Grilled King Salmon With Walnut Tarator and Cherry Tomato Salad From 'A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus'

Grilled King Salmon With Walnut Tarator and Cherry Tomato Salad From 'A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus'

Salmon is perked up with tarator, a Turkish sauce made with walnuts, bread, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. [Photograph: Jim Henkens]

If summer has already left you where you are, bookmark this recipe from chef Renee Erickson's new A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus for next year; it's worth remembering. She pairs grilled salmon with deeply flavorful tarator—a Turkish sauce made with walnuts, bread, lemon, garlic, and olive oil—and a bright and dilly tomato-and-cucumber salad. The fatty fish and the rich sauce could feel heavy, but the salad, with fine strips of bracing lemon peel and plenty of lemon juice, is perky enough to lift the whole thing up. There is an abundance of 'good' fat in this dish, from the salmon, walnuts, and a whole lotta olive oil, but you don't feel weighed down after eating this, just nourished and satisfied, and like you'll maybe live forever if those fats are as good as they say.

Why I chose this dish: It is a beautiful, simple, composed dish.

What worked: I loved every element, and it was so easy to throw together, despite the separate components. Easy enough for a weeknight, but elegant enough for a party.

What didn't: Nothing wrong here.

Suggested tweaks: Erickson notes that you can use other types of salmon than the king salmon she calls for, but if your fillet is thinner, adjust the cooking time as necessary. She also mentions that at Boat Street Cafe, they occasionally make the tarator with hazelnuts, which sounds delicious. And I think that either variation with oven-roasted salmon and lemony Brussels sprouts or kale salad would see this basic idea right through the colder months, as well.

(c)2014 By Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson. All rights reserved. Excerpted from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus: Menus and Stories by permission of Sasquatch Books.

  • Yield:Serves 10 as part of a larger meal, or 6 as a main course
  • Active time: 45 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the salmon
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) king salmon fillet, roughly 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick in the center
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning
  • Finishing oil, for drizzling
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen, for finishing
  • For the tarator
  • 2 cups whole walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup 1-inch cubes baguette or other artisanal bread (including the crust)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 4 medium lemons)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •  
  • For the salad
  • 2 pints summer cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound lemon cucumbers (or English cucumbers), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
  • Julienned peel and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen, for finishing

Directions

  1. 1.

    Make the salmon: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill for cooking over medium heat, about 375 degrees F. Brush the salmon with the olive oil, then season it to taste with kosher salt. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the salmon (without turning) until just cooked through at the ends (but still a bit translucent in the center), keeping the lid closed, about 30 minutes for fish 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick at the fattest part. (You can grill the salmon just before serving and serve it warm, but I actually prefer to grill it a bit ahead of time and serve it at room temperature.)

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, make the tarator: Place the walnuts, bread cubes, lemon juice, garlic, and kosher salt in the work bowl of a food processor or a heavy-duty blender. Pour the water over the bread, pulse a few times to mix, then whirl on high speed until smooth, adding the oil in a slow, steady stream through the top of the machine with the motor running. Spread the tarator out in a puddle on a large platter and set aside. (The tarator can also be made ahead, refrigerated for up to 3 days, and allowed to come back to room temperature before serving.)

  3. 3.

    Make the salad: In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, lemon peel and juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with the kosher salt.

  4. 4.

    When the salmon is done, break it apart into serving-size hunks and arrange them on the tarator. Spoon the salad over the salmon, followed by a drizzle of olive oil and a shower of sea salt. Serve at room temperature.