When it comes to travel, I've always paid as much attention to the journey as to the food accompanying the destination. In my early 20s, I was fresh out of university in the south of France with no real goal other than to find a place to belong (and where the markets were as lush as those in Nice). Where else, I wondered, would a Korean adoptee from New Orleans go next but to Sweden? I had never been before and it was relatively easy, back in the early '90s, to obtain a work visa, so I headed north to the land of tall, lean blonds, exotic midnight sun and salmon and dilled potatoes at every table.
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It took me many years and countries to come back almost full circle, this time to Alaska, another land of wild upstream swimmers and even more midnight sun. What I love most about both Sweden and Alaska is the majestic beauty of the waters and surrounding land, everything Mother Nature decided to touch and bless with astounding grace. And I also appreciate how each culture anticipates warmer days, like sunflowers turning their full heads to the sun, open-faced, like the sandwiches in Swedish delis, with both joy and gratitude.
Salmon runs, solstice parties, berry picking and days that have no end -- these are the moments of celebration this time of year. And as much as both Swedes and Alaskans might sometimes tire of their local fare, I am still in awe of the richness of the waters and the bounty of the local seafood, especially here in Alaska, including spot prawns, black cod, halibut and oysters, cold, briny and delicious. And I had never had such incredible salmon, wild and flavorful.
My new cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars" (Andrews McMeel) is an ode to the foods I've loved and tasted along my journey, including this recipe for pan-seared salmon, with the added color, texture and heat of chopped jalapeno and pistachio.
Quick and easy pan-seared salmon with pistachio and herbs
Recipe adapted from Kim Sunée's "A Mouthful of Stars," published by Andrews McMeel, May 2014
1 cup combination chopped fresh herbs, such as fresh cilantro, mint and flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
zest and juice of 1 lemon or lime
¾ cup thinly sliced spring onion or sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (cut onion in half and then in ⅛-inch slices like half moons)
1 small jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 (6-ounce) filets fresh salmon, preferably skin-on and pin bones removed
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup toasted, chopped pistachios (or walnuts)
Combine herbs, 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and juice, onion and jalapeno together in a medium bowl; reserve.
Pat salmon filets dry with a paper towel, score skin, using a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern; season both sides with salt and pepper. Melt butter and remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil together in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until butter is frothy. Place salmon skin-side down and cook, without moving, 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if it's too hot. Check the skin (the skin should be crispy), turn gently to other side and let cook another minute for medium-rare or until cooked to desired doneness.
Top with herb mixture and chopped pistachios; serve with extra lemon wedges.
Kim Sunée has been the food editor for Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine and her writing has appeared in Food and Wine, The Oxford American and Asian American Poetry and Writing. She is currently based in Anchorage. Her latest cookbook is "A Mouthful of Stars." Learn more at kimsunee.com.
Contact videographer Tara Young at email@example.com.