beet root, I just sliced and boiled until tender in vinegar and water, then served with a dab of butter (like my mom always did).
And there we are, a perfect summer dinner. Serve with a frosty pint of hard cider and windows wiiiiide open.