The dirty little secret about non-local produce
By Chef Jeremy McLachlan
In a perfect world, the Pacific Northwest sun would allow me to eat local produce year-round, but unfortunately it does not. Although I vary my eating habits seasonally to take advantage of the freshest local produce, occasionally I compromise.
So let me get to the dirty little secret — when you buy produce from Chile or Mexico, it is not fresh! It’s picked at least three weeks before hitting your plate. To ensure veggies do not over-ripen during transit, they are picked green or under-ripe. This is why winter tomatoes taste acidic and lack sweetness! On a happier note we are jumping into local Pacific Northwest produce season and some great veggies are ripening all around us!
Believe it or not, ten years ago I couldn’t give you local produce at Salty’s because there wasn’t enough of it around. Happily, now we have tremendous growth in local farm production — we now buy local. We couldn’t get amazing local produce to you without the help of Charlie’s Produce.
Started in the famed Pike Place Market, Charlie’s Produce is now one of the largest produce companies on the West Coast. Charlie’s Produce focuses on working with local farmers and bringing local fresh produce to restaurants and supermarkets all over the Pacific Northwest. It’s a journey food-blogger Kathy Kingen calls From Seed to Fork where she explains how the supply chain works (be sure to read her blog to get a link to a local produce availability chart).
This month I want to share my favorite salmon recipe featuring local Rainier cherries. The richness of salmon plays very well with this tart fruit cooked in red wine. A wonderful balanced summer dish, it’s perfect for your summer gatherings or a family dinner. You might want to consider pairing it with the Spinach Gnocchi recipe, also found below.
Salmon with Cherry Compote
4 each, 6 to 8-ounce salmon fillets
2 tablespoons canola oil
salt and fresh ground pepper
cherry compote (recipe follows)
4 servings spinach gnocchi (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat large oven-safe fry pan to medium-high heat.
Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper.
Add canola oil to pan and place salmon in pan presentation side down.
Sear for 1 minute and place in oven and bake for 7 minutes.
Pull from oven and then place salmon over the gnocchi and top with the chutney.
1 cup red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1 clove, whole
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 pound fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold water
Salt to taste
Put the red wine, vinegar, spices and shallots in a medium saucepan.
Heat over medium heat until liquid has reduced or cooked down to 1 cup.
Add cherries and then heat until liquid starts to bubble.
Add cornstarch to cold water and add half to compote.
Cook for 1 minute then add remaining cornstarch mixture.
Pull off stove and season with salt. Keep at room temperature.
1 pound Russet potatoes, washed
2 bunches spinach, cleaned and stemmed
4 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon flour, all purpose
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place potatoes on lined cookie sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes or until soft.
Pull out of oven and let cool at room temperature.
Place spinach in steamer pan and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
Once spinach is soft, pull out and place in blender.
Puree spinach and use some steamer water if needed to purée.
Place spinach in fine mesh strainer and let cool at room temperature while excess water drains.
Remove skin from potatoes and place center in bowl.
Mash slightly to break up (or use ricer if you have one).
Add egg yolk, spinach puree, salt and half the flour.
Work dough with hands but DO NOT OVERMIX!
Roll out dough into 1/4-inch tubes and cut into 1 inch pieces. Use the remaining flour to help roll and keep dough together.
Heat a pot of water to boiling and make sure it is seasoned well with salt.
Heat large fry pan to medium heat.
Boil gnocchi until they float to the top of the water.
Pull out and drain off excess water.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the large fry pan, then immediately add the gnocchi.
Pan fry until crisp and then finish with Parmesan before serving.