although summer doesn't technically start until june, memorial day marks the beginning of summer in the minds of most americans. it's the official start of grilling season and the kick-off of a thousand balmy evenings in the backyard, sipping cold beverages and slapping errant mosquitoes.
although not at all grilly, this salad is extremely summery - it's cold and crisp and refreshing, with plenty of citrus and tender salmon. it's definitely going to be nice to have around as temperatures start to climb (although here in portland, it's like 60 degrees. but we take what we can get).
it is always a little jolting to see artichokes growing here - i think of them as being more fond of a mediterranian climate. but clearly i'm no botanist.
the main activities you'll encounter in making this salad are poaching salmon and chopping vegetables. both are quite simple and offer relatively few chances to accidentally kill yourself. so that's good.
first, simply heat up some water in a pan large and deep enough to hold your salmon (a big deep sauté pan works well). i used a fillet of wild sockeye salmon (monterey says "best choice" which makes me feel moderately proud and responsible, like when your 2nd grade teacher writes "nice job!" on your worksheet) that weighed about 3/4 of a pound. the water should be deep enough to cover the top of the salmon. you can add whatever kinds of things you like to the poaching water - white wine or sake, lime or herbs, etc. i kept it pretty simple with like a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, the stems of a bunch of cilantro and some salt and pepper. just heat the water over medium heat until it simmers. then add the salmon gently (skin side down, if it has skin) and let it cook for about 10 minutes or until it's a nice opaque pinky-red all the way through. you don't want the water to boil at all, so keep an eye on it and turn the heat down if need be.
once the salmon's done, use a large spatula to maneuver it onto a plate and let it cool for a bit. now you're going to use the hot poaching water to rehydrate some rice noodles. just place some rice noodles in a bowl and pour the hot water over them, using a spatula or something to keep the cilantro from coming along. i used thai rice stick noodles, which are thick like fettuccine, but it would also be good with vermicelli, etc. then just let them sit for 10 - 15 minutes or until the texture seems pleasantly al dente. at that point, just drain them in a colander and let them hang out.
while that's doing its thing, chop up some nice vegetables. i used some napa cabbage, a yellow bell pepper, a shallot, and some cucumber. some kind of chili would be nice, as would tomatoes, asparagus, scallions, even mango, etc. but you work with what you've got. just cut everything in small pieces that are roughly similar sizes. i cut the cucumber in half, scooped out the seeds (which is supposed to help if one is prone to heartburn), and cut it into little crescents. i julienned the pepper and cut the shallot into tiny thin rings. the cabbage went down like this:
finally it's time to put everything together. i like to mix up the dressing in the big bowl the salad will go in and then toss all of the other ingredients in. the dressing is ridiculous-simple, which means you have time to gawk at the winner of this year's portland pug parade. it seems appropriate for memorial day.
i like the look on the face of the lady on the far left. she can't believe what she's seeing!
anyway, dressing. it's just 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, the zest of about half a lime, the juice of 2 limes, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a little sesame oil, and a pinch of salt. fish sauce would be good instead of salt, but i forgot that we had some. just whisk everything together, add the noodles and chopped vegetables, then flake the salmon in in big chunks. you want to be careful mixing things at this point so that the salmon stays in nice attractive pieces, rather than falling into little weird shreds.
the last thing i added was a big handful of fresh herbs cut in little slivers - i used cilantro, mint, and lemon balm, but basil or other herbs would be nice as well. live a little! a little handful of toasted sesame seeds is also a good idea.
this summer's going to be all right.
3/4 lb salmon in water with salt, stems from cilantro, pepper
1/3 - 1/2 lb rice noodles
1 bell pepper
1/2 of a small napa cabbage
1/2 cup mixed herbs
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons palm (or other) sugar
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons sesame oil
zest from ~1/2 lime
juice from 2 limes
listening to: nothing but mowers, of which there seem to be dozens in the hood today. maybe i should put on some john philip souza! that seems memorial day-y.