Slow Roasted Salmon with Olives and Broiled Balsamic Persimmons
With less than a fortnight left before Christmas, the holiday cheer is certainly in the air. Radio stations are tuning their listeners into all Christmas, all the time. Retail is booming, there’s nary a space to be found in the parking lot of the liquor store, and previously sane and energy conscious people have festooned their properties with so many dazzling, flashing, blindingly bright lights that I’m sure a brown out is only a matter of time. And yet, I’m totally not feeling the joy. My life is like an episode of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Dinner). Because I am what I am, seeing all the present-buying and happy-joy-bringing-people is making me want to tie an antler onto my cat’s head and pelt lumps of coal into oncoming traffic.
Right now, the internet is festering with posts about what people are thankful for and the joy they feel this holiday season. As for myself, I’m shivering and windblown, I got heart palpitations at the thought of how much Christmas shopping I had left to do and how little money I had to do it with, and on my first sojourn out to Ye Olde Local Mall I got run over by a woman in a motorized wheel-trans wearing a pink flashing Santa hat. I am not happy with the fact that it is officially winter. I am not happy with this whole forced-love fiasco we call Christmas. I think the world needs a bit more balance, so I would like to offer up to you my Top 10 List Of Things That Pissed Me Off In The Last 24 Hours….followed by a recipe for fish.
1. I had good hair yesterday morning. I really did. This is noteworthy because it doesn’t happen very often, but it’s like the Gods of Aesthete smiled down upon me and granted beauty for a day. Then, when I tried to get out of my car and the wind flung me back inside, slamming the door on my foot, that blustery bastard decided that I’d look better whipped and dipped. Every hair on my head circled around to form an impermeable layer between me and the oncoming traffic, and the most direct concentration was, of course, directly on top of my freshly applied lipgloss. Because you know what’s not cool? When your hair smells like passion fruit, but it’s at the expense of every tendril being tipped in a glycerin based salve. Hair + Wind + Lip gloss = ANGRY TINA.
2. People who wear sensible shoes due to the icy conditions, shoes such as those super-cute metallic gold ballet flats with little embossed doves on the toes (twee!!) and then pair them with….black wool socks. I don’t care if your toes were cold. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES could this be considered okay.
3. Santa hats. I hate them. Ditto for reindeer antlers, elf ears (unless they’re actually Star Trek related, and then they’re fun again…particularly at Christmas), and earrings that look like ornaments. These should not exist and I urge you to abstain from wearing them during the Christmas holidays. I would even suggest that you put them into your Tickle Trunk to be used for Hallowe’en, but I’m somewhat averse to cross-holiday contamination.
4. That woman in the mall who seems to be using her baby carriage for self defense/baggage handling, while her seven year old (note: he can’t fit in the carriage anyway. Just give up the pretense and admit that it is what it is) shluffs miserable along behind her.
5. Secret Santa events at work. That’s all.
6.“Oh, you MUST try this! Here, let me pile some on your plate. Oh boy, whoopsie! Looks like I dolloped out a bit too much. Don’t worry though, dear, it’s delicious. Oh, NO. Hahahaha, NO, thank you, I don’t want any myself. Yes, I know that I made it but I don’t eat unhealthy food like that.” Note: You know who you are . Please stop trying to make me fatter than I already am. I’m more than able to do that on my own.
7. Gift baskets. I loathe and despise gift baskets, and I can guarantee that I’ll see you on December 26th with no fewer than 6 gift baskets piled haphazardly in the corner of my bedroom until Mike gets frustrated and shoots them all into the crawl space. Nothing says, “I just…. don’t know you” like a gift basket. I used to think that the Fruits and Passion or Body Shop gift baskets were the trump to evil, until I got three last year from Costco. Now they all have equal aspersions cast upon them.
8. Apparently we’re being flooded with bad Christmas movies right now. There are good Christmas movies out there, true, but I think they’re getting meted out on a bi-weekly basis. It’s true that the holidays are a key sales opportunity, particularly in Hollywood, but when the Christmas flicks on a Thursday night at 8pm all star Shannon Doherty, Tim Allen, or a Nazi war criminal, it’s time to retire your PVR.
9. I understand that this is an opportunity for everyone from Christina Aguilera to U2 to tell us exactly how their PR reps want them to feel about the holidays. It’s just….it’s just that for every “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever” by Sufjan Stevens, we have songs like, “Christmas Tree” by Lady Gaga. Just because you’re capable of penning a Christmas tune, it doesn’t mean that you should. You know that some poor unsuspecting father is thinking, “I know what the kids like these days! I’ve heard them talking about that Madam Googoo person. My 12 year old daughter is just going to LOVE this! Wait – let me buy TWO!” The poor chump.
10. Somebody tried to convince me yesterday that Christmas trees are edible. Huh. Okay, that’s cool – you take the first bite.
Now that I have that out of the way, on to the fish. When salmon is slow roasted the texture changes. It doesn’t become flaky unless it’s overcooked, and it’s genuinely hard to overcook salmon when you’re using such a low temperature and have quite a bit of flexibility with the time. The flesh becomes almost buttery and quite rich, which is not surprising for this fatty and flavorful fish. The one downside, however, is that salmon can sometimes taste very….salmony (technical term, as usual). I would say “fishy”, but it’s so much more than that. Salmon has a pungent smell-taste, and you either love or you hate the way that you taste it first in the back of your mouth below your nose and then with the tongue. When you slow roast a salmon it accentuates the inherent fish flavors, which means that if you’re not already a fan this is NOT the day that you’ll decide to start swimming upstream. On the plus side, however, the salmon sensory-overload gets quite tempered by the bold salty and smoky flavors in the olive pate, and balances nicely against the fiery sweet broiled persimmons. See? Silver linings everywhere.
Slow Roasted Salmon with Olives and Broiled Balsamic Persimmon
Slow Roasted Salmon with Olives
- 1 whole salmon filet (about 1 kg/2.2 lb)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lime (1 heaping tsp zest + juice of whole)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp smoked paprika *
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives
Broiled Balsamic Persimmon
- 4 large, ripe and juicy persimmons
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne
- salt and pepper to taste
* If you’re going to use paprika that hasn’t been smoked but is still flavorful (like a rich red Hungarian paprika), increase the cumin to 1/2 teaspoon. Although that adds more of a savory spice element, cumin can usually echo a sort of smokiness as well.
Preheat your oven to 200ºF, which is a nice low and slow temperature.
Cut the top core out of the persimmons and slice them into relatively wee wedges, each about 1/2″ thick. Toss the wedges with the remaining ingredients , season with salt and pepper, and let the fruit marinate while you prepare the salmon. Try to use a baking pan which is large enough that the persimmon slices can be spread out without too much overlap.
Crush or press the garlic into a small bowl. Add in the lime zest, juice, oil, sugar and spices. Whisk it all together until combined.
Pit the kalamata olives and chop them quite finely. Stir the olives into the spice mixture.
Pat the salmon dry with paper towel or a clean kitchen towel which will be immediately ready for the wash. I’m always torn on the whole paper towel issue. On the one hand it’s rather wasteful, although I green box (compost) the paper towel so it doesn’t seem like quite so much of an environmental outrage. Using tea towels, on the other hand, results in a lot more laundry which means increased water and energy consumption…..which is a concern, true, but mostly I cling to that explanation because, frankly, I loathe and despise doing the laundry. I don’t have 56 pairs of panties because of vanity, if you know what I mean.
Run your hand over the salmon and if you feel any pin bones be sure to remove them with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Place the salmon skin side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and then slather the flesh with your olive mixture. Tuck the tray into your warm oven for about 30 minutes, or until it has just cooked through. When you slow roast a fatty fish like salmon you don’t want to check for doneness using the flake-test. Instead, look at the appearance. The salmon should be completely opaque, just a shade or two lighter in color than when it was raw, and it will have just started to release some of it’s milky juices (which is my nice way of describing albumen, aka blood proteins. Mmmm. BLOOD PROTEINS).
As soon as the salmon comes out of the oven, tent it loosely with tinfoil and increase your oven temperature to broil (about 550ºF). Put the persimmons under the broiler for 2-3 minutes or until they have started to caramelize and brown. Flip the slices over and broil the other side until is is also blistered and colored, about another 2 minutes.
Serve the salmon with your sweet and spicy glazed persimmons on the side, and garnish with a few slices of lime and a handful of olives if you really feel the yen.
Succulent slow roasted salmon – the briny glaze is barely sweet and utterly addictive. The spice balance is reminiscent of a Moroccan tagine, with the sweet, smoky and richly spiced flavors playing against rich meats and salty olives. However, this is considerably less effort than a tagine with a healthier reward, if I do say so myself. And I do.
Because ’tis the holiday season and I’ve been eating cookies for breakfast lately (thank god I can finally blame that on the season instead of sheer gluttony) the salmon and broiled persimmons were served atop a bed of garlicky braised kale. For a healthy and low-carb meal this still felt like an indulgence with the caramelized persimmons and rich fish.
If you have any ideas on how to get me into the Christmas spirit, please let me know. Right now it’s 10 days before Christmas and I’m still cringing every time that I hear a fa-la-la.