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Bold and beautiful

Memorable sauces for grilling salmon.

By Adam Ried
July 17, 2011

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Grilled salmon has a naturally robust flavor, so when push comes to shove, it really needs no more embellishment than salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Still, I think its distinctive flavor and texture invite sauces and glazes, and the bolder the better. A sweet element is de rigueur in most grilling sauces and glazes, and with salmon, I favor honey for its floral notes and thick consistency. Playing against the sweetness I use other strong flavors – cilantro and lime, tart summer berries, and tropical, fruity, pucker-inducing tamarind. Add sesame-accented asparagus for a full-flavored summer meal hot off the grill.

Grilled Herb and Honey Salmon

Serves 4

Don’t walk away once the salmon is on the grill. The melting fat from the fish can cause flare-ups (you’ll see the smoke coming from under the grill cover), which you should extinguish.

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

3 scallions, chopped

1 teaspoon grated zest plus 1 1/2 tablespoons juice from 1 large lime

3 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 3/4 pounds salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed, cut crosswise into 4 pieces

Vegetable or canola oil, for grill grates

In a mini chopper or food processor, puree the cilantro, scallions, lime zest and juice, honey, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper until smooth and uniform (you should have a scant 1/2 cup), scraping down the sides of the container as necessary. Divide the mixture between 2 small bowls and set 1 bowl aside. Add the garlic to the second bowl and whisk to combine. In another small bowl, mix the coriander and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the salmon pieces.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, adjust burners to medium-high or as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 450 degrees.) Using tongs and a wad of paper towel, generously oil the grill grates. Position salmon pieces skinned side down on the grill and brush the tops with about half of the garlic-herb-honey

mixture. Cover the grill and leave, undisturbed, until bottom and sides are opaque, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully turn each piece using a thin, heat-safe spatula. Brush with the remaining garlic, herb, and honey mixture, cover, and continue grilling, undisturbed, until opaque and lightly grill-marked, about 2 1/2 minutes longer. Using the spatula, carefully transfer the salmon pieces to a serving platter. Brush them with the reserved herb-honey mixture, tent loosely with foil, rest for 5 minutes, and serve.
Variations

Grilled Berry and Lime Salmon

Definitely include some raspberries in your berry mixture.

Follow the recipe for Grilled Herb and Honey Salmon, making the following changes:

1) Omit the cilantro, 1 of the scallions, lime zest, and 1 of the garlic cloves. Reserve the 2 scallions to use as garnish.

2) In place of the herb mixture, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1 cup mixed fresh or thawed frozen berries, the lime juice, honey, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, swirling the pan occasionally, then adjust the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened and reduced by about half, about 9 minutes.

3) Prepare and grill the salmon according to recipe directions, brushing the salmon with half of the berry mixture while it’s on the grill and the other half once it has been removed from the grill, before tenting and resting for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the reserved 2 scallions, sprinkle over the salmon, and serve.

Grilled Tamarind and Honey Salmon

Follow the recipe for Grilled Herb and Honey Salmon, making the following changes:

1) Omit the cilantro, 1 of the scallions, lime zest, and 1 of the garlic cloves. Reserve the 2 scallions to use as garnish.

2) Increase the amount of honey to 1/4 cup.

3) In a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, bring 1/4 cup tamarind pulp (about 2 1/2 ounces; it is sold in Indian and many Asian markets) and 1/2 cup water to a simmer, stirring and mashing the tamarind to begin to break it down, about 4 minutes. Off heat, steep tamarind pulp in water until pulp is completely softened, about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a small nonreactive bowl, pressing on the solids to release as much puree as possible (you should have about 5 tablespoons). Add the lime juice, honey, 1 minced garlic clove, a pinch of cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste, and stir to blend.

4) Prepare and grill the salmon according to recipe directions, brushing the salmon with half of the tamarind mixture while it’s on the grill and the other half once it has been removed from the grill, before tenting and resting for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the reserved 2 scallions, sprinkle over the salmon, and serve.

Grilled Asparagus with Sesame

Serves 4

Try to get thicker asparagus, 1/2 to 3/4 inch at the base, for grilling.

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted

2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with the sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, adjust burners to medium-high.) Grill the asparagus, uncovered, until browned and grill-marked on 1 side, about 3 minutes. With tongs or a spatula, turn the asparagus and continue grilling until that side is tender and grill-marked as well, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the asparagus to the bowl or a serving platter, toss with the sesame seeds and scallions, and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

GET FIRED UP Honey, fresh cilantro, and ground coriander complement grilled salmon. Try asparagus on the side. (Photograph by Jim Scherer; Styling by Catrine Kelty) GET FIRED UP Honey, fresh cilantro, and ground coriander complement grilled salmon. Try asparagus on the side.
  • July 17, 2011 cover
  • July 17, 2011 cover
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KITCHEN AIDE
No-stick strategies

Salmon has a well-earned reputation for sticking to the grill, but with a couple of simple strategies you can beat the fish at that game. First, in my experience the skin is the sticky culprit, so I just take it off – skinless fillets are much easier to grill. Second, I make sure to heat the grill grates as hot as possible. Third, I scrape the grates clean and, after they are hot, oil them generously, using tongs and a wad of paper towels. Fourth, I don’t mess with the fish while it’s cooking. Poking, prodding, and moving it works against you. Last, I use a grilling spatula with a thin blade that I can ease under the fillet gently, without damaging it. I prefer a spatula, because it can support the whole fillet while moving it, which is hard to do with tongs.