April 13, 2010

bbq salmon 'n slaw

I dont know if i can think of anyone who doesnt enjoy bbq. And while some people will eat anything that comes off a grill slathered in sauce, others develop a loyalty to their sauce of choice, declaring "I only eat Big Daddy's", or something to that effect. In fact, my mom recently visited, and at the suggestion of going out for bbq, she informed me that she usually doesn't eat it out, as she is so particular about her sauce. Rather than risk not wanting to eat her ribs because of an undesirable dressing, she prefers to enjoy them at home, where there are no surprises. I've been in portland long enough to know the restaurants that will not disappoint, but in general, i tend to lean with the sauce-wary, and not just with bbq. If i am out at a restaurant of questionable quality, which fortunately is not a regular occurrence, i will often order any accompanying sandwich condiments "on the side".

As for store bought brands, I have found some bbq sauces that are definitely good, but i am never so overwhelmed that i feel compelled to rush back to the store to buy it again. That, and the fact that i dont eat bbq all that often, have led me to the obvious conclusion that i should make my own bbq sauce any time i have that finger-lickin' urge. My recipe is a somewhat fluid one, meaning that it never is the exact same twice, but always pretty similar. Sometimes it may vary based on a new idea that comes my way, or sometimes because of an ingredient i happen to have, or not have, lying around.

As we all know, pork and chicken are high on the list of bbq-able items, but it just so happens that salmon is a fantastic option as well. This may be especially true for those mostly-vegetarian bbq lovers, the ones who eat sea creatures, but not land ones. I say this without judgement, as i myself was one of these "pescatarians" as they say, though for some reason i have always resisted employing such finicky labels when describing my eating habits. Having gotten that out of the way, i dont think too many people would argue that bbq is no stranger to coleslaw, and in this recipe, they are intimately acquainted. Enjoy.

bbq salmon 'n slaw sandwich

bbq sauce (see below)

green and/or purple cabbage
grated carrot (optional)
dijon mustard
rice vinegar
black sesame seeds
salt and pepper
green onion (thinly sliced)

kaiser roll
queso fresco (optional)

Finely shred the cabbage. In a bowl whisk the vinegar with a small dollop of mayo and a little mustard. Toss dressing with the cabbage (and carrots if using) until well coated. Season with salt and pepper and stir in sesame seeds and green onion. Refrigerate until needed, stirring periodically to keep evenly marinated. Generously coat salmon fillet with BBQ sauce and bake or grill until just done. Discard skin and put salmon into a small saucepan. Stir in enough extra BBQ sauce to make it just a little messy to eat. Heat until warmed through. Fill roll with salmon and top with a big spoonful of slaw. Garnish with some cheese crumbles if you desire.

Below is my loose recipe for bbq sauce. I put "optional" next to those ingredients which are most flexible, depending on what you have around, or your tastes. Some people like a really sweet sauce, some a smoky one, others one with a kick. I like a combination of all of these flavors. So get creative! Play around and add or subtract things each time until you find that perfect combination that keeps you coming back for more.

bbq sauce

tomato sauce
garlic (minced)
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
worcestershire sauce (soy sauce also works)
dijon mustard
honey, brown sugar or maple syrup
salt, pepper, chili powder or cayenne, cumin and paprika (smoked if you have it)
chipotle (optional)
tamarind (optional)
whiskey or porter (optional - if you plan to do this, you may need to add some tomato paste in order to keep it from getting too thin)

Lightly saute garlic in oil. Add tomato sauce, stir, and begin adding the rest of the ingredients, one at a time, little by little, tasting frequently and adjusting as suits you. Simmer on low until flavors meld, or until you just cant wait any longer.

the cherry bomb

Here is a little appetizer that is sure to grab the attention of everyone around. Not only because it is round, red and cute, or because it is oozing with creaminess, but because it also delivers a spicy kick that is hard to ignore. While you could really use any hot pepper you like, i prefer the cherry bomb, which only seems to be available in my local grocery during a relatively small window of the growing season. In fact, while writing this it has occurred to me that i should add this fiesty veggie to my what-to-plant-in-my-garden list. Apparently compared to lots of other chilis, the cherry bomb contains a relatively low amount of the heat causing chemical, capsaicin, but nonetheless, i have had some that deliver quite a bite. As with all chilis, the intensity of one to the next always varies, but consider yourself forewarned if you have a tongue that is sensitive to a little bit of heat. Besides the invigorating piquancy of the cherry bomb, i like to use it because its flavor also imparts a nice sweetness that i feel a jalapeno, for example, lacks. The flesh is also really thick, so it lends itself nicely to stuffing. And aesthetically, well, look at it - how could you not want to pop that little jewel into your mouth?

stuffed cherry peppers


Cherry peppers
Feta or chevre
Pine nuts
Fresh basil (dried also works)
Olive oil

Core and seed the peppers, taking care not to break the sides. Brush with olive oil and roast in the oven at about 400. Meanwhile, chiffon the basil, and mix it with the pine nuts into the feta. When the peppers are almost done roasting (you don’t want them too soft or they won’t contain the cheese well), remove from the oven, let cool slightly and stuff with the feta mixture. Return to oven and very briefly broil to slightly brown the top. These are fantastic served warm or cold.