Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spruce Tips and Salmon

A few weeks ago, I had a bad case of cabin fever. I work at home, and it's been too hot to go outside for the entire month of June anyway. So one night I got the wild idea to ride the tram up to the Sandia Crest just for the evening - they run really late! It's always nice and cool up there, easily 15 degrees colder than down here in the valley. Spruce trees actually grow up there, and while we were sitting on some rocks enjoying the view I looked over and saw... spruce tips!

© Copyright Dave Dunford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Isn't this photo fantastic? I didn't take it - I somehow forgot to take any photos of my spruce tips before I used them all up. But this is a much better photo than mine would have been. If you look closely, there is the most beautiful ladybug on the branch.

I remember being fascinated as a kid by these bright green little bundles of new leaves that grow on evergreen trees each spring. I never knew they were considered edible, though I may have nibbled a few out of curiosity. They have a marvelous, tangy (though astringent) flavor.

I made some spruce salt - just chop a few tablespoons of spruce tips very finely and mix with a cup of salt. The spruce tips have enough moisture in them to make the salt clump, so I added a few grains of rice to absorb the moisture.  I also made some spruce sugar... more on that later.

And then I got a flash of genius! Salmon and spruce tips. Two great tastes that absolutely have to taste great together. Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye is in season now. This was about a pound of fish, and I rubbed it with about a half teaspoon of the spruce salt, a clove of garlic finely minced, and some freshly ground pepper.


I let it sit for a few minutes while I took some photos. I seared the skin side in a cast iron skillet until it looked like it was cooked halfway through, then flipped it over and cooked it for a few minutes more to an internal temperature of 140F.

Wow! This may be the best way I've ever had salmon (and I've eaten a LOT of salmon, growing up in the Pacific Northwest).

With a glass of rose, and a shaved zucchini salad, it was a perfect summer dinner.
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