There’s something about this recipe that really just brings back great memories. When I was 14, I worked at a sandwich shop near my house. Though it wasn’t in a populated area (the store itself was actually in the woods, next to a creek), people came from all over to eat deli sandwiches, buy penny candy, sip coffee and stop in to bring home dinner for the evening. The “regulars” took on a few different personas, depending on what time of day it was. There was the coffee crew, a collective group of older men that would make their way down to the storefront in their pick-up trucks and wait out front until the door opened at 6am. This sounds a bit menacing, but these were the grandfathers, fathers, great uncles and brothers of prominent business owners and other fixtures within the community; they were the friendly 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th generation men who were always there to help. Following this group were the landscapers, construction foremen, local law enforcement, and of course, the kids came around once school let out. The last group that you could always look forward to consisted of busy mothers with children in tow, or a hurried husband designated with the task of manning that night’s dinner. Each person was there for something a bit different, yet the sentiment was always the same. This is where you came to grab a quick bite, an ingredient for later, or just some conversation with another local about when that darn bridge would get fixed. There is really something to be said about having a communal gathering place in a small town and the camaraderie it promotes… but then again, this was a REALLY small town.
I had started out behind the counter, making sandwiches and operating the cash register. My older sister had started there a few years prior, and had shown me how to make several of the staple recipes; the egg salad and deviled eggs, the Caesar salad dressing for the pre-made salad kits, the marinade for the salmon. If one knew anything about us, it was that we were (are) both perfectionists. As such, we had developed quite a reputation for making our sandwiches, neatly and symmetrically stacking our sliced deli cheeses, or throwing out “old” food maybe a bit prematurely (much to the dismay of our store owner). We made sure everything was made exactly the same way, every time, and that was what people came back for. While that was nice and all, I’m not sure what happened since then, because I can’t remember the last time I read a recipe and thought, “Wow, I am going to make this without changing a damn thing!!!” I change everything. I duplicate nothing. It’s only a problem if you think of it as a problem!
One of the previous store owners was a chef – people would line up out the door if they knew he was making one of his specialties. Of all the things we helped make, the Salmon was, by far, my favorite. Like I said before, my recall of how it was really made has since left me, but that’s probably for the best so I don’t infringe on his true recipe. I’ve tweaked this over the years, and FORTUNATELY, I remember my measurements so it comes out the same each time. I’m all for catering to individual preference though – if you like yours to have a bit more zip, add whatever you’d like. A friend of mine “helped” me make this once, and dumped 2 tbsp of sriracha in the sauce bowl when I wandered away. We called that ‘Hell House’ salmon…. and that’s where we left it.
At the end of the day – there’s something to be said for nostalgia. To have something that you’re able to fondly look back on keeps your perspective of the past, and sets a precedent for your future if you approach it with the same positivity you look back at happy memories with.
Maple Ginger Salmon
Prep time: 20 min
Cook Time: 20-25 min
Note: You can marinate the salmon prior to cooking – I usually try to do at least 2 hours in the fridge, if I have the time. Not mandatory, though!
- 4 half-pound fillets of wild caught salmon, skin and bones removed
- 1/3 cup red or brown miso paste, room temperature
- 1 tbsp maple syrup; more to taste if needed
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, very finely minced, or ground with a zester
- 1/3 cup tamari (soy sauce can be used for non-gluten free alternative)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup scallions, sliced thin
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix miso paste, maple syrup, ginger, half of the scallions and tamari together in a bowl. Slowly drizzle olive oil in until emulsified. The sauce should be thick, but not like a paste. If too thick, add more oil, slowly. Feel free to taste and add more of each ingredient as necessary – some like their salmon a bit saltier, some a bit sweeter.
- If cooking immediately in the oven, brush the bottom of a 3 quart glass baking dish with some of the marinade. Place salmon in the dish, allowing space between the fillets so they can cook evenly. If you’re grilling, just make sure you switch out your plate from the raw salmon to a fresh one – always a good idea with raw meats.
- The salmon should be cooked after approximately 20 min – you don’t want it too dry, the salmon should be opaque and starting to flake. Once removed from the oven, garnish with remaining scallions. Enjoy this with some Garlicky Tahini Kale. 🙂