This is the time of year when Alaskans eagerly share the wealth of last year's bounty to make way for the new salmon season. I'm always happy to help out when there's too much salmon. Since I didn't grow up here, I'm still basking in the abundance of this rich and flavorful natural wonder.
Luckily, I have generous friends and neighbors who share everything from sweet and succulent opilio crab and salmon (thanks Danny and Carrie!) to wild greens, berry jam, and halibut. As with most dishes, when you have the best quality ingredients, i.e. wild caught salmon, you don't need much to dress it up.
But, first things first. There's nothing worse than dry, overcooked seafood. If you prefer yours more on the cooked side, by all means, take it to the desired temperature, but the steps in the recipe below will result in salmon cooked medium or medium rare.
Because salmon is an oiler fish and considered less delicate than, for instance, cod, it can hold up to robust flavors, like spiced rubs and bright acidic sauces, including the Italian salsa verde recipe below.
Pan-Seared Alaska Salmon with Italian Salsa Verde
Salsa Verde (makes 1 cup)
The Salmon (makes 4 servings)
1. Make the Salsa Verde: In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine herbs, capers, and jalapeño or garlic, if using, and blend just to combine. Add lemon juice and with the processor or blender running, slowly add in the olive oil just until combined. Taste and add more lemon or olive oil, as needed. Set aside. Note: You can also make this in a mortar and pestle; drizzle in oil at the end.
2. Pat salmon filets dry with paper towel. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. (You can also score the skin using a sharp knife point for a pretty presentation, skin side up.) Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until oil starts to shimmer but not smoke. Place salmon, skin side down and cook, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Decrease heat if you notice the skin browning much faster than the meat is cooking or if the pan starts smoking. Check the skin and if crispy, turn gently to the other side and let cook another minute for medium-rare or until cooked to desired doneness. If cooking salmon in batches, keep cooked filets warm by tenting with foil. Heat the remaining olive oil in pan and cook remaining filets.
3. Top with Italian Salsa Verde, garnish with lemons and serve at once.
Alaska is also home to many food lovers who share recipes on their websites, including these delicious ways to serve forth your salmon, whether last year's catch or from the new season:
1. Blackened Salmon Tacos by Alaska from Scratch
2. Laurie Constantino's Salmon with Rosemary Honey (video and recipe)
3. Smoked Salmon Corn Chowder from Nicole Pearce of Fairbanks
4. Alaska Seafood Cake from Chef Rob Kineen of Fresh 49.
5. Barbecue Salmon and Snap Pea Slaw by Cindy Ruth
Kim Sunée is the author of the national bestseller, "Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home." She worked as a food editor for the magazines Southern Living and Cottage Living, and her writing has appeared in Food & Wine, The Oxford American, and Asian American Poetry and Writing. She has appeared several times as a guest judge on Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and is currently based in Anchorage, where she's working on a cookbook to be published in 2014. For more food and travel, visit www.kimsunee.com.