Sharon Jessup Joyce
Recently we took a day trip to Ottawa. Bob and Shelly and I went to have lunch with Dad and Cassandra (Dave was at the Calgary Stampede and Brody and Adrian each had plans with friends). I wanted a special meal, but it needed to be portable. And it was a hot weekend, so I wanted it to be served cold. We ended up with cold poached salmon with avocado mayonnaise, a Nicoise-style potato and bean salad, baby greens with strawberries and strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette and a corn salad and bread from Pan Chancho. For dessert, we had strawberry-rhubarb vanilla cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Some of Dad’s own white wine complemented the meal wonderfully.
Cook new potatoes whole and unpeeled in salted water. When they are done, peel skin (optional), drain and toss with red wine vinegar (about 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 pound of potatoes) and salt to taste. Set aside to cool.
Cook green beans (or green and yellow beans) until just tender, then drain and soak for 10 minutes in an ice-water bath. Drain and dry thoroughly.
Shred about 1/4 cup basil. Dice 2-3 green onions. Set aside.
Crush 2 garlic cloves and mix with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, 4 tablespoons olive oil, pinch of sugar and black pepper to taste. Add basil and green onions to dressing and dress potatoes and beans with dressing. Reserve about 1 tablespoonful of dressing.
Slice cherry tomatoes in half or large tomatoes into wedges. Put tomato pieces on top of salad and drizzle with remaining dressing. Garnish with black olives.
Full-meal option: Add wedges of hard-boiled egg or tuna, or both.
Poached Mexican-style salmon with avocado mayonnaise (serves 4)
Pour seasoning into a large skillet with a cover. Put one single piece of fresh salmon (1 to 1-1/2 pounds) in skillet and cover. Bring liquid just to boil and turn down to simmer. Simmer until salmon is opaque and flakes easily. Depending on its thickness and how you like your fish, this may be about 7 to 15 minutes. The nice thing about this cooking method is that the salmon won’t dry out, but you obviously don’t want it to become mushy. When the fish is cooked, set it off the heat, uncovered, to cool. Pour the poaching liquid over the fish while it cools.
Slice limes and cucumber very thin and place in a ring around a plate. Once the salmon has cooled, transfer it carefully and place it in the middle of the ring (a large spatula in each hand, a slow, careful approach, and a certain amount of cursing seems to do the trick). Garnish with cilantro and chill until serving.
Puree two ripe avocadoes, 1-2 tablespoons buttermilk, juice of 1/2 to 1 lime, 1 jalapeno pepper, 2-3 green onions and about 1/2 cup cilantro, with salt to taste. Add a pinch of sugar if sauce is too tangy for your taste. Blend until very smooth. If you want a thicker sauce, substitute any mayonnaise dressing you like (full-fat, half-fat, no fat, Miracle Whip, etc.) for the buttermilk.
A note about limes (and Atlantic salmon)
Why have limes become so expensive? Mexican and Central American drug cartels have moved in to try to control lime production, since the North American appetite for limes has made the fruit a tremendously valuable commodity. In many areas, the criminals are succeeding, with really horrifying results, including the illegal seizure of farms and crops, and even the deaths of farmers and other citizens in lime-producing regions. It’s a complex situation, with one approach being to stop consuming limes. Much as I love that little green citrus fruit, I did consider making this choice, using lemons as a (poor) substitute for many dishes I cook and my family enjoys. But as I researched the issue, I found that lime farmers are organizing to fight back, with the support of governments and citizen justice organizations. These groups have asked North American consumers to keep eating limes, but source them carefully, from reputable growers and distributors. With the complexity of the food production and distribution chain, I’m not confident that limes I buy in Kingston, Ontario have a legitimate pedigree, the way I could know, for example, if I lived in southern California. It’s interesting that in Nova Scotia, our limes often come from Israel and other Mediterranean locales. In the meantime, I will pledge to keep eating local and seasonal fruits as much as I can — hence the focus on strawberries at our table in June and July.
And yes, farmed Atlantic salmon has also become an increasingly problematic food. I find hope in a recent conversation I had with a fishmonger in Halifax, who was telling me about new approaches to fish farms that will help to reduce overcrowding, disease and escapes into wild stocks so prevalent with current farms. The problem? Cost, of course. As consumers, we will literally need to put our money where our mouth is. And we need to care enough to do our homework to make sure we are eating fish raised ethically for all parties (including the salmon). As a part-time resident of Nova Scotia, the pat answer that I should eat more wild Pacific salmon isn’t a long-term solution for the Maritime provinces’ economy, Atlantic Canadians’ goal to eat locally – or for the Pacific fishery, for that matter. And Atlantic salmon is a different species with a very different taste from its Pacific counterparts.
|Sharon divides her time between Kingston, Ontario and St Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia, and tries to shop, cook and eat locally — and ethically — wherever she is, but it’s not easy sometimes!|
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